Virtual Events Advice

Advice for Virtual NASSR events

August 2020

 

Overview

 

In light of the cancellation of NASSR 2020 (Toronto) and the postponement of BARS-NASSR 2021 (Edge Hill) to 2022, NASSR invites and encourages members to consider hosting smaller, virtual events. Recent consultation has indicated that there is interest in a range of possible events: eg. an early-careers event, colloquia, discussion forums, mini-conferences, publication celebrations, etc. NASSR is pleased to support efforts on these and other fronts, leaving the focus and format of events to the discretion of organizers.

 

In an effort to offer said support, the following advice is drawn in part from the NASSR Conference Guide. Suggestions from the Guide have been modified and supplemented to help plan virtual rather than in-person events. None of the advice is compulsory. Some advice may not be relevant, depending on the format. The advice is also a work in progress, so please do offer suggestions to NASSR for future iterations of this guidance.

 

As should be clear from what follows, organizers have a lot of flexibility and freedom in the nature, scale, timing, and format of events; NASSR encourages members to be creative and act autonomously. At the same time, in order to introduce some level of continuity and to connect discrete events, organizers are asked to notify the Chair of the Advisory Board, Alex Dick [alex.Dick@ubc.ca] (up through the end of 2020) or the Chair of the Board, David Collings  [dcolling@bowdoin.edu] (from January 2021) about their plans and offer occasional updates.

 

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Getting Started

 

  • Formulate a small organizing team of 2-4 people.
  • Identify a specific topic or theme.
  • Settle on a format.
  • Draft a timeline, working backward from the event date.
  • Draft a budget (if necessary).

 

Meeting Format(s)

 

Event organizers should feel free to choose the format they feel is most suitable. Options include but are not limited to:

  • Panel discussions with multiple participants;
  • Discussions of new books with authors;
  • Paper presentations;
  • Keynote lectures with Q&A and/or dedicated respondent(s);
  • Presentations/papers responding to pre-circulated papers.

 

Whatever the format, we recommend composing a clear programme. Many people report “Zoom fatigue.” As such, a series of shorter presentations/discussions with several breaks may be preferable to long, continuous presentations/discussions. Two half-day events may be more effective than one full day event.

 

Scale

 

Most events will likely be smaller in scale than a typical NASSR conference. However, involving large numbers of people is still possible and manageable, depending on the sort of virtual platform used and the kind of interaction you desire. Here are some examples of how format can impact the scale and nature of participation:

  • Webinar: an audio-visual broadcast in which one person (or a small, controlled group of people) can speak. Large groups can tune in and ask questions via Q&A text/chat box, managed by a moderator. Good for keynote-style events.
  • Podcast: an audio-only broadcast that can be conducted live and/or recorded. Can work well for dialogues or small group discussions with multiple auditors.
  • Virtual meeting: an audio-visual broadcast wherein all participants have equal access to the video and audio. Good for small to medium groups but becomes unwieldy with large numbers.

 

Organizers should think carefully about the best format given their desired participants and/or audience. Organizers are well within their rights to cap the number of participants or—what is effectively the same—to vet proposals with the aim to limit numbers. Organizers may also want to use more than one format in a single event.

 

Participants and Inclusivity

 

Like any academic meeting/conference, organizers should make a decision about how to generate and then manage participation. This might involve an open Call for Papers or Call for Proposals. NASSR is happy to help disseminate such calls: just contact the secretary-treasurer. If organizers issue a call, here are some suggestions about managing submissions: 

  • Acknowledge (possibly by e-mail auto-reply, in the case of event-dedicated email accounts) every submission you receive;
  • Maintain documentation of all proposals received, including the sender’s name, contact information, and proposal title;
  • If you are working with a team, be sure that your lists remain identical;
  • Note that the bulk of proposals usually arrive in the week before the deadline;
  • Have in mind a target number of accepted papers/contributions, and set up a committee to vet submissions.

 

It is also reasonable to invite specific people or to target your call to whatever audience you feel would be best. In this phase, it may be useful to review NASSR’s commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and anti-racism. We urge organizers to plan with these values at the forefront.

 

We also remind organizers of NASSR’s advice about civility and professional conduct.

 

Managing Participants

 

You may want to use a software programme or spreadsheet to gather the following information during the submission process:

  • First and last name and professional title;
  • Confirmation of attendance;
  • Academic position (the Board might want to know % of graduate students, for example);
  • Email address;
  • Affiliation;
  • Timezone;
  • Department (useful for breaking down area representations);
  • Paper or contribution title;
  • Keywords for proposal (useful for putting together panels; created by those who submit);
  • Name of panel assigned, day and time-slot of panel, virtual room assignment;
  • Payment of fees status (if necessary). 

 

Budget

 

If you have event expenses and desire to charge some sort of registration fee to cover or offset those costs, generate a budget. Try to determine total costs. Then tally up all forms of revenue. Finally, with that information known, you can determine registration ticket prices. Further, decide how much you will charge for early and regular registration (you may wish to call them “regular” and “late” registration) and whether you will offer tiered registration rates.

 

Registration

 

Once organizers have determined overall event costs, they will be able to determine the ticket prices necessary to offset those costs. Once this calculation is known, organizers are ready to communicate with the NASSR secretary-treasurer about building the registration page. In that communication, please include details on the following matters:

  • Early-bird rates (for part-time fac/grad student and full-time faculty).
    • A deadline date for early-bird rates.
    • We recommend early-bird rates ending 6 to 8 weeks before the start of the event to encourage timely registration.
  • Full cost for later registration rates (for part-time fac/grad student and full-time faculty).
  • Anything else for which organizers would like people to register and/or pay
    • There is no limit on the number of discrete tickets that can be generated.

 

As with annual conferences, NASSR is able and willing to build registration pages for any and all virtual events organized under the NASSR banner. If you wish to collect fees of any sort, NASSR will also handle payment processing and work closely with organizers to ensure they have swift access to all incoming funds.

 

NASSR Membership

 

In keeping with past practice, access to event registration pages will be located behind the NASSR paywall such that only members can access registration. If you would like NASSR to manage registration and/or finances for your event, registration access will be dependent on membership. This is not to prohibit organizers from designing events wherein participants need not be NASSR members. However, in those cases, NASSR cannot commit to managing registration and/or other finances.   

 

Dates

 

Organizers should feel free to select the days and times that are most suitable for them and their participants. We encourage you to keep the following factors in mind:

  • Timezones: how might this affect specific participants?
  • Time changes: depending how far in advance you determine dates/times, this may need to be adjusted as different places spring forward or fall back.
  • Consider consulting and adding to this shared event calendar to avoid conflicts with other organizations and with other virtual NASSR events.   

 

While NASSR has no desire to dictate the timing of any events, there may be benefits to a relatively concentrated period of activity. It may be possible to build more momentum for a somewhat defined period of activity rather than totally isolated events. As such, if organizers do not have reasons for selecting specific dates, NASSR encourages organizers to hold their event(s) in June 2021.

 

Meeting Virtually

 

We recommend delegating the work of hosting participants via a virtual meeting platform to one or two people. There are a variety of options from which organizers can select, eg. MS Teams, Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, etc. Use a platform with which you are familiar and comfortable. In delegating this task, consider approaching people who have institutional accounts as these offer a wider range of functions and options than free accounts. We recommend that one delegated team member always act as the virtual host behind the scenes for the event(s), with another team member acting as the audience-facing host (if necessary).

 

NB: If you post a meeting link in a public place online, be aware that anyone with the link can access the meeting (unless you have also enabled further protections, such as passwords and waiting rooms). We would recommend sending meeting/webinar/podcast links only to registered members to avoid possible disruptions.