2020 Conference Participants Guidelines

Instructions for Session Chairs, Presenters, and Discussants 

In order to encourage interdisciplinary discussion among conference participants and audience members, we want to encourage:

  • Interaction among session participants beforehand in order to maximize audience participation on the day of the session.
  • Distillation of the research, by the discussant(s), to identify its unique contribution to health economics.
  • Identification of relationships among the research presented, either by the presenters themselves or by the discussants.
  • Creation of an environment to enhance understanding of issues and the attendant research informing them.

As you prepare for your session at the conference, please keep the following points in mind:

  • The timing between the presenters and discussants is largely up to the participants and session chair, provided that some time is left for open discussion and the session ends on time.
  • Because our sessions are planned to be as full as possible, presenters in a three paper session should be given no more than 17 minutes, with discussants getting about 7 minutes per paper (Note that you will lose a minute between each paper as people change seats and move to the podium). Together with introductions this will likely take up to 75 minutes. This will leave about 15 minutes for general discussion in each session provided you have strictly enforced the time limits.
  • If discussants are handling more than one paper, the time limits should be adjusted accordingly, and the session participants should be consulted ahead of the conference.
  • To keep presenters on time, session chairs should give a time check at 5 minutes, 2 minutes and 1 minute remaining, and politely, but firmly enforce a STOP. Unless there is a compelling reason, such as a late arriving or early departing presenter, please have the papers presented in the order that they are listed in the program.
  • If they are to provide useful insight to authors and serve as stimulants for audience follow-on, discussants must receive papers no later than May 21st. This will allow for adequate time for discussants to read the session papers. Presenters will receive instructions on how to upload papers to ASHEcon.org and are urged to do so by the deadline provided so discussants have enough time to read the papers and prepare comments before the conference.
  • An excellent organized session is one in which the presenters focus on the more important issues in their research, and collectively, with the aid of the discussant(s), highlight connections among the presented papers. The conference should be an opportunity for professional development in which presenters and session audiences interact to enhance understanding of the issues. Your cooperation with the guidelines in this memorandum will help create an environment for this to occur.

Below are specific guidelines for chairs, presenters and discussants.


General Guidelines

The most important task for a session chair to perform is to strictly enforce the time allocated to each of the presenters and discussants.  The time allocated to each session is fixed, and if a chair allows one of the first presenters to go over their allotted time it will curtail all of the other presentations.  The other duties of the chair are introducing the papers and presenters and facilitating the open discussion.  Session chairs may also liven their sessions by highlighting points of controversy and /or by encouraging a broader focus, including the policy implications of the material presented.

ASHEcon asks chairs to do the following:

  • Monitor paper progress before the conference to ensure each discussant receives their paper in a timely manner.
  • Convene the panel, either by email or conference call, in advance to make introductions and develop some rapport.
  • You are encouraged to consider an alternative format if the panelists agree; for example, having a discussant summarize all the papers at the beginning of the session. These alternative formats can help facilitate audience participation and discussion.
  • Start the session on time and state the ground rules at the beginning of the discussion, including timing and commitment to discussion. Note that observing stated time limits shows respect for other presenters and for the audience.
  • Introduce all participants at the beginning of the session.
  • Monitor the clock. Presenters who appear to be off-track for completion on time should be cautioned mid-presentation. Monitor time with four signs that read, “5 minutes” “2 minutes”, “1 minute”, and “Stop” to help alert presenters to their timing.
  • Do not ask the panelists to respond to the discussant(s) comments. Instead, move quickly to an open discussion that involves the audience.
  • Be prepared to initiate the question period if the audience is not engaged and ensure that questions and statements from the audience are short and to the point.



Begin with a one-minute overview summary of the abstract that includes the central question addressed and the major conclusions.


Follow with the reasons listeners ought to accept the abstract’s conclusions: the underlying theory, description of the evidence, methodological defense of the evidence, and connection to (and improvement upon) the existing literature. This manner of exposition differs from that of a journal article, but it is more appropriate to a conference format. Speaking is a more effective way to get an explanation across than reading. 

Contents and Format of Presentation Slides

Try to economize on the number of slides in a presentation. Slides should be readable from at least 30 feet (some of the presentation rooms are quite large, some are small), and should be displayed long enough for viewers to comprehend the message they are supposed to convey. A good rule of thumb is one substantive slide (a key exhibit, not an outline page) for every two minutes of presentation (or no more than 6 or 7 total slides per presentation). Slides should serve as an aid but should not be read from directly. Please consider these accessibility guidelines in preparation of your material, in order to make the conference accessible as possible to all: https://www.w3.org/WAI/teach-advocate/accessible-presentations/


General Guidelines

Discussants play a critical role in determining the quality of audience participation in the session. Please allow yourself at least two weeks to read the papers for the sessions and formulate comments tying the papers together before the conference. After the presentation, the discussant has approximately 7 minutes to talk about the presented paper.

ASHEcon asks discussants to do the following:

  • Discussant remarks about each paper should deal with the major issues that enhance or undermine the paper’ contributions, reserving minor issues for direct communication with the authors.
  • Discussants are encouraged to help shape the audience participation in the session by identifying key points worthy of further analysis and discussion.
  • Please remember to review each paper in its entirety at least two weeks prior to the conference and limit your comments to no more than 7 minutes during the session.

Discussants are encouraged to help shape the audience participation in the session by identifying key points worthy of further analysis and discussion.  To further this endeavor, here are some questions to consider and use for audience discussion:

  • Does the research inform policy in the most timely and useful way? If not, what could be done to improve the contribution of research to administration?
  • Are methods used in the research and analysis properly aligned to the nature of current issues in health economics?
  • Are there emerging issues for which we are not producing useful research, but for which we could direct new research?
  • Are there limitations of information, data and research designs that prevent their research from being used by policymakers?
  • What common challenges have researchers encountered when studying the issue?
  • How can we address these challenges in future research?