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Conference session formats

Guidance on choosing your session format.

This page has additional guidance for session organisers on potential session formats (in-person, hybrid, or online) and session types (papers, panel, workshop, etc.)

Session formats and ways to participate

Conference sessions may be in-person or online. We will also have very limited capacity for some hybrid live sessions. Session organisers wishing to request a hybrid format will be asked to bid for this in a competitive process. Please see our guidance for session organisers for more information. 

Chair's plenary lectures and journal-sponsored lectures

  • Live in-person, livestreamed to virtual platform (recorded and subsequently uploaded); facility to submit questions live using online tool or platform 
  • Journals and other sponsors wishing to organise livestreamed lectures at the conference should please contact as soon as possible to discuss. 

Organised and open sessions


  • Live and in-person only: people in a room, not recorded.
  • Live hybrid: presenters in-person and online; audience in person and online, with online attendees and presenters joining via a Zoom virtual session. There will be a very limited number of slots for this option given availability of suitable rooms, kit, and technical support, and these will be allocated on a competitive basis. Please see our guidance for session organisers.
  • Live online: all happens in a virtual room, accessed through Zoom as the virtual platform, with live presentations. We are also working on options to ensure there are physical spaces on the conference site where those attending in-person can sit to join virtual sessions.


  • Uploading supplementary content to virtual platform, including recorded presentations; PowerPoint slides; PDFs of your paper; posters and more.
  • Upload of recorded sessions to watch on catch-up demand
  • Use of asynchronous Q&A function to comment on both of these

We encourage session organisers and presenters to make the most of our capacity for uploading asynchronous content in advance of the conference, and to consider formats that use asynchronous materials as part of live synchronous sessions. 

For example, you could encourage your presenters to upload recordings of their presentations and/or papers by a certain date, encourage those attending to watch/read these in advance, and then use your live session time to focus on discussion of the presentations and papers. If you are planning a workshop format, recommended reading and planned questions/discussion topics can be uploaded in advance. 

Session types

We would like to encourage a wide range of session types at the conference, including papers; panels; discussions or workshops; community building and networking; social events; digital shorts; and posters. 

The below guides have been developed by the conference organisers, the Participatory Geographies Research Group (PyGyRG), and the Digital Geographies Research Group (DGRG).

Session organisers are not limited to the suggestions described below when proposing their session for conference, but the suggested session formats are designed to:

  • Encourage a wide range of contributions and the active involvement of a wide range of people
  • Address the heightened importance of impact and engagement, including the place of research in society
  • Be suitable for a range of outputs and follow-up activities, from book and journal publications to blogs and practitioner interventions

All session organisers are encouraged to explore these options and/or develop their own, in discussion with RGS-IBG and their Research Groups. If you have an idea for another session format you think would work well, let us know!

Papers session

Hints and tips for planning a session of conference papers, ranging from a keynote presentation to 15-minute research papers and 5-minute interactive short papers:

Read session format guidance

Panel session

Suggested formats and tips for session chairs about organising and facilitating a panel discussion session:

Read session format guidance

Digital shorts/lightning talks

These sessions feature a series of very short talks (2-5 minutes per speaker), in which presenters can pitch an idea, outline a provocation or simply briefly summarise the work they’re currently engaged with.

Read session format guidance

Split session

Advice on preparing a session occupying two timeslots, combining a more traditional papers session with a second session of an interactive format (for example World Cafe, roundtable, etc.):

Read session format guidance

World cafe

Advice and tips for organising a session that mimics a cafe environment, encouraging sustained discussion and conversation between participants across a range of topics:

Read session format guidance


Recommendations for a session format that encourages audience participation from the outset, focusing on a central theme or topic, with either expert-led or audience-led discussion:

Read session format guidance

Work in progress

Advice and hints for a session format that allows participants to workshop a piece of work in progress with small groups of session participants, working towards the completion of the work, especially if there is a question or challenge to address:

Read session format guidance

Speed networking: making research connections

Suggestions for an innovative and fun session in which participants discuss a challenge, question or topic 1:1 with a new partner every five minutes, before encouraging more in-depth discussion in small groups or in a roundtable format:

Read session format guidance

Collaborative sessions

Hints and tips for session organisers interested in working with non-academic contributors:

Read session format guidance