Our WorkAnnual Meetings2021 Annual MeetingInformation for Presenters

2021 Annual Meeting: General Principles for Virtual Presentations

Virtual sessions create an opportunity for us to continue to meet and share our work, but they also raise new considerations about how to make the most of the remote situation. AFS has tips for planning ahead to ensure successful virtual presentations.

Know Your Virtual Setting 

The virtual meeting will take place on our own conference hub that will provide the program, a virtual exhibit gallery, and a portal to Zoom, the communication platform for all live sessions and events. All sessions presentations will be given in live sessions, with Q&A, whether or not presentations are pre-recorded. Most sessions will be recorded to provide the opportunity for asynchronous access, but presenters can opt-out of recording by contacting [email protected].

All participants, including presenters as well as audience members, will access sessions using the conference hub. No Zoom links will be shared.

Find out more about using our conference hub.

Most sessions will be conducted as Zoom meetings (not webinars).

All participants will be placed in a Zoom waiting room until the scheduled start of the session. Presenters may be admitted from the waiting room 30 minutes before the session begins in order to prepare.

Make sure that you can meet the system requirements. See the section on Presenting Virtually in our FAQ.


Most technical difficulties boil down to the users’ bandwidth and familiarity with Zoom or other applications used during the presentation, like Powerpoint.

Here are some ways to anticipate these problems:

  • Make sure that you can meet the system requirements. See the section on Presenting Virtually in our FAQ.
  • Compile your digital files that are necessary to your presentation on your computer where you can easily find them. 
  • Avoid trying to stream audio or video from an online source during your presentation. Instead, play media files stored on your own device.
  • Share a copy of your files with a co-panelist, in case you encounter connectivity or other technical issues during your presentation.
  • Practice using your presentation software, including how to share your screen in Zoom. Be aware that you may need to change settings so that Zoom will share your audio as well as your screen. See Help with Zoom.
  • It is not required to pre-record your presentation, but some folks prefer doing the hard part in advance, so they can relax and enjoy the live session. Pre-recorded presentations can be prepared using PowerPoint or Zoom, and played using “Share Screen” from your device, like any other media file.

Chairing a Virtual Session

While many of the same rules apply to chairing a virtual session as to an in-person one, hosts and moderators of virtual meetings also have certain technical responsibilities.

  • Communicate with all presenters ahead of time to determine how to use the time; if papers are scheduled for specific start times, plan to stick to the schedule. Be aware of each of your presenters’ technical needs.
  • Zoom has a number of tools through which attendees can communicate silently with each other publicly and privately, including text chat, participant list icons, and emoji reactions. Establish policies ahead of time for how you would like attendees to communicate during live discussion portions of the session. Inform all attendees of these procedures at the start of your session.
  • Session chairs may prefer to designate a moderator to help manage Zoom meeting functions, including managing chat and participants. AFS will mobilize monitors upon request.
  • Be ready to step in when technical difficulties are disrupting your session. As Zoom host or co-host, you (or your moderator) have the ability to mute, unmute, and eject participants as needed.

We recommend you review our customary Suggestions for Session Chairs as you consider the best ways to adapt the virtual platform to your session’s specific needs.

During Your Session

All panel participants should:

  • Follow the directions of your chair/moderator throughout the session.
  • Make sure your microphone is muted when you are not speaking to minimize background noise while others are speaking.
  • Turn your microphone on when it is your turn to speak.
  • Try not to speak over other attendees, both as a matter of courtesy and because computer microphones often cancel each other out when one speaker tries to talk over another.
  • Introduce yourself before speaking. Remember that not all other attendees will necessarily have access to video and may not recognize you from voice alone.