MESA - Middle East Studies Association

Instructions and Tips for Paper Presenters

Submit a Copy of Your Paper

By October 15, please upload your paper to the myMESA system so that your co-panelists, especially the chair/discussant, will have access to it. No one else will have access to the paper except for your co-panelists. Papers need not be the final copy; drafts are fine. There is no suggested paper length. MESA receives papers of varying lengths. Your topic and your depth of coverage should determine the length of your paper. You will presumably present a truncated version of your paper at your panel. If you prefer, you can email a copy of your paper directly to your panel chair/discussant.

  1. Log-in to myMESA (
  2. Click the "Annual Meeting" button.
  3. Click the "Paper Abstract" button (shows up once you click the annual meeting button).
  4. Click the "Submit/Update full paper” button.
  5. Under “Upload your attachment” click the “browse” button.
  6. Locate your file on your computer by navigating to the directory where the file is located.
  7. Once the name of your file appears in the box next to the "browse" button, click the “Save and back to abstract” button.
  8. Your file has now been uploaded.
  9. Log-out.

Want to upload a newer copy later? Repeat above.

Presentation Length and Tips

James Gelvin, professor of history at UCLA, prepared a piece on paper presentations for his graduate students. We share it here, as we think it is helpful for those who are new to presenting papers.

Plan your presentation for 15 to 20 minutes depending upon the number of papers on your panel and any instructions you may have received from your panel chair. It is unlikely that you will read your whole paper, but rather a summary of it that will fit in the allotted time for your presentation. It takes about 20 minutes to read 10-12 double spaced pages. Practice reading the paper summary you have prepared and time yourself. Our friend Mary Hunt of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), Silver Spring, MD, kindly allowed us to share the following tips she prepared on paper presentations at academic meetings:

Be Brief, Be Witty, Be Seated

  1. Be Brief. It takes about 20 minutes to read 10-12 double spaced pages. Allow a little time for introductory remarks and to repeat for emphasis what you really want to get across. Err on the side of too little material rather than too much. Your audience will thank you. Studies show that the average attention span for spoken words is slightly over 10 seconds. A few good ideas with a clear introduction and concise conclusion will stay with your listeners longer than a convoluted argument. Allow time for questions as it is another opportunity, usually more listener friendly than being read to, to communicate your ideas.
  2. Be Witty. Every (MESA) scholar is not Whoopie Goldberg or Lily Tomlin, but it is important to think of an academic audience as people first and foremost. A touch of humor is always appreciated. It keeps the audience alert. Think of the presentation as needing the clarity of a picture, the precision of an article, the flow of a conversation and the satisfaction of a good meal. Humor adds levity and makes your remarks memorable. Anecdotes and examples will give you a chance to lighten what might otherwise be a deadly dull performance.
  3. Be Seated. Honor the time constraints because they assure that everyone will have an equal opportunity to speak. It is boorish not to, a sure sign of inexperience. Practiced speakers finish up with a bang on or a little ahead of the time. Novices start out strong but end up fumbling because they try to speed read a 30-page paper in twenty minutes. When they realize that their time is rapidly coming to a close they often exclaim, "Oh, heavens, I am just going to skip the next ten pages and read you the conclusion," or desperate words to that effect as if the content they are leaving aside has no bearing on the argument. To avoid this faux pas, keep your presentation to the time allowed. But if you do not manage that:
    1. acknowledge the time keeper with a nod so as not to distract your audience; 
    2. summarize your remaining material without reference to the time problem; 
    3. move smoothly to your conclusion like a practiced speaker and nobody will be any the wiser…except you, the next time.

Delivering a paper is learned behavior. It is like preaching a sermon, teaching a class or giving a lecture anywhere else. You can get it right with practice. Bad things can happen-the microphone can go dead, your PowerPoint® presentation can freeze, you might even have an attack of nerves that will cause you enormous stress. But for the most part it will be a good, even an enjoyable experience. You can enhance it by offering a warm thank you to your introducer and by thanking your audience at the end, Miss Manners would suggest. A quick e-mail thank you to the presider and/or the person who chairs the section is a nicety that increases graciousness among us.

Audio-Visual Equipment

  1. Hotel meeting rooms do not come with audio-visual equipment.
  2. In fact, MESA has to pay for microphones (!) and follows the industry standard of only putting microphones in rooms set theater style for 50 or more people. If your panel is held in a room that is set with fewer than 50 chairs, it will not have a microphone.
  3. Presenters were required to request AV equipment when they submitted their abstracts. A session will not have AV equipment if no one on it requested any.
  4. If you did not request AV equipment when you submitted your abstract, it is too late to do so unless you are willing to pay for it. In that case, we will put you directly in touch with the AV company to arrange for direct billing.
  5. AV equipment is now limited to LCD projectors and screens. Gone are the days of slide projectors, overhead projectors, and DVD players. MESA cannot provide computers. Presenters must furnish their own computers. Presenters on the same panel may consider sharing a laptop.
  6. Mac users must bring the appropriate Mac to VGA adapter. Mac makes several types, depending on the laptop, so it is imperative that the presenter bring the VGA adapter that came with the laptop. If the presenter no longer has the adapter, they can visit an Apple Store or Best Buy or various other computer/electronic stores to purchase a replacement. The AV company cannot provide adapters since there are so many types.
  7. The LCD projector is an extension of your computer screen, just like if you plugged your laptop into a monitor. When you plug your laptop into the LCD projector, the image on your laptop screen will be projected onto the screen in the meeting room.
  8. Sessions may last for a maximum of 2 hours. Therefore, it is important for everyone to have their presentations ready to go at the touch of a button so that as little time as possible is devoted to transitions between presenters.

Check Your Panel's AV Status

Although it is too late to make new AV equipment requests, presenters can check their sessions to see what AV equipment will be available:

  1. Log-in to myMESA (
  2. Click the “Annual Meeting” button on the left.
  3. Click “Participation” below that.
  4. The Session(s) on which you are participating is(are) listed on the right under “You are participating in the following session(s):”
  5. Click the session title.
  6. You will see four tabs: Basic Information, Members, Abstracts, Presentation Info.
  7. Click the “Presentation Info.” tab.
  8. Listed there you will find the presentation date and time and the audio-visual equipment that will be available during the session.


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