Effective Meeting Practices


  1. Make sure the organizing committee is diverse. Do not assume one person alone can make a committee diverse. If need be, look for ways to make it possible for members of underrepresented groups to contribute to key discussions on agenda and speakers even if they cannot be full members of the organizing committee due to time constraints, etc. (e.g., commenting on the program drafted by the committee without having to shoulder the responsibility of writing the initial program outline). Bear in mind that members of underrepresented groups get many requests for their expertise, so be respectful of their time.
  2. Ensure that invited speakers and panelists are drawn from a broad pool.
  3. Ensure that discussion panels include a range of perspectives.
  4. Look for ways to provide professional development and networking opportunities during the event, and plan sessions that visibly support broad participation.
  5. Consider if social events should be alcohol-free or provide alcohol-free options.
  6. Think about ways to help people move between meeting sites and their accommodation safely (set time for groups to leave to walk back, provide safe transport options, etc.).
  7. Discuss in advance how to convey that the meeting is a professional event with expectations of professional behavior and how to remind participants that they are generally expected to follow their home institution’s policies (e.g., those related to the Title IX Education Amendment that forbids discrimination on the basis of sex in the U.S).
  8. Have a plan to deal with any complaints or issues that come up during the meeting—identify a senior staff member or the meeting organizer as someone who will respond to issues. Consider providing response training for these individuals.
  9. Encourage presenters to think universal design when planning presentations so that presentations are accessible to all. This includes but is not limited to: high contrast colors, readable fonts, reading essential text aloud.
  10. Encourage speakers to review their presentations and remove inappropriate materials. Remind people that certain phrases ("my graduate students worked like slaves on this data", or "do we have any girls in the audience?") are offensive to some people, and alternate language may be more appropriate. In general, language about a group from someone not of the group can be interpreted poorly and risks alienating or offending the audience. Also suggest that people be careful in re-using old materials since language meanings and acronym associations can shift over time (e.g., Field Alternating Gradients are better termed Alternating Field Gradients nowadays).
  11. Stress the importance of professional behavior (e.g., following the code of conduct for APS meetings).
  12. Encourage session chairs to be aware of the audience and be mindful in taking questions from across a cross section of the audience.
  13. Encourage presenters to familiarize themselves with ADA visual and auditory requirements (guide) for presentations and encourage people who encounter any accessibility issues to contact you during the meeting.
  14. Consider having a meeting organizer in attendance and visible during poster sessions. Younger presenters sometimes receive inappropriate levels of attention that can make them uncomfortable. A meeting organizer walking around can help remind people to follow the code of conduct.
  15. Have session chairs informed on how to respond to and handle inappropriate materials and/or questions during talks.
  16. Plan a post-meeting survey asking meeting attendees about how welcome and included they felt at the meeting and about what could be done to make the meeting more accessible.

The Committee on the Status of Women welcomes comments or suggestions on how to improve these effective practice guides. Please email women@aps.org to contact us.

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