How to Chair at a Conference – as a PhD student

Now you may be wondering, “Why bother chairing a conference track? I’m just a student and happy to present a paper or poster.”  Think again! You can make valuable contacts, and develop your confidence. Here are my suggestions as to why to chair a track and how to do it effectively.

Why Chair a Track?

  1. Find your Viva examiner

You may well be reviewing papers from experienced academics in your field of study. Chairing a track gives you the opportunity to work together beforehand. I’ve found a few potential Viva examiners from chairing a conference.

  1. Practise your paper reviewing skills

As a track chair, you will be expected to get to review and prepare questions on all the papers presented in the track. You should explain the theme that connects all the papers and summarise the papers effectively.  This is good practice for becoming a journal reviewer.

  1. Get spotted by a publisher

I’ve recently been invited to publish by a journal editor who attended my paper presentation. Because I was also chairing the track, we worked together beforehand, and I got to understand exactly what her journal is looking for. I was able to tailor my presentation of the paper to meet her journal requirements.

How to Chair a Track

  1. Present a paper at the conference

You should always try to present a paper or poster, if you want to chair a track at a conference. Even if you are not asked to chair a track, presenting the paper will give you valuable experience of discussing your work with experts in your field.

  1. Ask the conference organisers

Conference organisers can find it hard to find track chairs, especially for the last session of the conference. Send your CV to the conference organisers beforehand, and offer your services. Be prepared to stand in at short notice.

Inject your personality

There’s more to chairing than informed questions and keeping the speakers on time – see the cartoon above by Steve Macone and Lindsay Moss Try to add humour or bring chocolates or pens. Salford Business School has a great range of promotional material for PhD students going to conferences).  Make sure your track ends on a high, and you are likely be invited back next year.

More advice and suggestions for how to chair a track effectively here:

Photo 1: Udeni Salmon getting ready to chair a track at the 2016 EURAM conference in Paris in July 2016, at the  l’Université Paris-Dauphine. Coffee is always important part of being a track chair! The Latin in the hall above me, means “A mind unfettered in deliberation” and is the NATO motto. NATO were housed in this building from 1959 to 1966.

Euram Conference Chair


What the future holds for Manchester’s family businesses

Great Manchester Business Conference

The Great Manchester Business Conference on Friday March 6th 2015 was a busy, content-packed day, outlining the trends and opportunities for Greater Manchester’s businesses in the next few years. Here’s my take on what the future holds for family firms:


Sir Howard Bernstein outlined the huge impact of devolution to a Greater Manchester combined authority: Manchester will take control over a single budget for housing, health and transport. For firms whose staff live and work within Manchester, improved commuting could be an early win. Many family firms employ older people and with better healthcare resulting in even more workers being fit and healthy beyond the traditional retirement age. Improved housing means that more students and those seeking work will be able to move to Manchester to find jobs, meaning a larger skills pool for family firms looking to recruit.


The irrepressible Wayne Jones, Chair of Stockport Economic Alliance and champion of manufacturing, reminded us that “products are make in a factory; brands are made in your mind”. Family firms need to promote their unique brand to customers, suppliers and end-users if they are going to retain a competitive edge in a highly globalised and competitive industry.

Family firms should take advantage of the increased government funding for innovation in Greater Manchester Manufacturing Strategy and the trend for reshoring described in the Alliance Report on textile manufacturing. Technological innovation, close understanding of customer requirements and responding quickly to requests for new products will be crucial for survival.


Family firms in the tourism industry could take advantage of an increase in hotel beds from 8.5K to 9.2K in the next two years. Tourists from China and the UAE continue to increase, to the extent that Manchester is now the number 1 shopping destination outside London. Family firms in the restaurant business, looking to expand a known offering, will do well in Manchester.


The Manchester Corridor and Manchester Science Park continue to offer an agglomeration of skills and financing for family firms in the high-tech industry. Microsoft’s speech recognition and translation software will make internationalisation easier for family firms who do not speak other languages. The megatrends of big data, social engagement, mobile users and cloud computing will continue. Family firms who underestimate the potential of their young employees and customers will be left behind.


Family firms can take advantage of an increasing number of financial products: Urica as an alternative to invoice financing, the British Business Bank for firms who want to grow. While the banks speaking at the event seemed to think there were plenty of products and clear signposting for SMEs, the businesses themselves were not convinced.

John Ashcroft and Steph McGovern

John Ashcroft from GMCC and Steph McGovern from the BBC – our hosts for the day

In conclusion, the future is bright for family firms who can provide high quality, scaleable products and who are able to respond quickly to technological change.