In the last five years, I have had the pleasure to organize or chair more than 12 sessions on literature, language, and culture, most at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) but also including three sessions at the Modern Language Association and a talk at New York University’s Edgar Allan Poe Showcase. I have worked in all capacities of conference organizing–behind the scenes, behind the podium, in the audience. Outside my capacity as Administrative and Marketing Coordinator of NeMLA, I want to share some advice for organizing a conference session, from inception to completion to follow-up, not only to help you with developing your own conferences, but also to help those who are submitting session proposals to NeMLA’s Pittsburgh convention before its April 29, 2017, deadline.
Some content below borrows from my earlier instructions for writing an abstract and for presenting at a conference. And I start below with the bureaucratic parameters, paperwork, and easier tasks before focusing on how to actually brainstorm a topic for a session. I appreciate any feedback or additional advice: based on your experiences at academic conferences, which qualities have made for successful abstracts? Which presentations came out the best? Which conferences were most satisfying? Email, tweet, or comment below what you do to develop successful session proposals!
Updated April 23, 2017, with additional advice from my colleagues.
I have organized and chaired 11 conference sessions on literature, language, and culture between 2012 and 2017, and I have presented 19 papers at 9 different conventions, including six sessions at the Modern Language Association, between 2006 and 2017. I want to share advice for when you’re stuck with writing a conference paper, how to practice the presentation, how to prep for the gauntlet that can be the conference networking scene, and how to followup when a convention is over. This tutorial will be updated whenever possible, with the date of revisions at the top.
The September 30th deadline for the March 2016 meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association is coming up. The full list of more than 400 calls for papers is here.
If you are interested in submitting to an abstract to one or more of the sessions (such as some of the ones colleagues and I are organizing), I wrote some advice earlier how to write an abstract that responds to the call for paper, with minimal revisions to what you have written already for your seminar paper, article, or other material.
I’m testing out 750Words.com as a platform for motivating student writing as well as maintaining my own writing schedule. The site allows visitors to set a goal for writing 750 words per day, through a system of self-determined rewards and penalties and challenges to write so many words per month.
The site also features a helpful system that tracks the structure of writing, not only the emotional content of your typed words but also which types of words–auxiliary verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, negations–that your writing tends to use most frequently, all helpful towards becoming a more concise writer.
Would anyone else recommend the site?