On the paper sessions, Pete comments:
People are given half an hour to present but this must also include question time. So technically you time your paper for 22 minutes and leave five minutes for questions (and a few minutes for panic in the middle!). However, people tended to speak for 29 minutes thus removing most of the potential for questions. Sad really when some of the papers demanded a response and some were so shocking they deserved five minutes silence!I know this experience from the SBL annual meeting. Two comments. First, it never ceases to amaze me that many academics have apparently not mastered the art of timing a paper. What are their lectures to undergraduates like? Would they run over into the next person's time? Second, if speakers cannot time their presentations properly, it is essential that the sessions in question are well chaired. I had my first nerve-racking experience of chairing one of the SBL two-and-a-half hour sessions last November and I found it tougher than expected, especially as several of the speakers did not behave and some were such big characters that they managed to muscle their way to snatching an extra few minutes here and there. A more seasoned chair told me afterwards that the only way to do it was to be a fascist. A method I liked was used by Eddie Adams at the BNTC Short Papers section a couple of years ago -- the use of cards with messages on them, discreetly handed to the speaker with increasing urgency as the time limit approached.