Evaluation 2014

Conference Session Types

The following session types will be offered at the annual conference. The description of each includes information about what is to be submitted as part of the proposal as well as what you would see when attending that type of session at the conference.

Updated from 2013! Birds of a Feather Gatherings: Birds of a Feather Gatherings, also known as idea exchanges or networking tables, will be held for one hour during the Saturday morning before the sessions begin and attendees are welcome to bring a snack from the hotel's outlets. They are relatively small and informal discussion-based gatherings, aimed at building networks and exploring ideas. Although similar in length as a roundtable, this is the only session type for which there is NO formal presentation, instead the facilitators ensure that there is time for introductions among those in attendance and come with questions or ideas to spark discussion around a particular topic area. The information in the 'abstract' section for the session should indicate the topic to be explored, why the topic is of likely interest to a subset of attendees, and a key guiding question to be raised during the session.

What does a Birds of a Feather Session look like? All of the Birds of a Feather sessions are held during the lunch break. Attendees are encouraged to grab a snack or drink from the venue's outlets and join a lunch exchange. At the beginning of the exchange, the facilitator will welcome attendees and ask each to introduce her or himself and to note their interest in the topic. The facilitator will likely pose a thought-provoking question or challenge, and from there those in attendance are encouraged to share and discuss, to network, and to learn one from another. It is a 'meeting of the minds' and the time together will be whatever you make of it. There is no formal presentation.

Demonstration: Demonstrations are formal 45- or 90-minute presentations that show how to use or apply an evaluation concept or tool. These may be contrasted with Skill Building Workshops that provide a hands-on experience. The abstract should describe how the presenter will walk attendees through a clear, step-by-step explanation of the concept or tool, how it compares to other evaluation concepts or tools, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it can best be applied. 

What does a demonstration look like? Demonstrations may take many forms, but if you were to attend one at Evaluation 2014 you would likely encounter either one or a small group of facilitators walking you through how to use a new method or tool in your daily practice. Most demonstrations will include handouts for you to take with you and use after the session. Presenters tend to employ LCD-based visual aids to illuminate key points and a computer, LCD projector, and screen are provided in each room in which a demonstration is held.

Expert Lecture: Expert Lectures are formal 45-minute presentations by a SINGLE acknowledged expert in the field who will share conceptual or methodological innovations through a lecture followed by response to audience questions. The abstract should detail both the background of the lecturer as well as the importance of the material to be presented. Please note that an expert lecture, at 45-minutes in length, is three times the length of a standard paper presentation. As such, the breadth and depth of the content, and the expertise of the presenter, should warrant such an extended exploration. If you have two presenters instead of a SINGLE presenter, you should submit using a panel format.

What does an expert lecture look like? At the beginning of an expert lecture, the chair will welcome the audience and provide a brief introduction for the lecturer. The lecturer will then speak on a given topic, usually for the majority of the session. Occasionally, a respondent or discussant will speak following the lecture. The amount of time allocated to audience questions varies greatly depending on the speaker and topic. Most lectures will include audio-visual aids that illustrate key points and a computer, LCD projector, and screen are provided in each room in which an expert lecture is held.

Building on 2013! Ignite Presentations: Ignite presentations use 20 PowerPoint slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds for a total presentation time of just 5 minutes. Ignite slides tend to incorporate excellence in slide design in support of a very clearly articulated message. Presenters need to practice in order to get their timing down and their quality up. Ignite presentations are challenging, exciting, and dare we say it – they can be quite fun to create, to give, and to attend. The Data Visualization and Reporting TIG tried out Ignite presentations during its 2011 Business Meeting. The best way to get a feel for them may be to take a look at these two from among those that were recorded: Stephanie Evergreen giving the DVR TIG Business Report, and John Gargani on How to Build the Visualcy of Your Clients. Please note that Ignite presenters must share their 20-slide PowerPoint deck with the session coordinator at least 2 weeks in advance of the conference and will be asked to participate in a short webinar-based orientation so as to be ready to succeed in this new format. Presentations may be videotaped and presenters will always have the option of opting against taping.

What does an Ignite session look like? Ignite presentations will be grouped into sets on a common general theme, such as ‘health and human services’ or ‘exploring methodology.’ During the session, a moderator briefly introduces each presentation and the presentations are given in rapid succession, one following another. At the end, time is set aside for connecting with individual presenters, but there is not a formal question and answer portion of the session. With some presentations akin to a performance, and recognizing that for many the format is a new one, audiences often applaud and support those who rise to the occasion.

Multipaper: See paper sessions. 

Panel: This formal, thematic, 45- or 90-minute presentation focuses on an issue facing the field of evaluation. The overall abstract should describe how two (for a 45-minute panel), or more (for a 90-minute panel), panelists and possibly a discussant, will offer coordinated presentations and the general topic of the panel. In addition, the proposal must contain separate abstracts or summaries from each presenter describing his or her contribution to the session. At a minimum, the information in the 'abstract' section for each panelist should indicate the expertise or perspective that he or she brings to the panel (why is this person a panelist rather than someone else). The submitter is responsible for coordinating the presentations in advance. Panels should be interactive in that they allow for questions and discussion following the formal presentations.

What does a panel look like? A panel opens with the chair introducing the panelists and the topic. Some panels are highly structured with a set time for each panelist to speak. Others employ a more discussion-oriented format with the panelists responding to each other and to audience inquiries throughout the session. Many panels employ a discussant as an independent expert observer who listens to each presentation and then responds briefly to the session's content. Most panels end with an opportunity for attendees to raise questions or offer their own observations on what has been presented. Some panelists will employ audio visual aids to illustrate their key points and a computer, LCD projector, and screen are provided in each room in which a panel is scheduled.

Paper: Paper presentations may be submitted either individually using the paper proposal submission form, or as a pre-defined group of two or more papers on a common topic using the multipaper submission form. The paper(s) upon which the presentation is based should be completed by the time of the conference and an abstract provided at the event with information for obtaining the full paper. Papers submitted individually will be grouped with others on a common theme and will be allocated 15 minutes as part of either a 45- or 90-minute session. Papers submitted together as a multipaper session will be assigned either to a 45-minute slot (for two papers) or a 90-minute slot (for more than two papers) and the proposer should allocate time among the multiple papers in a way that ensures that there is opportunity for audience questions. Multipaper sessions submitted intact will be reviewed as a set and the full set will be accepted or rejected together. Paper abstracts should detail the focus of the paper and the way(s) in which it contributes to the body of knowledge in the field of evaluation.

What does a multipaper session look like? Multipaper sessions include two (in a 45-minute session) or more (in a 90-minute session) paper presentations on a common theme. A chair will welcome the audience and coordinate the session including keeping time throughout. Each paper presenter will have approximately 15 minutes to present and discuss the key points of his or her work. Although a presenter may opt to take questions during this time, at the end of the initial 15 minutes the presenter will be asked to cede the floor to the next presenter. Once all presenters have had the opportunity to speak, a discussant may provide a brief response to what he or she has heard. The chair will then facilitate a question-and-answer period during which audience questions are invited. Paper presenters should have either a full paper or a synopsis available for distribution during the session. Most will offer an email address or link through which an attendee may obtain an electronic copy of the full paper. Paper presenters usually supplement their presentations with audio visual aids illustrating their key points and a computer, LCD projector, and screen are provided in each room in which paper presentations are held.

Poster: This formal graphic presentation of your topic, displayed on poster board, offers an excellent opportunity for gathering detailed feedback on your work and reporting on evaluation results. Posters will be presented during Wednesday's very well attended evening reception and poster exhibition. Posters should NOT be used to advertise a product or service. Like a paper, a poster abstract should detail the focus of the presentation and the way(s) in which it contributes to the body of knowledge in the field of evaluation. AEA provides the backing boards and pins for posters while presenters provide all items to be attached to the boards. Specific guidelines on preparing for a poster presentation may be accessed by clicking here.

What does a poster exhibition look like? All posters are presented during the poster exhibition and reception on Wednesday evening. This is the most highly attended session of the conference. Posters are presented on tack boards throughout the room. Each poster presenter has a 4' x 4' space available to him or her. Poster presenters stand beside their posters and discuss their work one-on-one or in small groups with attendees. Appetizers are served and there is a cash bar during the event. Most attendees meander through the posters, stopping to review or discuss those that pique their interest. Most poster presenters supplement their posters with a handout that summarizes their work and provides contact information for further follow-up. 

Professional Development Workshop: Professional development workshops precede and follow the conference, and focus on helping attendees to learn or refine their skills related to the field of evaluation and evaluation methodologies. These workshops differ from sessions offered during the conference itself in at least three ways: 1) each is longer (either 3, 6, or 12 hours in length) and thus provides a more in-depth exploration of a skill or area of knowledge, 2) presenters are paid for their time and are expected to have significant experience both presenting and in the subject area, and 3) attendees pay separately for these workshops and are given the opportunity to evaluate the experience. Proposals submitted for Professional Development Workshops tend to have a significantly higher rejection rate than those submitted for other types of conference sessions. They are reviewed by a special task force of AEA's Professional Development Committee. The information required on the proposal form is also more extensive, including a listing of learning outcomes and an agenda. Professional Development Workshops use a special proposal submission process and forms that may be accessed by clicking here.

What does a professional development workshop look like? Professional Development Workshops are 3-, 6-, or 12- hours in length and include breaks for beverages (all) and lunch (6 and 12 hour workshops). Participants usually sit at narrow tables or round tables, unlike the theater seating that is the standard for the conference. Participants receive take-home materials and have an opportunity for interaction with the facilitator and their peers. Because of the extended length, most Professional Development Workshops approach the content by employing a range of adult learning strategies, including opportunities for peer-discussion and/or trying out what you have learned.

Roundtable: Roundtables are 45-minute oral presentations with discussion with attendees seated around a table. Roundtable presentations typically include 15 minutes of presentation, followed by 30 minutes of discussion and feedback. Roundtable presenters should bring targeted questions to pose to others at the table in order to learn from and with those attending. Roundtables are an ideal format for networking and in-depth discussion on a particular topic. The abstract should detail the focus of the presentation and the way(s) in which it contributes to the body of knowledge in the field of evaluation. Specific guidelines and tips on preparing for a roundtable presentation may be accessed by clicking here.

What does a roundtable session look like? When you walk into a roundtable room you will find a table with 8-10 chairs. When the session begins, the presenters offer their presentation to those seated at their table. Each presenter is in charge of his or her 45-minute presentation, but most will include an extended discussion component with ample time for questions. Some roundtable sessions are scheduled into 90-minute sessions. These will include two rotations of presentations, each 45-minutes in length. Roundtables do not have traditional audio-visual aids available, but most roundtable presenters bring handouts illustrating their work. Roundtables are excellent venues for getting targeted feedback, engaging in in-depth discussions, and meeting colleagues with similar interests. They are not an appropriate format for presenters that anticipate more than 15 people in attendance.

Skill-Building Workshop: As part of a 45- or 90-minute session taking place during the conference, workshops teach a specific skill needed by many evaluators and include one or more exercises that let attendees practice using this skill. The abstract should include a detailed discussion of why this skill is important, how the presenter will teach the skill within a short time frame, and how the presenter will enable attendees to learn more after the session. This session differs from a Demonstration in that attendees will have a hands-on opportunity to practice the skill. This session differs from a Professional Development Workshop in that it takes place during the conference, is significantly shorter in length, and thus does not allow for as much breadth or depth in exploring the topic, and may be presented by someone with less facilitation experience than that expected for the pre- and post-conference workshops. 

What does a skill-building workshop look like? Skill-building workshops may take many forms but each will include an overview of a new skill or technique followed by an opportunity for hands-on practice by those attending. Examples of hands-on practice might include: role-playing, working through an analysis with sample data, or creating a short presentation illustrating key concepts. Attendees should be ready to get involved as these sessions are not passive, but rather active opportunities for learning. Most workshops include take-home materials for use and reference post-conference. Presenters regularly incorporate audio visual aids illustrating key points of their content and a computer, LCD projector, and screen are provided in each room in which a skill-building workshop is offered.

Think Tank: A think tank is a 45- or 90-minute session focusing on a single issue or question. Initially, a chairperson orients attendees to the issue or question and relevant context. Then, attendees break into small groups to explore the issue or question and finally reconvene to share their enhanced understanding through a discussion facilitated by the chairperson. The abstract should succinctly identify the question or issue to be addressed, the relevant contextual factors, and the roles of the individual breakout groups (Will they each address the overall topic or question? A particular facet of the topic or question? Or examine the topic or question from a particular viewpoint?).

What does a think tank look like? A chair will welcome attendees to the think tank and will frame the key question that is at the heart of the session. Sometimes, this will be supplemented by very short presentations by other facilitators describing different aspects of the issue at hand. The heart of the session involves breaking up into discussion groups to explore the issue. Sometimes, all of the discussion groups will focus on a single poignant question. Other times, each group may grapple with an aspect of the issue under investigation. If the overall group is small, the central discussion may take place among the group as a whole. In any case, the discussion is facilitated either by a designated facilitator at each table or by a one or more facilitators guiding the whole group. As the session winds down, the group reconvenes or refocuses with an eye toward identifying what has been learned or next steps in an action-based process. Some think tanks incorporate audio visual aids to illustrate key points or raise specific questions. A computer, LCD projector, and screen  are provided in each room in which think tanks are scheduled.