Virtual Conference FAQs

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the Annual Conference.

General Information

General Information

What are the official virtual conference dates?
The original dates of the conference have been adjusted. The AAS Virtual Annual Conference will take place Sunday, March 21 – Friday, March 26. The dates were changed in an effort to (1) no longer conflict with Passover and (2) to make our best efforts to address virtual conference fatigue that can occur with long and extended conference days.

What will I need in order to participate in the online virtual conference?
All general attendees will need either a computer, tablet (preferably with a preferably with high speed connection), or smartphone to enjoy the conference experience. Sessions speakers should use only a computer during their session as this is the best option for presenting. Speakers will be provided with additional details and tips for presenting virtually.

Will conference registration fees be discounted for the virtual conference?
The AAS is aware that many attendees have expectations of a lower registration fee for an online conference. Registration fees will be discounted by approximately 25% for most all categories.

Why is the AAS charging registration fees? Why is this not free?
The AAS Secretariat staff regularly reviews and discusses the entire cost of conference attendance for participants—not only registration fees, but also hotel rates, travel expenses, dining, and so forth. We have always been committed to staging affordable conferences. At the same time, our organization doesn’t have unlimited resources; we must strike a balance between affordability and sustainability. 

A virtual conference, done well, will still entail significant expenses for the AAS. Our conference will not simply be several days of do-it-yourself Zoom meetings; we are dedicated to creating a robust interactive experience that will nourish and strengthen the global AAS community. Such an undertaking carries costs: we have to pay for the EventScribe Live virtual platform environment in which AAS 2021 will be held, and for the A/V company that will produce and support our event. Additionally, there is the annual expenses of the Secretariat staff, who have spent the last year designing and planning the virtual conference. The ability for us to not only offer a platform to host session content but also feature virtual exhibit booths, film screenings, live Q&As, video chat features, and more all come at an expense. There is a misconception that Zoom is free (it is not, save for the most basic personal account); even if the AAS were to simply host the conference on Zoom, there would be a significant expense to host an event of over 3000 individuals. While we will charge for participant registration, virtual registration rates will be lower than for one of our in-person conferences. We’ll post more information about those rates at our website soon.

Virtual Online Conference

What platform will the virtual AAS Conference use?
The virtual AAS 2021 Annual Conference will use EventScribe Live, a dedicated online conference platform developed by CadmiumCD, which already hosts our abstract and speaker management system and has provided the online program for our recent conferences. EventScribe Live offers attendees a dynamic, interactive conference experience with features far beyond those of Zoom, WebEx, BlueJeans, or other video conferencing providers.

How will the online conference platform protect participant security?

Many survey respondents expressed concern about the security of video conferencing platforms—concerns that the AAS leadership shares, as explained in our recent statement on remote teaching, online scholarship, safety, and academic freedom. Only registered conference participants will have access to sessions, with the exception of a small number of plenary events such as the Awards Ceremony, Presidential Address, and Keynote Address—events that are always open to the public at our in-person conferences. Sessions will remain available from the time of the conference through April 30, 2021, to allow attendees the opportunity to catch up on sessions they missed. Conference attendees are not permitted to record sessions, and will not be able to download presenter PowerPoint slides. 

We take issues of online security and academic freedom very seriously. We want AAS 2021 participants to share, debate, question, and collaborate freely, and we are working with Cadmium CD to ensure that attendee security is protected to the greatest extent possible. However, we also know that no online platform is 100% secure.

Will participants in mainland China be able to access the online conference?
CadmiumCD regularly tests its platform in mainland China and, to date, has not seen any issues regarding access within the PRC. However, digital access in China is a fluid and frequently changing situation. The AAS does not have any special insight or influence that would enable us to guarantee that AAS 2021 will be available to all participants in China. What we can promise is that we’re aware of these questions and will communicate with all conference participants as quickly as possible if the situation changes. 

How will presenters and virtual attendees know how to navigate the virtual conference platform?
We will teach you! In the coming months, we will share how-to guides and offer webinars designed to familiarize you with all the ins and outs of the platform before the conference starts. Information about those materials and sessions will be posted at the conference website later in 2020. All of us at the AAS want to make sure that conference attendees have a smooth virtual experience, as well as a productive one—we don’t want you to miss out on anything AAS 2021 has to offer.

Will there be tech support?
Yes! A conference of this size—300+ sessions, an Exhibit Hall, Film Expo, networking rooms, and more—is far too complex for our team to produce. We will contract with an A/V company to run things behind the scenes, and you’ll be able to contact their staff members with any technical questions during the conference. More information about that will be posted prior to the conference start date.

How will this work logistically, given all the different time zones AAS members live in?
There’s no perfect time zone for our conference. AAS Annual Conference attendees are located around the world, and the approach we’ve selected will allow all attendees to view sessions at the time most convenient to them, no matter their time zones. Some main events will be scheduled at the most opportune time that will allow the greatest number of attendees from many time zones to participate in live interactions. All sessions will be available for on-demand viewing for additional 30 days.

What will a virtual Exhibit Hall look like?
We will work with AAS 2021 exhibitors to provide a full Exhibit Hall experience. Each exhibitor will have a virtual booth, where they will display information about new publications and products, share any conference discounts they’re offering, and hold live meetings with AAS 2021 participants who want to discuss projects or have their questions answered..

Will there be a Film Expo?
Yes! A Call for Films will be circulated later this fall. Movies selected for inclusion will be available to stream online.

My favorite parts of an AAS conference are networking and meeting people in between sessions. How will you facilitate those kinds of experiences online?
This was one of the most frequently asked questions from survey respondents, many of whom are concerned a virtual conference will lack the opportunities for connection and collaboration that are the hallmark of an in-person event. Using the features of the virtual conference platform, we will create virtual spaces for “Hallway Conversations”—informal discussions during session breaks. Registered attendees will have the opportunity to join live video chat rooms dedicated to each specific session where conversations about the sessions may continue. We would encourage attendees to take this opportunity to connect with fellow participants and establish additional independent times to continue the conversation further. Additionally, we will offer other live video networking opportunities throughout the conference dates.

Virtual Registration

What is the cost to attend?
The AAS offers both member and non-member rates, as well as discounted rates for students and retired members. Confirmed registration rates will post on the website in the Fall.

What access is included with the online/virtual registration type?
The online/virtual registration fee will include:
Access to view and participate in virtual sessions
Access to the virtual exhibit hall
Access to screenings in the Films Expo
Access to view special events (keynote address, awards ceremony, and special plenaries)
Networking opportunities, and more!

Why is there a registration fee to view sessions and participate online? Aren’t Zoom and other webinar platforms free?
For an event the size of the AAS Annual Conference, with over 3,000 attendees, holding online sessions not only requires a high level of technology but also experienced technicians to assist on the back end. The AAS has to secure a platform that can handle our needs and staff it with technicians to ensure the event runs smoothly for all participants.
As a result, the technology costs for holding an online conference can be significantly higher than those for an in-person conference. Conference fees will help to cover the cost of the technology needed to pull off an event of our size.

Members and attendees will not have the cost of travel and a hotel stay, so we hope the overall cost to attend will be much lower for those who choose to participate virtually.