September 20, 2003

Moderator Failure

What you do if you find you've seriously misjudged how long people are going to talk, and thus that your session is going to run fifteen minutes into lunch:

Moderator Failure: So far in this session we have heard a lot about market failure and government failure. I am here to report a third kind of failure: moderator failure. Our time has already come to an end. But I still want to give the audience an opportunity to ask questions, and our paper-writers a chance to reply, giving Alice Amsden the last word.

So I will now take eight brief, well-pointed questions or incisive, single-point comments before calling on our paper writers in inverse order to give their final replies.

Posted by DeLong at September 20, 2003 10:55 PM | TrackBack


Once upon a time, I went to a conference where every talk began and ended on time, whether or not the speaker had finished talking. They ran the whole thing strictly by the clock, and the speaker's podium was arranged so that the speaker could see exactly how many minutes and seconds he or she had left (as could the audience), and everybody knew they would be cut off, even in mid-sentence, if they were over by more than about 10 seconds or so.

It was glorious. Those talks that had been very well prepared really shine in such a format, since the other ones...well, the zero tolerance for over-time is a very cruel but very fair master.

Posted by: Jonathan King on September 21, 2003 09:01 PM

Some European parliaments (including the European Parliamnt) have warning lights driven by a clock, and what is more enforce the speaking limits.

You don't need such expensive equipment for a small conference. It shouldn't be too difficult to set up a laptop to give two-stage automatic beeps (one minute to go, time up). Anybody reading a prepared text should know to the nearest 30 seconds how long it will take. Speakers should always cut, never gabble. Chairs should start on time even if nobody's there.

Development workers in Africa often say that one of the big cultural obstacles to modernisation is a genial but wasteful indifference to timekeeping. Aren't accademics a little African here?

Posted by: James on September 22, 2003 05:50 AM

I was holding up signs!

"5 minutes"

"2 minutes"

"1 minute"

"0 minutes"

"-1 minute"

"-2 minutes"

Posted by: Brad DeLong on September 22, 2003 10:40 PM
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