Sirens Mods (sirens_mods) wrote in sirenscon,
Sirens Mods

Our Annual Programming Series, Part Two!

See Part One for general information on programming, including who can participate, how it's selected, and where to find the information you'll need to make a proposal.

You have an idea for a topic or two you’d like to see presented at Sirens, and you’ve read Part One of this series. Next, you need to decide on a format for your presentation. This post describes different presentation styles and offers some basic guidelines and tips.

Sirens programming typically includes:
  • Papers, Lectures and Presentations

  • Pre-empaneled Papers

  • Panels

  • Roundtable Discussions

  • Workshops

  • Afternoon Classes

  • Combination Presentations

Papers, Lectures, and Presentations
These are live, in-person readings of a prepared speech on the topic of your choice. You might have written an essay, a research paper, an article, or an in-depth blog post that could become the basis for a presentation of this type. Most of the time, you'll need to do some research and reading, and at minimum, you'll need to come with speaking notes for yourself.
If you have a lot of information to present to an audience, a paper/presentation is often the best presentation fit.

Examples: Analyses, research, comparisons, perspectives from literary and non-literary fields, theories, histories, arguments, deconstructions, critiques, and the like

Time allotted: 25 or 50 minutes

A/V availability: Microphones will be provided. LCD projection may be available; projection is provided on a most-needed basis and not announced until after the final schedule is complete, so it's best to plan your paper, lecture, or presentation as though you won't be able to show slides, just in case.

Other considerations:
  • We don't require you to write a paper, or to turn in a paper to us, but we strongly encourage that you do prepare a written paper. It's helpful to have something written down even if you plan to wing it during your presentation and speak more informally. The paper will be eligible for inclusion and publication in the post-conference compendium.

  • Papers are usually written by a single author, but co-authors and author groups are welcome. At least one author must attend the conference to make the presentation.

  • Prepare for a 25- or 50-minute time block. If you include 5-10 minutes for questions and discussion following the presentation, that's roughly 8-12 written pages (or 2000-3000 words) for the 25-minute block, and 12-20 pages (or 3000-5000 words) for the 50-minute block.

Pre-empaneled Papers
If you and your friends, colleagues or acquaintances have a 50-minute set of papers, lectures, essays, or speeches, and you would like to offer these as a group or you want to ensure that you present as part of the same 50-minute block, you may present these as pre-empaneled papers.

Examples: We encourage pre-empaneled papers to have a connecting theme—a particular author or series, depictions of female warriors in graphic novels, gender in fairy stories, subverted monster tropes, and so on.

Time allotted: 50 minutes

A/V availability: Microphone will be provided LCD projection may be available; projection is provided on a most-needed basis and not announced until after the final schedule is complete.

Other considerations:
  • One member of your group will make the initial proposal, and provide information about her own paper and the group's overarching theme, if any; then, the other group members will be contacted for more information about their individual parts of the presentation.

  • The structure and use of the 50-minute period is up to the panel.

  • A set of pre-empaneled papers can have an active or an inactive moderator. An active moderator might lead a brief question-and-answer period for each paper, or ask questions of all of the panelists between the lectures. An inactive moderator might be the point of contact for the panel, and during the conference, she might just introduce each panelist and paper in turn. The moderator might make only a very brief statement on the topic and then introduce the panelists, or she might also act as a panelist and deliver her own lecture or paper.

  • We recommend that 2-3 papers, lectures, presentations (or some combination) be included in a set of pre-empaneled papers. That gives you time to read your papers--or excerpts from your papers--and time for discussion. If you have three presenters, we will attempt to give you a little more time for your presentation than the 50-minute time block.

A panel is designed as a discussion among 3-5 people. For the most part, the panel's moderator directs the discussion: she asks questions of the panelists and asks follow-up questions to keep the conversation flowing; she ensures that each panelist has the chance to speak; she has plenty of provocative questions to ask to fill silences; and she keeps everyone on topic and on time. She'd also be the one to decide whether and when to take questions from the audience.

Examples: Panels are best suited for gathering several people with shared experience in an area, for weighing pros and cons, for sharing very different viewpoints, and so forth.

Time allotted: 50 minutes

A/V availability: Microphones will be provided. Panelists may have to share. Because the panel is focused on discussion, projection is less likely to be available than it might be for other types of presentations. You're welcome to request it; just remember that LCD projectors are prioritized for presentations where visual examples are an integral part of the session. (If you have a lot of visuals, your group might prefer to propose a presentation; each person can provide a few minutes of information and discussion on your topic.)

Other considerations:
  • It's okay to wrap up early if the panel comes to a natural stopping point, but the moderator and panelists should prepare for at least 35-40 minutes of discussion, with more time devoted to panelist discussion than audience questions.

  • Panels may have a large audience, but the majority of the discussion is generated by the moderator and panelists, rather than drawn from audience questions. Panelists are the experts, the guests on the talk show. They should think about the panel topic in advance, make notes if necessary, and bring questions for other panelists.

Roundtable discussions involve everyone in the audience. In a roundtable discussion, the moderator comes prepared with a set of open-ended questions to be answered by the audience. The discussion is the purpose of the presentation; the moderator engages the audience members and directs the conversation. Roundtable discussions might work best when they're constructed in such a way that an attendee doesn't have to be an expert to participate.

Examples: Roundtable discussions are well-suited to open-ended questions, subjective analyses, book/character explorations, and conversations where the audience's knowledge and opinions are of highest importance.

Time allotted: 50 minutes

A/V availability: No microphones, recording, or projection will be provided for roundtables.

Other considerations:
  • A roundtable discussion can have only one moderator. (We’ve found the conversation flows easier that way.)

  • We recommend preparing at least ten open-ended questions to fill a 50-minute block. You'll probably find that this is plenty--your audience will often have questions of their own to pose, especially on hot topics--but you can, of course, prepare a few extras.

  • Roundtable discussions are designed to be like the discussion session of a big university class. We want these discussions to be very participatory, and we want everyone in attendance to have a chance to speak--and thus, we limit the audience to 25 participants.

  • Moderators should bring along extra copies of their proposed discussion questions. If time and space allow, volunteers will attempt to set up additional discussion sections on the fly if the originally scheduled discussion fills up.

A workshop is an instructor-led presentation designed to help the audience members walk away with a new or expanded skill. As with roundtables, we want everyone who attends the presentation to be able to participate fully and to be able to ask questions and get individualized help, so the seating is limited.

Examples: Writing and art workshops, advice on setting up blogs/websites/reading lists, how to do something connected to fantasy, and other hands-on activities

Time allotted: 50 minutes

A/V availability: Considered on a case-by-case basis. Please be sure to include any A/V requests in your proposal.

Other considerations:
  • Team-taught workshops are welcome!

  • Instructors are responsible for acquiring any needed materials for workshops. To keep costs down, instructors might consider using one or two larger demonstration items, providing materials to be shared in small groups, or asking workshop participants to donate a small amount toward the cost of materials. If this will be your situation, please don't hesitate to consult the programming team for assistance in figuring out which will be the best option for you, as well as how to communicate requests to your workshop's attendees.

  • To ensure that the instructors can assist all workshop attendees, the audience size is limited to a maximum of 40 attendees. Workshops may have as few as 25 seats available.

Afternoon Classes:
Afternoon classes are a way to present topics of interest to fantasy readers that might not be directly related to readings of fantasy literature. Afternoon classes are especially suited to demonstrations and hands-on lessons.

Examples: historical dress or music, martial arts, weaponry, battle strategy, costume makeup, or something similar.

Time allotted: 50 minutes, more time may be possible during evening sessions

A/V availability: Considered on a case-by-case basis. Please be sure to include any A/V requests in your proposal.

Combination Presentations
Most presentations, even if they make use of multiple presentation styles, can usually be categorized by one of the broad groups above. Some presentations might take elements from two or more categories: a workshop might start out with a short paper on the topic, a paper might be followed by a panel, or a roundtable discussion might be followed with a hands-on workshop. You might also have a more formal offering that doesn't fit neatly into the categories above, such as a screening of your original fantasy film. The combination presentation option allows you to describe your presentation and its components.

If you're considering this type of presentation, we encourage you to write to the programming team in advance; we often find that what's planned for a presentation is in fact quite similar to what's normally found in one of the presentation types listed above, and we can advise on which category might be best suited to your proposal.

Time allotted: 50 minutes

The next posts in this series will explain in detail how to create a proposal for each presentation type.

Keep an eye out on sirenscon for what to put in a biography, summary and abstract, and posts simply for exchanging ideas and finding collaborators.

Quick links:
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: E-mail (programming at

If you're looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad in one--or all--of these places?
Sirens message boards
Tags: community, programming, we're excited about

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