Chairs have an important role to play in maintaining a civil and professional space for all participants. Please review the Annual Meeting Policies for important guidance about appropriate behavior and, under “social media,” consent and professional tone. 

General Guidelines for Session Chairs provides tips for a successful session in any setting; these instructions present some overlap, customized to the virtual setting.


Last year, when we pivoted to a virtual meeting after presenters had submitted proposals for an in-person meeting, we arranged for a volunteer Zoom assistant for every session. This year, because so many of our attendees are well-versed in Zoom, because labor is in short supply, and because you have actually requested a virtual session, we will rely on you to take responsibility for managing the Zoom controls as well as the flow of the session. 

If you feel that you require additional assistance, you may make that request in advance at [email protected]. You can also get troubleshooting help during the conference by texting our helpline; AFS staff will answer as soon as they can. See Get Help.

We have compiled instructions for using Zoom and participating in a virtual meeting. Please familiarize yourself with these items prior to your sessions, so you can advise panelists and participants who need help:

General Information

Concurrent sessions will use Zoom meetings (not webinars) that are launched by the click of a button directly from the session details on the conference platform. No Zoom links will be shared.

Anyone can see the conference hub, but only registered attendees can join sessions, access recordings, or participate in forums. You can see the program now, though some features are still under construction. And, as in every year, late change requests are still coming in, so details may change in the days before the meeting.

Find out more about using the conference hub.

Starting a Live Virtual Session

  1. You will be able to access your Zoom meeting up to 30-minutes before your scheduled start time. You can use that time to coordinate and practice. Attendees will wait in a Zoom waiting room until you admit them into the session. Instruct your panelists to come early, too, and keep an eye on the waiting room so that you can let them in when they arrive.
  2. You can assign co-hosting privileges; we recommend that you do this for your panelists and anyone else you designate to assist you.
  3. Try playing AV files before attendees arrive. Refer to Help with Zoom in advance concerning how to share media using Share Screen. If you have difficulties that you can’t resolve on your own, get help, preferably before the session begins.
  4. You or a co-host will need to admit the attendees when the session is scheduled to begin.
  5. At the start of the session, confirm that the session is recording, unless your panelists have specifically requested that no recording be made. If an individual panelist prefers not to be recorded, but the others have no objection, you can turn off the recording for just that presentation, but please announce what you are doing as you do it, so later viewers can understand what’s happening.
  6. Chairs should convey the information in the script below at the start of the session.

Managing the Session

  • Unless you designate someone to assist you, you are responsible for muting participants, letting people into the session after the session begins, monitoring the chat for any questions or technical issues that arise, contacting AFS staff if further help is needed, and keeping track of the time so that the session ends when it is supposed to. 
  • Note that the Zoom sessions will not end automatically, so you will be responsible for ending the session based on the scheduled end time.

Sample Messages

Please take time at the beginning of the Session to orient attendees to Chat and Participant Reactions. You could read the following script or paste it in the Chat :

“Hello everyone! Before we begin, let’s talk briefly about how to participate in this virtual session so that the panel will run smoothly. 

Note that this session is being recorded by AFS, and we ask that you not record the session on your own or take screenshots unless you have requested permission from the presenters.

Please remember to mute and unmute yourselves as you participate. It’s best to stay on mute unless you are speaking so background noise won’t interrupt the proceedings.

You are welcome to use the Chat box to ask questions, or the reactions buttons, all found at the bottom of your screen. You may also raise your hand by using the button you’ll find when you click on “Participants” tab at the bottom of your Zoom screen, but we may have trouble seeing you when there are many participants.

Feel free to message me privately through Chat if you need assistance.

You may need to issue reminders occasionally throughout the session for late-comers, either out loud or in Chat:

  • For anyone who has joined the session late, I’m here as support for this session so message me if you have problems.  Also, you can post your questions and comments here in the chat! 
  • (Only if needed): Please be kind, respectful, and professional as we support and discuss our colleagues’ work.  

Inappropriate Behavior

If you encounter inappropriate behavior:

In cases where the behavior is not immediately disruptive, try a direct private remark to the participant politely asking for a change. Avoid “You” statements and focus on the feelings of others. Assume that the attendee is behaving in good faith. For instance: “Some attendees may feel uncomfortable with your [remarks]/[tone]. Please [rephrase your comments]/[consider your tone]/etc.”

If a direct message does not solve the problem, you may warn the participant that you will mute or remove them. 

Don’t hesitate to use the tools at your disposal, including removing them from the session when a warning doesn’t work, or when the behavior is so inappropriate that it requires immediate intervention.

Zoom Bombing

Help us protect attendees from deliberately disruptive behavior, or “Zoom bombing.”

We have structural protections in place:

  • Our Zoom sessions will be accessed by the click of a button that only signed-in, registered attendees can see, and even registrants will not see the Zoom link itself.
  • If you have the Zoom meeting link for some reason, we ask that you do not share it in unsecured channels.
  • All meeting Zoom sessions will have a waiting room, and co-hosts will have the ability to eject participants from the session.

The first, best line of defense is to use the hosting tools to eject disruptors, but the nuclear option is to end the session. If you end the session for any reason, you will not be able to reconnect immediately. In this case, you can use our helpline (see the Welcome page) to request assistance in creating a new “join session” link, but you should be prepared to allow us some time to do so.