Purpose of the Scheduled Live Discussions

The live discussion sessions are not meant to facilitate lengthy discussions directly. Instead, the goal is to plant the seeds for productive discussions, which can then be grown and continued, in depth, afterwards during the informal discussion sessions in other rooms on the virtual conference space. Therefore, we do not want these sessions to dwell on just 1-2 questions for the full 10 minutes. Instead, after a few exchanges between the speaker and questioner, we suggest to move on to the next question and encourage the participants of the interrupted discussion to continue it on the virtual conference space after the session.

Of course, if no further questions are asked, it is OK to dwell on the one conversation, or even come back to it later in the session.


Before the Live Discussion Session

• Check the agenda of the session and watch the speakers’ talks.
• Browse the Mattermost channel of the relevant session and the questions/discussions of each talk.
• Decide if any of the Mattermost questions are unanswered, or worth further discussion, and prepare to bring these up in the live discussion session. Feel free to group similar questions.
• Learn to pronounce the speakers’ names (most likely they have mentioned that in their talk recording).

Beginning of the Live Discussion Session

• Remind the participants to adhere to the Code of Conduct of the conference.
• Remind the participants that the session is being recorded with the recording made available to the participants and a general summary may potentially be available publicly at some point after the conference.
• Remind the participants to mute their microphones if they are not asking a question.
• Remind the participants to “raise hand” to ask questions or make text comments via the chat during the session. (This should automatically create an ordered list for you.)
• Remind the speaker that their summary of up to 30 seconds is just for them to remind everyone about the topic and the main take-away message of the talk, and not for them to give a talk about the talk. It might be useful if the speakers set an alarm for 30 seconds themselves, e.g. on their phone.

During the Live Discussion Session

• Unless there are no further questions, try to keep questions and answers short. If it becomes clear that a particular question can lead to fertile discussion, remind and encourage people to continue in a room of the virtual conference space after the live discussion session.
• Be aware of the time: 10 min per speaker. Each speaker is allowed up to 30 seconds to summarize their talk with one slide and 9.5 min to answer/discuss questions live. The very brief 1 slide/max. 30 s (or less!) summary only serves as a short reminder of the talk, potentially highlighting the most important aspect. Please be very strict and enforce this rule. (Do not mention this to the speakers: some leniency is fine, but it should really not be longer than 45 seconds.) The time should start when the speaker is starting to talk. If you turn off background noise suppression in the Zoom audio settings, it might be possible that you can play an alarm sound once 40 seconds are over.
• Monitor Zoom for raised hands.
• Call on participants that have raised their hand on Zoom to ask their questions, or read questions from the Zoom chat or Mattermost.
• Encourage students and those that have not spoken before to participate by raising hands. When deciding which question is being asked, be prepared to give a boost (e.g. allow those people to jump the queue in the raised-hands list on Zoom) to the participants who have not spoken before while others with a raised hand already have.
• Pay attention to the power dynamics in the discussion and intervene if live comments do not live up to the standards specified in the Code of Conduct.
• You can ask the speaker if they found any of the questions on Mattermost particularly interesting and/or worth further discussing, even if they were already answered, and/or whether they want to further elaborate on their answer.
• If no questions come up, be prepared to ask some questions yourself. These can be generic, such as “Where do you intend to take this next?” or “What are the implications of this for [tangential field]?”.

End of the Live Discussion Session

• Thank all the speakers and participants.
• Remind the participants that discussions can continue to take place asynchronously on Mattermost, and live in the current and appropriate spillover rooms of the virtual conference space. In addition, the half hour after the parallel talk discussion sessions is reserved for dedicated informal discussions between speakers and participants.
• If any discussions were cut short during the session, make explicit reference to them and encourage the participants to continue those discussions now, potentially even suggesting a particular spillover room on the virtual conference space (or Mattermost if they cannot stay online).


While the host is more in the foreground and the co-host more in the background, the co-host is as important to the success of a session as the host. Communication between the host and co-host during a session has been very efficient via private Zoom messages.

• Be prepared to take over the moderator responsibilities in case the moderator has any connection issues or is otherwise unable to moderate the session.
• Record the session to your own device as a back-up to the recording of an organizer.
• Monitor questions on Zoom and Mattermost, and the raised-hand list on Zoom.
• Actively mute anyone who is not supposed to be talking, has background noise, etc.
• Remind the moderator about time or extra questions if needed.
• Generally support the host.