The Chair’s eye view

Roger SturmeyNo matter how many times you do it, standing up in front of a room full of people is a daunting task.  As a speaker, you will worry about whether you have rehearsed enough.  You will worry whether you are going to ‘keep to time’ or you might start to doubt your data.  These are all perfectly normal emotions (at least I suffer them), but as a speaker, when you stand up to start, you have your slides, your presentation to help.  Yes, your slides are important for the audience, but they also help you, the speaker – keeping you on track and acting as a reminder.  This morning however, I was due to stand in front of a room in a different capacity – the session Chair for the SIG Embryology.  Not only the session chair, but the chair of the opening session.  This is a very different experience, but many of the pre-talk nerves were there, although my worries were different, and I didn’t have any slides to hide behind.  First up, are the speakers here? (yes, thankfully they were).  Can I correctly pronounce their names? (Pleasingly, I knew both speakers of the session).  Who will start – my co chair (Kersti Lundin) or me – it was me.  Right, so, I had given this a few moments thought last night before I went to bed, yet my mind had gone blank.  Welcome – yes, yes, remember to welcome the audience to the PCC in… ARRGGGHHH I had forgotten the precise title of the PCC.  Like a flash, I got onto the ESHRE 2017 Webapp and my embarrassment was avoided – as the full title was there.  Frantic scrawling to write down the exact title and then…  it’s time; we’re up.

I remember that the lights were REALLY bright, but I don’t really remember what words came out of my mouth when I welcomed the delegates, but I think it was OK.  Our first speaker, Giovanni Coticchio, got going and did a super job… and soon it was time for questions.  Scan the room – who might be itching to ask a question.  Well, not many – again, it’s scary standing up in a room full of people to ask a question, and no one is standing up to the microphone.  That’s the other thing about being a chair – as well as being ready to interrupt that speaker who just keeps talking, you also need to listen actively, because, if there are no questions, then it falls to you to stimulate some discussion.  If you are scared to ask a question from the floor, imagine the feeling of asking a question AT THE FRONT of the room, with the lights on you, illuminating every spot and blemish…  Thankfully, I had plenty of questions, but not as many as my co-chair, who provided a really stimulating question, which prompted questions from the floor…

Our second speaker was also incredible – Prof Keith Jones telling us all about the spindle assembly checkpoint and so it soon came time to close the session.  Suddenly I need to think again – “what should I say?”  What to the ‘proper chairs’ say?  Thank the speakers – check.  Thank the audience – check.  Invite people to go for coffee… WHERE???  Arrrrggg again – I don’t know where coffee is – but thankfully you all found your way.  And more importantly, you all found you way back again.

Chairing is a privilege – but it is daunting – no matter how often you do it.  But introducing experts to come and give talks is a really super feeling – so if you ever get the opportunity, then take it.

Roger Sturmey, BSO SIG Embryology

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