FAQs and Tips For Area Chairs
What does an area chair do?
The duties of an area chair include creating and sending out Calls for Papers (to related listservs, academic departments, contacts in the field, etc.); receiving proposals through the conference's submission database; and forming worthy proposals into thematic sessions (also using the database). Area chairs do not have to chair all of their sessions themselves, but can ask their presenters to do so. Area chairs act as a liaison between their presenters and the conference organizers, provide their presenters with updates of current information, and serve as their subject area's representatives at the conference.
What are the benefits of being an area chair?
Being an area chair represents significant service for your profession and/or area of interest. Besides being a rewarding experience, area chairing is a valuable activity to list on your CV. The position also provides you with an excellent opportunity to network within your field. Also, area chairs get a discount on conference registration.
How does the conference find new area chairs?
The conference staff generally finds new area chairs in three ways. One way is that, when an existing area chair decides to leave, s/he often recommends a former presenter as a potential replacement. The second method is that, following a conference, the staff emails that year's presenters, asking for applicants for open areas – either existing areas whose chairs are leaving or new areas that the conference would like to start. A third way is that a presenter contacts staff with an idea for a new area that might fill a gap in the conference's listed subjects. Those interested in chairing an open area or a brand new area should email their CV, area(s) of interest, and any other relevant information to the Area Development & Awards Coordinator, Kelli Shapiro, at email@example.com.
Who qualifies to be an area chair?
Generally, an area chair needs to be a faculty or staff member at some type of educational institution (a school, museum, library, etc.). Most area chairs are PhDs, although some are MAs who are academic professionals. The conference wants area chairs with expertise/experience in their subject matter, professional stability, and networking ability. Area chairs also need to have the time and ability to perform the required duties and to actually attend the conference. In the past, the conference did sometimes allow graduate students to become area chairs (and a few existing area chairs are still grad students); however, in recent years, that conference policy changed.
How long will I be an area chair?
The organization expects new area chairs to serve a minimum two-year term, although most area chairs serve much longer.
Can I have a co-chair?
Although co-chairs were a part of the conference in past years, and some areas still have them, the conference is phasing them out (except in very large areas).
Why is my new area listed under "Special Topics" on the Subject Area Chairs webpage?
Special Topics are areas that have not existed very long at the conference. New areas remain in that category until their chairs have proven that they can attract enough presenters and audience members to be viable in the future. Later, successful Special Topic areas can move up into the permanent, thematic categories on the webpage.
What information should I put on my CFP?
Your CFP should provide basic information about the conference (including annual theme/title, dates, city, hotel, and website). It should also give potential applicants a good idea of what subject matter your area covers and should offer ideas for broad potential topics (either in paragraph form or in a list). You need to provide instructions on how to submit a proposal; put a link to the conference's submission database, provide the submission deadline, and give your email address for if people have questions. Your CFP also needs to tell applicants what their proposals should include. Area chairs have discretion regarding proposals' contents – but, at the minimum, you need to require an abstract (usually of 250 words or so). Many area chairs request either CVs or bios, and those can be very helpful for chairs. Some chairs also require working bibliographies. However, the conference does not require full papers in advance of the conference (except for award submissions). Because of privacy/security concerns, do not ask for presenters' addresses or phone numbers. The submission database requires applicants to include their email addresses, names, and affiliations (just the name of their educational institutions, not their positions). If applicants do not include such information, email them ASAP about adding it.
Where are good sample CFPs that I can use as a model?
For different types of CFP formats that work well, see these for the 2012 conference:
Where should I post my CFP?
The conference recommends that all area chairs post their CFPs to major CFP sites, including
the University of Pennsylvania's Call for Papers website at http://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/ and H-Net Academic Announcements at http://www.h-net.org/announce/. H-Net also has numerous more specific listservs to which you could email your CFP; please see the current list of H-Net Discussion Networks at http://www.h-net.org/lists/ to find which ones might fit your area. Also, please email your CFP to colleagues, experts in your field, newsletters of organizations in your field, special academic Centers, and relevant university departments. (The conference recommends emailing at least 10 departments in your region.) Social networking is another way to spread the word; you can use Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or YouTube. For examples, see what the Science Fiction and Fantasy area's co-chairs have done at www.facebook.com/swtxsff and at http://twitter.com/swtxsffchairs. They even created two CFP videos for the area on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_idNQNhZYek and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDgTEofJYJs.
How do I use the database to receive and deal with proposals?
Once the database is ready to receive proposals each year, conference staff will email all area chairs with instructions on how to log in to the database. Then, whenever an applicant submits a proposal to your area, the database will automatically send you a notification email containing the proposal's title and a link to it. When logged in to the database, you will see all proposals you have received and their status (accepted/rejected/no response). Through the database, you will be able to accept or reject each proposal – and, later, to form your accepted proposals into thematic, titled panels (with 3 or 4 presentations each).
Do I need to create my own acceptance and rejection letters to send to applicants?
Not anymore. Now, whenever you use the database's accept or reject functions for a proposal, the database will automatically email that applicant a standardized letter of either acceptance or rejection.
What should I do if an applicant emails a proposal instead of submitting it in the database?
Email the applicant to say that you received the proposal. Then, ASAP, either ask the applicant to put the proposal in the database or upload the proposal (including any attachments) into the database yourself. Then, utilize the database's accept/reject functions; do not solely notify the presenter through email (although feel free to send an email notification as well).
Can I ask an applicant to add, clarify, or edit anything in a proposal I received?
If necessary, please do. For instance, if your CFP asked for a CV, but an applicant did not attach one, send an email reminding the applicant to do so. Similarly, if an otherwise solid proposal's title is unclear, or too short, or does not accurately describe the content of the abstract, feel free to email the applicant about revising it. Also, if the applicant neglected to include his/her affiliation in the database, send an email to find out what that is. (Applicants who are not at an educational institution of some sort – a school/library/museum/etc. – should be listed as "Independent Scholar.") You can either update/revise this information in the database yourself or ask the applicant to make the changes. Plus, feel free to fix any typos you notice.
What if I receive a proposal that would fit better in another area instead?
Because of the large amount of areas we have, overlap is a frequent issue. If you think that an emailed proposal you received would go better elsewhere, you can either forward the proposal email to the other area's chair yourself, or you can ask the applicant to do so. If the proposal is already in the database, you will need to email a staff member about moving it into a different chair's area.
How soon do I need to notify applicants of my decision?
Accept (or reject) proposals on a rolling basis. Do not wait until a number of submissions have arrived before you respond to individual applicants. Try to accept worthy proposals, or reject proposals that do not seem conference-worthy, within two weeks after receipt. You must use the database's accept/reject functions, which will send out automated, standardized acceptance and rejection letters. (You can also send a notification via email if you wish, but that is no longer necessary.)
How should I create my area's panels?
Once the submission deadline passes, using the database, you will move your accepted proposals into panels of three or four (optimally four) presenters each. Whenever possible, each panel should be organized around some sort of theme. To help attract an audience, the conference strongly encourages all chairs to give their panels individual titles based upon those organizing themes. For instance, in 2011, a Music panel was titled, "Deconstructing Performance and Performers." Please note that, in the database, you do not need to manually write out the name of your area or the number of your panel (i.e. "Pedagogies and the Profession 1"). Just give the panel a unique title.
Can I create special events for my area – like roundtables, screenings, and get-togethers?
Yes. In the part of the database for creating papers and presentations, there is a drop-down menu (under "Presentation Type") just for area chairs and staff to use in creating events like those. If you need longer than the usual hour and a half, or if the event must be held at a special time (like a dinner for your area's participants), please notify the SW/TX PCA/ACA Conference Program Specialist, Sally Sanchez, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do any related awards exist about which I need to notify my participants?
The conference provides information about the awards in acceptance letters, but we count on area chairs to remind presenters about them – especially in cases where a specific award is particularly relevant to an area's subject matter. Check the list of awards at http://swtxpca.org/documents/112.html, and please encourage your presenters to apply.
Do I need to email my participants with any information?
Yes. Although the standardized acceptance letter contains basic information, please do email your participants at various points after acceptance – especially to remind them about deadlines for registration, award submissions, special hotel rates, etc.
Can I present in a different area of the conference than my own? Do I have to present?
Area chairs are not required to present at the conference every year, although most do. You can apply to present in any area you wish. Please let the other area chair know that you are also a chair, though.
How long should I plan to stay in Albuquerque?
We expect area chairs to attend the conference each year (except in emergency-type situations) and, optimally, to stay for the entire conference. However, you do not need to arrive early or stay late.
Do I have to personally chair or attend all of my area's panels?
Especially in larger areas, you do not have to chair all of your area's panels yourself – although the conference does expect you to chair at least part of them. For the others, feel free to email qualified presenters (presenters with prior conference experience, etc.) to ask if they would like to chair their own panels. Tell them that being a panel chair is a great opportunity that would look good on their CVs. Please direct your panel chairs to read our page, "FAQs and Tips for Panel Chairs." Please also read that page for your own information. Regarding attendance, area chairs generally do try to attend most of their own areas' panels (or at least show up before a panel starts) in order to meet their presenters, etc.
At the conference, am I required to attend any meetings or events?
The conference organizers always hold a business meeting for area chairs and staff. Area chairs are strongly encouraged to attend in order to find out important information. Attendance at other conference events, like luncheons and receptions, is totally optional.
If a presenter has a legitimate last-minute emergency (like a flight cancellation due to weather) and cannot attend, can I present his/her paper?
You do not have to do so, but it would prevent a gap in your panel and let the absent presenter feel that his/her work was not in vain. The presenter could either email you the paper (optimally with accompanying visuals) or fax it to you at the hotel. If this situation occurs, make sure to note on the presenter's thank-you email that the paper was presented in absentia. Also, please let conference staff know about any cancellation immediately.
Should I follow up with my presenters after the conference?Definitely. No more than a week after the conference ends, please send all of your presenters an email thanking them for their participation and inviting them to attend next year's conference. If you know the date and location of the next conference (information usually provided at the area chair meeting), please include that information