Panelist Guidelines

Thank you for considering presenting, chairing, or discussing at a panel at a WHA conference or symposium. We have assembled some guidelines to help make the process smoother and easier.


Thank you for considering presenting, chairing, or discussing at a panel at a WHA conference or symposium. We have assembled some guidelines to help make the process smoother and easier. Each conference or symposia will have specific FAQs, which should also be reviewed, but the following guidelines are universal to any event. Please read the relevant section before submitting or joining a panel in any capacity, and contact us with any questions you may have.


  1. It is your responsibility to make sure that a full panel proposal has been sent in, on time, to the WHA, with all fields answered in the submission form.
  2. If your proposal is accepted, it is your responsibility to ensure that the chair(s) of your panel(s) know the contact addresses (usually e-mail and telephone) of all panelists and are sent the individual abstracts and short bios of each panelist.
  3. Should a panelist have to withdraw, you should, in consultation with the WHA Program Committee, make every effort to find a replacement.
  4. It is your responsibility to remind your panelists of the registration cut-off date. Given human frailties, in some cases multiple reminders are needed.
  5. All panelists in any capacity must register for the conference and pay the appropriate fee.


Please understand that you play a key role, and much of the panel’s success depends on you.

  1. If there is no panel organizer the WHA will contact you with the addresses of your panelists.
  2. Please be sure to secure, from the panel organizer or the Program Committee, materials submitted by each panelist including his/her CV and abstract.
  3. Please be in communication with your panelists. Each presenter will have only 20 minutes (for a session of 3 papers) or 15 minutes (in those cases of sessions with 4 papers). As chair it is your responsibility to keep track of time for each panelist, and to not allow the session to run over (this may mean cutting off a panelist before he/she is done. It is useful to have some sheets of paper with 10, 5, 2, 1 minutes left/conclude now. Others will set a watch to beep at 14 minutes or use both strategies.
  4. If your session has a discussant, please make sure the panelists have submitted their papers to this person at least 30 days in advance. Discussants should feel prepared to adequately comment on all of the presentations (even if presenters choose to present without a script).
  5. For round tables panelists need no more than 10 minutes for each opening statement, and 7 or 8 minutes is optimum. If there are more than 5 panelists, you will have to impose a less generous maximum amount of time in order to allow for sufficient discussion. See below under Round Table Panelists.
  6. Please arrive at the assigned room at least ten minutes before the scheduled starting time to make sure that all necessary A/V equipment is in full operating order and that there is water for the panelists. If you do not know one or more of the panelists, please introduce yourself before the session begins.
  7. Please begin on time! Do not wait for late arrivals.
  8. It is always good to take notes and be prepared to offer contextual thoughts or questions when the panelists are done. This will encourage a quite audience and give valuable feedback to each panelist.
  9. Please briefly introduce each panelist.
  10. Audience involvement is a crucial part of these sessions, and sufficient time must be allowed for discussion, and decide and announce in advance that all three/four papers will be delivered before discussion begins, or, decided that discussion will follow each paper. Either way, please strictly keep to the allotted time so that each presenter is treated equitably.
  11. Whether it is a paper panel or a roundtable, do not allow any single member of the audience or the panel to monopolize discussion, and encourage a balance in the discussion so that at least one issue raised by each paper or panelist is addressed (if all papers are discussed simultaneously).
  12. Please end on time and encourage further informal discussion, as time and circumstances allow.
  13. At all times insist on collegiality and a tone of respect.


  1. Please keep your comments to a total of 10 minutes.
  2. Remember that this is not an opportunity to show what you know; it is an opportunity to offer constructive criticism and to raise provocative questions.


  1. If the round table has 5 or fewer panelists, keep your opening statement to 10 minutes or less. If there are more than five panelists, the chair will divide 45 minutes equally among them for opening statements.
  2. Please be aware of the time you have spoken and do not monopolize the discussion. Many times, your co-presenters will not be native English speakers and may need more time to form their thoughts in English. Collegiality demands that we never interrupt anyone and that we listen, as well as talk.


No presentation can exceed 20 minutes, and the Chair and any Commentators/Discussant must receive your paper in a timely manner (30 days in advance, keeping him/her aware of any substantive changes).

Be sure that your paper can be presented within the allotted time. Each presenter will have only 20 minutes (for a session of 3 papers) or 15 minutes (in those rare cases of sessions with 4 papers). If your paper runs longer, you will run the risk of being cut off, without finishing, and may usurp another panelist’s time. Please be considerate.

Some thoughts on well presented papers:

  1. Present your thesis, your main arguments, and a few salient details in the hope that you can excite within your audience a desire to discuss this issue with you in greater detail beyond the confines of the session.
  2. Rehearse your paper before an audience—preferably an audience of colleagues. This will allow you to time your paper, to test the rhythms and tone of your presentation, to gauge audience receptivity, to discover possible flaws in your arguments, to anticipate other potential problems, and to experience a bit of feedback from this rehearsal audience.
  3. The spoken word is not the written word. Avoid overly complex sentences, in which you and your audience can find yourselves lost in a maze of verbiage. Write simply and clearly.
  4. Try to avoid a monotone.
  5. Make eye contact with your audience and engage them.
  6. Do not rush through your presentation in a blur of words.
  7. If at all appropriate and relevant, bring handouts for the audience. About 35 copies are normally more than sufficient.
  8. If you are using power point or any other A/V device arrive at the room at least 10 minutes in advance in order to make sure that everything is in working order. Many persons who use power point bring not only a flash drive, but also their own laptop with the file on its hard drive—just as back up. If you are a Mac user, it is a good idea to bring your own cables.
  9. In all cases where you plan on using A/V, assume total power failure—could your presentation survive a power outage?
  10. Relax and breathe—your colleagues are supportive of your research efforts and want you to succeed at having an excellent presentation!


The World History Association has organized a conference every year since 1992, bringing together academic historians, college instructors, and secondary school teachers of world history, as well as occasional symposia on special topics.