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Heading to a conference

For those heading to a conference, PHCRIS is pleased to offer a number of useful resources to help you get the most out of your conference experience.

Conference event definitions

Understand the theming and programme structure of the conference you are attending.

This will affect your conference registration and preparation, including abstract submission, and of course how you will make the most of your time at the conference.

PHCRIS applies the following set of definitions when organising a conference, and although these are commonly used terms be aware that some organisations may use different definitions:


A strong conference is a highly productive, concentrated (albeit temporary) workplace. Featuring the latest quality research, developments and news, the conference programme supports knowledge creation and exchange, new thinking and ideas, by fostering both formal and informal discussion and debate.

Well planned conferences are interactive in nature and incorporate opportunities to meet new colleagues, develop networks, bridge professional silos and foster productive working relationships between researchers and research users.

Plenary session/lecture/talk

A conference lecture or panel presentation that is open to all delegates and scheduled to be the only presentation at that time. Usually delivered by distinguished speakers or invited experts, and typically lasting up to one hour.

Symposium (singular)/Symposia (plural)

A conference session including closely related presentations that together provide a comprehensive insight into the topic of discussion. A symposium is usually scheduled at the same time as other conference sessions (concurrent).

The standard 60 minutes timeslot allocated to a symposium provides an opportunity for multiple colleagues to present a substantial body of research findings, incorporating debate and discussion on key issues.

In invited symposia, conference organisers predefine the session topic as well as aim and then invite a symposium leader to submit an abstract.

For submitted symposia, conference organisers allow symposium leaders to identify the topic and select presenters. Typically the symposium leader will submit an abstract for the overall session while each author involved is responsible for providing an abstract for their individual contribution.

Papers or Concurrent Papers

Selection of short, individual talks presented in a single session. Talks are often thematically related, and are scheduled concurrently (at the same time) with other sessions. Presentations are often between 10 and 15 minutes in length, with an additional 5 to 10 minutes for discussion at the end of each presentation. Presenters are able to use an audio-visual presentation (e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint or Prezi) to complement their spoken material.


Posters allow information to be presented in a visually appealing, easy-to-digest format. Usually research findings are briefly presented under the headings of Aim/Methods/Results/Discussion or similar. At the PHC Research Conference posters are in a portrait style with a maximum size of 90 cm wide and 120 cm high. Posters are grouped according to theme and displayed on large poster boards within the Exhibition Hall. Poster presenters are asked to stand by their poster during a dedicated session in which they are able to answer questions about the content from interested delegates.


An interactive learning session organised so that participants actively engage to apply the skills being taught in the session. Workshops usually last for 90 minutes or more. They often include an evaluation survey. Workshops are cost effective compared with individual training activities and provide a means of connecting the subject material to the learners’ context, as well as providing opportunities for group interaction and networking. These sessions are often targeted at a particular audience (e.g. early career researchers, policy makers, allied health professionals) and have clear learning outcomes.

Panel discussion

A small number of invited speakers give a short presentation of their thoughts and opinions on a predefined question or subject, followed by an open question and answer session involving the audience and panel alike.

Invitation only discussions/roundtables

Closed group conversations on a predefined topic, where attendance is by invitation only. Usually adhering to the Chatham House Rule (participants are free to use the information received, but may not reveal the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant).

Practical guidance

Ranging from practical guides on presenting a poster, delivering an oral presentation, or running a conference workshop, to tips on joining the conference activity on social media - the following selection of guides provides useful information to help you get the most out of any conference.

See also the related/broader collection of Guides about sharing research.

Guides in this collection


How to... Get the most out of conferences

Outlining ways you can enhance the experience of attending conferences


How to... Chair sessions

Useful tips to help you successfully chair sessions

How to... Conduct effective skill-building workshops

Learn how to conduct workshops. Covering planning, during and after the workshop.

How to... Design a great multimedia conference presentation

Providing you with guidelines to assist you with designing a great multimedia presentation

How to... Design posters for maximum impact

Providing you with tips on how to maximise the impact of your poster presentation

How to... Get the most out of conferences

Outlining ways you can enhance the experience of attending conferences

How to... Make the most of social media at conferences

Whether you are speaker, delegate, sponsor, exhibitor or event organiser, this Guide has suggestions for using social media at conferences and how to start.

How to... Oral presentations: preparation and delivery

Prepared to assist you with the planning and delivery of your next paper presentation

How to... Write great abstracts

Writing great abstracts will help the reader decide whether to read your work or attend your presentation. It is thus worth the effort to do this well. We provide tips to assist you with this exercise.

Introduction to... Plain language

Plain language improves communication by using clear terms that are easily understood. This guide provides you with tips on using plain language to reach your audience.

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