MMLA Convention Guidelines

The MMLA Convention depends upon all participants (panelists, attendees, staff) conducting themselves in a professional manner. We are committed to ensuring a safe, welcoming, non-discriminatory environment for all participants. Additional details can be found on our Convention Policies and Restrictions page.

General Convention Etiquette

Arrive to your panel early, which will give you the opportunity to become familiar with the room, set up your equipment, and meet the panel moderator as well as your fellow panelists.

Attend as many other panels as possible. It can be disheartening to present to a room with only a few audience members, so instead of attending only your own panel and then leaving directly thereafter, support other panelists as you would have them support you by attending as many others as possible.

Talk to people during breaks and before/after sessions. Consider grabbing coffee, lunch, or dinner with some of the other panelists or even scheduling a get-together ahead of time with another graduate or faculty member whose work you admire. Conventions are a great place to connect!

How you dress is up to you, but business casual is a good way to go. Avoid ripped jeans as well as revealing or overly casual clothing. You are not expected to buy brand new clothes or to wear a suit or blazer, but you do want to make a good impression.

Panel Structure

At the start of the session, a panel moderator will welcome audience members and introduce the first panelist by reading a short bio that the panelist prepared in advance. After being thus introduced, the first panelist will be given the floor to begin his/her presentation. When the first panelist finishes, the moderator will introduce the second panelist, and the second panelist’s presentation will then follow. This process repeats once or twice more, depending on the number of panelists. After all presentations have concluded, the remaining time will be dedicated to a question-and-answer period (Q&A). It is the panel moderator’s responsibility to oversee the Q&A by selecting audience members to speak one at a time. If there is a lull in the conversation, the moderator will help encourage others by asking the panelists his/her own questions.

Paper Length and Presentation Etiquette

All two- and three-person panels will be scheduled for 75-minute sessions. If you are slated to present on a two-person panel, each panelist will have 20 minutes to present his/her research. At a steady and measured speaking pace, a panelist will be able to read roughly 9–10 double-spaced pages of content. If, on the other hand, you are scheduled to a three-person panel, each panelist will have only 15 minutes, which roughly equates to 7–8 double-spaced pages.

To ensure that all paper sessions have the same amount of time for the Q&A period, four-person panels will be scheduled for 90-minute sessions. As such, each panelist will have 15 minutes to present his/her research. At a steady and measured speaking pace, a panelist will be able to read roughly 9–10 double-spaced pages of content.

During your presentation, it is the panel moderator’s responsibility to keep an eye on the clock to ensure that you do not go over the allotted time and that the panel remains on schedule. Out of respect to your fellow panelists and the moderator, it is important that you reserve time ahead of the Convention to practice reading your paper out loud (alone or with a colleague) while timing the presentation. Doing so a few times will not only ensure that you remain within your allotted time but also help you feel more confident and less nervous. 

As much as possible, try to avoid reading directly from your paper without making eye contact with the audience. If reading from a printed copy of your paper, which is recommended, it can be helpful to place your pointer finger near the row of text you are reading from so that you can easily recall your location after you look up to the audience momentarily. If you opt to read a digital copy of your paper, consider using your cursor to help keep your place in the text.

Including a Visual Aid

It does not hurt to create a visual aid (i.e., slideshow) to accompany your paper, especially if you have the time to make one in advance, but having a visual aid is not required. If there are images that make it easier for you to illustrate a point or you cite lengthier direct quotes from one or more pieces of literature, having a visual aid may help audience members follow your argument.

If you choose to create a visual aid, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Avoid videos. While a short video can be helpful if you are comparing plays, films, etc., they often can be replaced with a set of images that demonstrate the point you want to make.
  • Less is more. Too much text on a single slide is overwhelming to audience members who are trying to listen to your oral presentation while also reading the information displayed on the slide. If you want to display a long quote, consider using two slides to break up the words.
  • Mark the transition points in your paper. To help yourself remember when you need to shift between one slide and the next, include notes throughout your paper that tell you when to transition between slides. Consider a phrase like “NEXT SLIDE” or highlighting where you want to transition so that it stands out in your paper as a cue to change the slide.
  • Have a backup copy. We are all at the mercy of the Wi-Fi Gods, so if your slideshow is made and saved online, it will be wise also to download a copy to your laptop and save the file on a thumb drive in case you need to borrow someone’s computer at the last minute.
  • Bring the requisite tech with you. You will need to connect your personal laptop to a digital projector using an HDMI cable connected to the on-site projector, so make sure your PC has an HDMI port. To connect to this HDMI cable, all MacBook owners must bring their own dongle adaptor as one will not be supplied. We also recommend bringing your charger with you just to be safe.

Q&A Etiquette

The final thirty minutes of a panel (or however much time remains after presentations conclude) is dedicated to the Q&A, but more than just questions are allowed. Oftentimes, the audience members, panel moderator, or fellow panelists—anyone may jump in—will also offer a flattering remark, an additional thought or two, or a source for a panelist to consider during further research.

The Q&A period, in general, is meant to be an open, free-flowing discussion between the audience and the panelists about their research. The goal is to be supportive, not to put the panelists in a so-called hot seat where others grill and harshly critique their work. That is not to say that a person will not challenge or push back slightly against your argument or evidence, but that the general purpose of the Q&A is to foster dialogue among peers and to offer presenters immediate feedback on their work.

That being said, there are a few protocols to consider when participating in the Q&A:

As a Presenter
  • Bring a pen or pencil with you to take notes about the audience’s comments and suggestions since you might decide later to incorporate one or two into a revised version of your paper.
  • Listen carefully to the question and do your best to answer what is being asked. Avoid discussing something that is only loosely related to the question that has been posed to you.
  • Be honest if you find yourself confused by a question. You can say something like, “I am sorry. I don’t think I understood your meaning. Would you mind rephrasing your question?”
  • It is more than okay to not know the answer to an audience member’s question or to not have thought through a problem that you did not already discuss in your paper. When this occurs, consider saying something like, “That is a really interesting question. Off the top of my head, I might say… ” OR "The first thing that comes to mind is..." These statements signal to the audience that you are thinking through the subject on the fly and have not given a lot of thought to it before, which means that they will not expect you to have a fully formed answer.
  • Do ask questions of your fellow panelists if you have them or follow up on a point that either made you think differently about your own work or might connect well with it. You might say, “I really liked your discussion about [BLANK] as it got me thinking…”

As an Audience Member

  • Raise your hand and patiently wait to be called on by the panel moderator. Doing so will ensure that only one person speaks at a time, and it will allow the moderator to give multiple people the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback to the panelists.
  • Ask a concise question that pertains to the panelist’s paper. It is bad form to ask about a topic that is only vaguely related to the presentation.
  • Find something interesting in the panelist’s work and ask for elaboration or clarification.
  • When possible, briefly suggest avenues or sources for further research on the panelist’s work (keep in mind that such a comment does not require a response since it is not a question).
  • If you notice that one panelist is receiving a lot of questions, rise to the challenge and ask one of whomever is being left out of the discussion.
  • In the event you have several questions that you would like to ask a single panelist, prioritize one or two questions that you think will be most fruitful for discussion. Keep in mind that you can continue the discussion with that panelist after the session ends.