Session Types and Roles

Session Types and Roles

We encourage you to think creatively about your presentations, design, and format to provide attendees with the best experience. Please choose a presentation type that best fits your material and utilizes your content in the greatest way. Skill-building workshops, panel discussions/roundtables, debates, expert lectures, and symposia (research paper sessions) continue to be the most popular session types at the conference.

To encourage the most diverse program possible, LERA has a restriction on the number of times any individual can appear on the conference program. We limit to one appearance per role unless the individual is included in a plenary and also in a session, then we allow two. 

Tried and True Session Types

Expert Lecture: Expert lectures are formal 75-minute presentations by a SINGLE expert in the field who will share conceptual or methodological innovations through a lecture followed by a response to audience questions.

Panel: This formal, thematic, 75-minute presentation focuses on an issue facing the field of evaluation. The overall abstract is to provide a coordinated presentation by two or four panelists, and possibly a discussant, on the general topic of the panel.

Single Paper: LERA will be dedicating time for a number of paper presentations. We encourage students, those early in their careers, and those who haven’t presented at a regional or national/international meeting in the past to submit their papers for consideration. The program committee will review paper submissions. Single papers that are submitted could be incorporated into thematic paper sessions with the traditional format, or they could be included in lightning paper rounds, or in a poster session.

Multi-paper Sessions (or Symposia): Multi-paper sessions include three or more paper presentations on a common theme.  Each paper presenter will have approximately 10-15 minutes to present and discuss key points. Submit for these session types only if you are a group submitting a minimum of three papers you would like to present as part of one complete multi-paper session. [Individual papers must be submitted using the “single paper paper” submission form.]

Roundtables: Roundtables are 75-minute oral presentations, which typically include 30 minutes of presentation, followed by 30 minutes of discussion and feedback. Roundtable presenters should bring targeted questions to pose to others, in order to learn from and with those attending. Roundtables are an ideal format for an in-depth discussion on a particular topic. 

Skill-Building Workshop: As part of a 75-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. These sessions differ from demonstrations in that attendees will have a hands-on opportunity to practice the skill. These sessions differ from Professional Development Workshops in that they take place during the conference, are significantly shorter in length, and thus do not allow for as much breadth or depth in exploring the topic, and may be presented by someone with less facilitation experience than expected for the pre- and post-conference workshops. 

New Session Types to Consider

Birds of a Feather Gatherings: Birds of a Feather sessions are relatively small and informal gatherings designed to build networks and explore ideas. Rather than give a formal presentation, facilitators will prepare questions or ideas around a particular topic for you to discuss.

Demonstrations: Demonstrations are formal 75-minute presentations that show how to use or apply an evaluation concept or tool. These sessions differ from Skill-Building Workshops which provide a hands-on experience.

Think Tank: A think tank is a 75-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.

Ignite Presentations: This presentation is just five minutes long, consisting of 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. These presentations are given in rapid succession, one following another - and can be extremely fun! During an hour-long session, you can see up to 10 presentations on a variety of topics.

Professional Development Workshops: Professional Development (PD) Workshops are great learning opportunities that provide attendees with in-depth lessons, group activities, and real-world case studies.

Participant Roles

Depending on the format of the session, the session will have various types of participants.

All sessions will have a session Organizer. This is the individual who organizes/crafts the session proposal and submits it to the Program Committee for consideration. This individual will correspond with the program committee during the acceptance phase. The organizer will not appear listed in the program guide (if the session is accepted), and at times, the organizer will include themselves into the session proposal as a Chair, Discussant, Presenter, or Panelist.


All sessions will have either a Chair (as in the case of research paper sessions) or a Moderator. This individual runs the session, introduces speakers, keeps time limits, and manages transitions. Every session needs to have either a Chair or a Moderator, and this individual cannot also present or act as a speaker/panelist in the same session.

At LERA, a Presenter is someone who is formally presenting the highlights and findings of a research paper that has never yet been presented ina conference or published.

Panelist is our general term for a participant will will contribute to many types of sessions, other than to present a research paper. You will want to add panelists to: roundtables, debates, panels, expert lectures, skill-building workshops, etc.

Discussant is a session role that adds commentary and objectivity, background information, or formal critique of work presented by the other participants in the session.

  • In the sense of an academic research paper session, discussants supply critique of the methodologies and findings of the research paper.
  • Discussants acting in expert panels or lectures, skill-building workshops, roundtables, etc. provide feedback to panelists, and serve other capacities. Sometimes, it can be helpful to add an academic as a discussant to a workshop that has no other academic participants for background and reflection, etc.