Let’s face it. Being a chair in an event like this is not an enviable task. It requires a great deal of courage and social skills to cut a speaker short who is just about to develop a killer argument that will blow the audience away.
Worse, a speaker you perhaps barely met before. Some chairs do have the knack of it though. They embody the “stay the course” firmness of George W. Bush. No way you can mess with them. Right from the start, they set the rules and boy, do they stick to them.
Then there is the smooth gentleman-style, nudging speakers into behaving the right way, gently pointing out how much time there is left (and only cracking a joke when people have yet another slide, and another one, and another one).
And there is the PBF approach, remunerating speakers who have done particularly well, pointing out how great a job they’ve done. Especially if the lavish praise comes from an authority in the field, speakers leave the stage with a feeling of “Mission accomplished”. It will be interesting to see what kind of style will be used by the chair in this morning’s session, the one, let’s admit it, we are all looking forward to. The skeptics’ session.
The battle with the non-believers. Call it what you want. As yet, we do not have whacko “denialists” in this debate, but the confrontation with skeptics should make for some interesting interaction indeed. Can the chair avoid a rowdy audience or not, that is the question. If he does, it’s “Game, set and match”. The chair accomplishment of the workshop.
by Kristof Decoster firstname.lastname@example.org