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A proposal for determining session chairs

May 29, 2013 Filed under Blog, Featured, Presentations 

A Slow Boat to China

A slow boat

Are you organizing a meeting? Here is a proposal that you might try to keep your meeting running smoothly. I got the idea from a brain teaser in a book that I read when I was a kid.

The story goes like this. You are wanting to buy the slowest boat, so you place an ad in the paper. Two captains respond to your ad, so you offer to host a race between the two of them with each captain piloting his own boat. Unfortunately, after several hours, little progress has been made in the race, as each boat has barely moved. What is the best way to determine the slowest boat? The trick is that you have the race, but the captain pilots the other person’s boat. Therefore, each captain has every incentive to put the pedal to the metal of his competitor’s boat. The boat that loses this race is sure to be the slowest boat.

The analogy works similarly for conferences. If you want the sessions to move along on time, don’t place the session in charge of someone with a vested interest in the session. For example, someone with a vested interest might have friends or colleagues presenting, or the someone might be really interested in that topic. Instead, choose someone with no vested interest in the session or who knows little about the topic or is bored by conferences in general. This person is likely to keep the session moving along on time.

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