What to Expect

Academic meetings have been turned on their heads in the months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Academic societies have adopted various strategies for using communications technologies to make the best of the situation. In designing a totally virtual conference, EASST and 4S jointly have adopted a strategy meant to present as few complications as possible and to allow the conference to proceed as closely as possible to the normal flow of events: Attendees will search and browse the online program. Presenters will gather in “rooms” at their appointed times, share their slides, and deliver their talks. Discussants can make their contributions. Audience members can submit questions by text, or, if invited by the chair, by video and audio.

We have prepared the guide below to help you understand what to expect and how to have the most satisfying conference experience. That said, we are open to original adaptations to the technological environment. “Flipped” sessions are an obvious example. We expect to see various novel approaches coming from the Making and Doing presenters. Please let us know if you have a plan to get outside the box.

Please be aware that this document, like the plan itself, is evolving, so check back occasionally, and please let us hear your questions.

Technology

By August, we suspect that a large majority of our presenters will have had experience with virtual meetings. If this is the case with you, the video technology should present no surprises. While we have not chosen a technology vendor, we expect to choose from among major consumer platforms.

Expect that you will be able to share your screen and use computer audio. In any video meeting, technical glitches and bandwidth issues may occur, so it is good to have a fallback plan. We highly recommend that you load your slides and/or text to your submission on the program site, which will then appear in the program. (Instructions forthcoming.) Alternatively, send them to your session chair in advance so that they can present or show slides on your behalf if necessary. If you need to show video, we strongly recommend that you post a link to a hosting site in your program submission and refer people to that link during your presentation.

We expect to contract with a meeting services provider who will offer training and system testing during the days before the meeting. They may also offer to pre-record your presentation. We strongly recommend that you take advantage of these opportunities so as to avoid problems during your session, which take time from everyone.

Many of the keys to a successful presentation begin on your end, with appropriate hardware and bandwidth being the most important. Don’t forget important basics, such as lighting and camera angle. By now, there are countless guides available for successful virtual presentations.

Technical support will be available throughout meeting hours.

Scheduling

Sessions will be scheduled much the same as if the meeting were taking place in Prague, over the same four-day period with the same number of simultaneous tracks.

Time zone issues are unavoidable; most papers were submitted to panels or in panels on the basis of topic. Inevitably, many of those sessions will include presenters from around the globe. We urge presenters in distant time zones to consider this the tradeoff for jet lag, which you would be dealing with if the meeting were in Prague.

The Program Committee will consider requests for schedule changes only from session organizers.

Access

All presenters and other attendees will access virtual meetings via the online program. This is the same system through which all papers have been submitted, which is linked to the same system through which all registrations are completed. Therefore, there should be no surprises or hurdles regarding login credentials. The meeting program will be public, but links to the meetings, as well as downloadables and other resources, will be available only to logged in users who have registered for the meeting.

Agreements and Formalities

By virtue of your meeting registration, you agree not to distribute virtual meeting urls or otherwise provide access to the meeting events to any unauthorized or unregistered user. Losing control of meeting access opens up our sessions to spam and abuse.

All presenters, by virtue of their registration, consent to having their presentation recorded. Recordings of virtual sessions will be posted very shortly after the close of each session, making it easier for all people to view more sessions than is normally possible. Recordings will only be posted behind login for registered attendees and will be available only for a (yet-to-be-) defined period of time.

As with all our meetings, all substantive intellectual content will remain the exclusive property of its creator(s). 4S and EASST neither endorse nor disclaim the conclusions, interpretations, or opinions expressed by speakers in this meeting.

Session Management

Session chairs are the czars of their sessions. Technical support will be available, but we urge session chairs to participate in one of the offered training sessions to make sure they are ready to handle responsibilities, limited as they are. By default, all non-presenting participants will enter with audio and video disabled and will only be able to participate by text chat unless enabled by the chair. This is an additional step to maintain security.

Timekeeping is as important as ever. Virtual rooms are reused on a schedule just like physical rooms, and your meeting will inevitably expire, most likely on schedule and without warning.

Note that the technology enables a flipped session model, posting all materials in advance and using the allotted time for discussion. Adopting this approach is at the discretion of the session chair. We suggest that, if you plan to do this, you edit the description of your session, adding the word “FLIPPED” at the beginning, so people will know they should read materials in advance. (Instructions forthcoming.)