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Many organizing committees set aside time and space at the conference for special sessions, which are often planned and organized by select individuals that have been invited to highlight a particular subject or scientific direction.

For example, if you work in computer science and you're specializing in deep learning, you might propose (or be asked) to organize a deep learning special session.

Once your proposal has been accepted, you have to spread the word to interested researchers, issue a call for papers, collect papers, invite an important speaker, and make sure the event runs smoothly.

For those of you that already had this experience, what are your suggestions and advice for organizing a good special session?

For instance, should you get in touch with potential participants before the session is announced?

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A useful start is to try to get some well-known researchers to commit to providing talks to a session. It could be one person or maybe a few more depending on the size of the conference and the session. The point of doing this is basically two-fold. First, you gain interest from others when they see names they recognize. Second, by having someone well-established involved, the session gains a certain amount of credibility. People who may be very selective in choosing how they spend their time are likely less inclined to go to a session filled with people they do not know than one where they at least know one or a couple.

Once you have established a core for the session, the rest might solve itself. You do of course have to consider the main direction of the conference so that the session theme does not deviate to the extent that any person interested in the session finds the rest of the conference of marginal interest. So chose the venue with some care.

Getting the ball rolling is the hard bit. An invitation is usually not enough. It may involve pulling strings left and right to entice a core of attendees to show. In one meeting I co-organized, we managed to get an international group to attend that were looking to also run a project meeting at the same time. This meant the meeting gained a wider interest.

  • I would also add to have a big name be an organizer of the session as well. For the same reasons @Peter Jansson mentioned, and to help pull the strings when things get tough. – Orion Sep 30 '14 at 1:30
  • @Peter: So, should the session's organizer invite the potential participants that he knows, or he has to review the submitted papers to see who can have a proper contribution? – Bob Jun 15 '18 at 10:26
  • @Bob, potential key participants that the organizer think could contribute to the session and attract additional participants to make thse session as productive as possible, not just persons the organizer knows. As for your second half of the question, I am not sure how you see it work. Papers come after organizing (announcing) the session in my mind so I have no specific comments to that part o fthe question. – Peter Jansson Jun 16 '18 at 10:11
  • @Peter: Just to make sure i goft it correctly, by key participants do you mean people who make the plenary/introductory talk or participate as the discussion panel? – Bob Jun 16 '18 at 15:14
  • @Bob: From my experience, key participants are not limited to plenary/introductory speakers or those participate as the discussion panel. Hopefully it helps. – cjunsun Jul 1 '18 at 1:36

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