Participant Guide

Virtual Conference Participant Guide

This year’s ISMIR conference is going to be a bit different from past meetings. Not only is this community gathering online instead of in person, we are participating from around the world. And for the large portion of us Conferencing from home means we are still immersed in the responsibilities and time constraints usually left in another city. For these reasons, we decided that this conference schedule needed to be compact and flexible to allow participation without making everyone adopt Montreal’s time zone for 4 to 6 days.

Each day’s schedule is set within two repeated pairs of 3.5 hour blocks, spaced to accommodate our particular distribution of participants’ time zones. Attendees are free to choose the two blocks that suit their local time and schedule best to participate in a comparable array of conference activities. Our main conference is a Slack workspace, with channels to share what is going on, discuss research, network, and socialise at all hours, and our meeting halls will be on Zoom.

Past ISMIR conferences have been exceptional for programming a single track of presentations for a conference of hundreds, elevating posters as a means of research dissemination over longer lectures and time limited Q&A. We made it a priority to find a virtual environment that allowed participants to recreate the poster session experience: face to face discussion, freedom for all to ask questions and share insight, and the opportunity to browse research and discover work we’d never thought to explore ourselves. Slack, with its support for video chat in limited numbers, is the virtual medium we hope will offer you many of those advantages, with the added opportunity to participate in asynchronous discussion about presented projects in their respective poster channels.

Single track presentations also inspired the goal of equal visibility. Instead of isolating researchers to speak only to those who share day-light hours, we scheduled double poster sessions, 11.5 hours apart. While a bit more demanding for our presenters, this format ensures the opportunity to research to be seen by interested colleagues all around the world.

But the most difficult aspect of the ISMIR conference to support virtually is the spontaneous conversation that arises between new acquaintances as well as old friends. To help participants connect with peers, we have scheduled times every day for meet ups to encourage conversation. Some are prepared, such as the themed Special Sessions chaired by vital members of our community, but we also encourage participants to organise more by sharing ideas in #meetup-suggestions channel in our slack, in the spirit of unconference. And we hope attendees make good use of the flexibility of our slack workspace to connect directly, one on one or in small groups, with the enthusiasm and respect that has made ISMIRs past such a great success.

For so many reasons, this is not the conference proposed by our chairs one year ago, but with your participation and energy, we hope this larger-than-ever all-virtual conference will be just as rewarding.

Outline of activities

Conference activities this year fall into a few categories.

  • Group events such as the Keynotes, Music Concerts, Business meeting: These events are hosted in big Zoom meetings with a dedicated set of speakers and some opportunity for Q&A, moderated through the Zoom chat. Links to these events are shared in the #whats-on-now channel in the conference slack. They are scheduled twice, with presentations recorded in A and partially rebroadcast in B.

  • Poster sessions: Poster sessions are taking place on Slack. Each poster has a dedicated channel (#poster- ) and before every session, a list of active channels will be advertised together in the #whats-on-now channel. Participants can visit the poster channels to join live video calls with the presenters. Note: These video calls have a participant limit of 15. If you can’t join the call, check out something else and come back later, or leave text comments in the channel for asynchronous and off-hours discussion.

  • Meetups and Special sessions: These are interactive discussions hosted in Zoom meetings or, for smaller groups, Slack video calls in a public channel. Our volunteers can help set up the resources for meetups proposed in addition to pre-scheduled activities.

  • Off hours communication: The slack workspace is open 24/7, with a full list of participants and the capacity to text chat and video call privately(*) as well as in public channels.

*Text Messages on the ismir2020 slack are retrievable to our workspace owners and the Code of Conduct applies to private communications on our platforms as well as public. Please be respectful of other ISMIR attendees and mindful of the challenges we share in participating from different time zones and circumstances.

Other Resources:

  • The Program website contains information on all the events and posters in the main conference. Use the calendar to check out when events are happening and click through for the details, including poster videos, papers, and links to slack channels.

  • Youtube and Bilibili playlists: The presentation videos for each poster set have been posted to our online video streaming channels. Prepare for each session by watching the videos all in a row!

Sample days

In the schedule, numbers represent unique events (1, 2, 3…) and the letters A and B represent the repeats (A, B). Most things happen twice. So, for example: Posters 1A and 1B are the same posters so you should attend 1A or 1B.

The program site presents the full schedule of events ( It should automatically show the calendar in your time zone, but you can also manually change it with the dropdown menu. What you then attend of the conference depends on your time zone.

Here are a few examples of how these conference days proceed.

Amina, a student in Montreal (EDT/UTC-4), is attending ISMIR for the first time. On Day 1 (Oct. 12), she would:

  • At 08:00, pick up the zoom link to the Opening Plenary from slack, then visit four or five poster channels during Posters 1A, then attend the “Meetup for First-timers”.

  • During the break, she starts a DM group with a few people she just met and watches the playlist of poster session 2 videos while having lunch.

  • At 12:30, pick up the zoom link to the keynote, then visit more posters during Poster Session 2A, leaving comments in a few places for later follow up, then pops into the WiMIR meetup and makes plans to meet with her labmates for virtual drinks in their private lab slack channel.

She continues to attend sessions at these times every day (Both “A” slots) as shown below:

Fan, a professor in China (CST/UTC+8), is a regular ISMIR attendee. Her schedule is a lot like Amina’s except the blocks are at 08:30 and 13:00 in local time, so she can see everything if she attends all the “B” blocks. However, she is also presenting a paper. She’s been assigned to Poster Sessions 3, so she needs to be in her poster channel during 3A (21:05 on Oct. 13) and 3B (at 9:35am on Oct. 14).

Someone in Vancouver (PST/UTC-7) might do better with a “split shift” where they alternate between A and B sessions. Example Day 1 (Oct. 12):

  • Attends Keynote at 9:30am, followed by Posters 2A, and a special meetup

  • Attend opening plenary at 17:30, then posters 1B, then another meetup

They would continue attending sessions in that pattern with a larger break in the middle.

All attendees are welcome to mix and match – the more you do, the more you’ll meet colleagues in different time zones – but you shouldn’t try to come to everything!


Slack is where most of the conference activities are taking place. If it involves less than 15 people sharing video simultaneously, it can happen on slack. This space acts like an insulated direct messaging system, a forum, a file sharing platform, and a small scale video chat service all at once.

We encourage all ISMIR2020 participants to dive in as soon as they get the invite so we all know what we are doing when the conference activities get rolling.

This guide will lead you to a lot of specifics, but feel free to drop by the #helpdesk for more support whenever you need it. It will be staffed with volunteers at least 16 hrs/a day, so if we can’t answer you right away, the next shift will be there to help soon. The channel’s history can also be used as an informal FAQ, if you need it.

Joining the conference Slack

Registrants to ISMIR 2020 will receive an invitation to via the email account you used to register for ISMIR 2020. Please follow the instructions in the email to activate your account. If you have trouble connecting, please contact

Please be sure to download and use the latest version of the DESKTOP APP. While it is possible to participate in some activities via browser and mobile, the poster sessions depend on functionality in the Desktop app, specifically video chat.

Here is more information on signing into Slack. Note that we are not using SSO in this conference.

Preparing your slack account

Once you have joined the workspace, take a moment to get set up.

Organising your workspace

In Slack, each channel is themed to a type of information or conversation topic, and the ISMIR 2020 workspace already hosts over a hundred channels. Some you are added to automatically from the beginning, some you will be added to as the conference progresses (such as the poster channels), and others you can find and add at your leisure, or create yourself.

Interacting on Slack

Slack is mostly text based, but there are options for voice and video built in, and we hope you use all the options available to have the best conference possible. Here are a few tips to help get used to the platform.

  • You can direct message anyone in the conference, and video calls are also possible over direct message. We recommend you start with text chat, and only video call when everyone is available and prepared.

  • Reply threads in channels: It’s good form to add direct replies to questions or comments as reply threads, even if these are not immediately visible in the channel messages. This helps keep the channel organised.

  • Slack video calls: Joining a video call in a channel takes just one click of a button, but here is more info in case you need it. And remember, calls can only take 15 participants at a time.

  • Coordinating meeting times: we are participating from around the world, so finding times to meet is a challenge. Here is a useful multi-time-zone meeting planner webapp to help you coordinate.

ISMIR Slack channel types

We’ve tried to prepare the ISMIR2020 slack with a number of useful channels to help keep the conference lively and navigable. Here are the different types to look out for:

  • Announcements: #announce-official, #announce-all, and #whats-on-now. Please do not leave or mute these channels as they are the most general way for us to keep you up-to-date on all the conference action.

  • #announce-official: This channel is just for announcements from the ISMIR 2020 organisers. If it’s posted here, it’s important and maybe urgent.

  • #announce-all: This channel is for any participant to make an announcement to the conference community. Share notice of outside events, the creation of new public channels, or call attention to your poster channel during your poster sessions.

  • #whats-on-now: This channel updates with information about conference events in real time, with links to Zoom and Slack channels in the details so you know where to go. The Eventbot lets you RSVP to get personal timed reminders. Put this in your priority channel list!

  • #helpdesk: This channel is for answering participant’s questions about the conference and virtual platforms. Volunteers will be there to answer questions during conference activities and follow up on issues that arise between.

  • Social channels: Channels starting with the #social- are open for people to talk about things other than research. First time ISMIR2020 attendees are particularly encourage to join #social-first_ismir and connect other new members of the community.

  • Poster channels: These #poster- channels host the discussion for each poster, whether asynchronously in the chat or face-to-face during the poster sessions.

  • Sponsor channels: Top tier sponsors of ISMIR 2020 each have #sponsor- channels to share information with the community and invite conversation, so drop in anytime!

  • Private channels: Besides the channels you can browse and join, there are channels to which people must be invited to participate. Create your own private space for your team or colleagues!

Poster session channels

These are instructions for presenters about preparing and managing activity in their poster channels. Presenters will be invited to their poster channel soon after the slack is live, but it can also be found by the first author’s family name and poster session set.

Setting up poster channel

  • Share channel with coauthors at the conference

  • Add your poster’s channel to your Priority channel list to find it easily when other message you

  • Post + pin a link to your project page from the program website (this page will include your presentation video.)

  • Post your paper pdf file and poster file inside the channel for convenient retrieval.

  • Post and pin your abstract to help visitors get a quick heads up while they are browsing.

From the beginning of the conference, ISMIR participants will be able to search and join your poster channel and start asynchronous discussions in the channel about your project. On the day of your poster sessions, all ISMIR registrants will be added to your poster channel, so they can more easily find and follow the conversation.

Poster Session activities

  • On the day of your poster session, all ISMIR participants will be added to your poster channel so that they will see activity in this channel.

  • Right before a poster session begins, links to the presenting posters’ channels will be announced in the #whats-on-now channel.

  • Start the video call in your poster channel, even if you are alone at the time the poster session begins. Visitors can see who is on the call and join when they come by.

  • Present to visitors like a normal poster session, referring to the contents of your poster file as necessary.

  • Keep an eye out for text comments in the channel as well, if there is a lull in visitor questions on video.

A couple of suggestions for handling the traffic.

  • If your poster isn’t getting much attention during a poster session, add a message with your channel name in the #announce-all to let more people know you are free to talk.

  • If visitors to your channel are violating the code of conduct or making it difficult for you to present, please contact the #helpdesk to request support to join your channel or call to help.


Other than the poster sessions, most of the scheduled events in this year’s virtual ismir are happening on Zoom: Keynotes, Special session discussions, Industry meetups, etc.

While ISMIR 2020 is using a paid license to host meetings, participants do not need an account with us to join our zoom meetings. If you have any zoom account, free or licensed, the links shared during the conference in our slack are all you need to join an event.

Accessing zoom meetings

  • If you haven’t used zoom before, set up a free account and download the zoom app. Be sure to be using the latest version of Zoom.

  • Log into your account to configure a virtual background, profile picture, or any other personalisations.

  • To join a zoom event, click on the link shared in slack via the #whats-on-now channel or other related channels when the event is about to start.

  • Be sure to configure your Audio and Video inputs to suit your set up and needs.

  • MUTE: Participants should stay muted during presentations and larger meetings, only unmuting when they have been called on to speak.

  • CAMERA: In large meetings, keep your camera off if you do not need to be seen. This can help reduce bandwidth.

Speaking in large meetings on Zoom

With so many people attending ISMIR 2020, we need to manage participation in group meetings a bit more strictly. During presentations, all but the presenter must stay muted, and during discussions, each should remain muted unless they have been designated to speak by the moderator

Unless otherwise stated, we will be using the Zoom chat to coordinate question periods and discussions. If you’d like to make a contribution, open the zoom chat window and either:

  • Type in and submit your complete question or comment IF you’d like it to be read by the moderator.

  • Type Q or C (Question or Comment) and a keyword to request a chance to unmuted and speak yourself. (Keywords will help the moderate organise responses.)

The moderator volunteers will keep an eye on the chat and call on participants or read for them as is necessary. In very active chats, the moderators may opt to select only a subset of participants to speak, for the sake of time. Further comments can be shared in related slack channels after the zoom event.

Privacy and code of conduct

As described in the code of conduct, participants are not to make recordings or take and share screenshots of ISMIR Zoom events unless consent has been given by those visible.

Conference Recordings and live streams in Zoom

As according to the code of conduct, this conference does not allow participants to record our virtual events. However, organisers will be recording a subset of the zoom meetings. Presentations such as the Opening plenary, business meeting, and keynotes will be recorded. Discussion zooms like the special sessions and WiMIR meetups will not.

With the exception of when we are live streaming, these recordings are for use within the conference, to play back sections when events are repeated in this 24 hr schedule. Our zoom recordings are set up to record only the active speaker and screen-shares, not everyone on the call, and without showing names. When playing back zoom events, we will be sharing the main presentations but not the question and answer sections (unless permission has been granted.) These settings are in place to help protect the privacy of our attendees. Participants are welcome to further control their visibility within calls by turning off their cameras and changing their listed name.

Conference websites

In place of paper documents or an exclusively mobile app, details of ISMIR 2020 papers and events are displayed on our program website.

Closing note

Thank you for coming to ISMIR 2020. Since it became clear that ISMIR could not happen in person, a host of organisers collaborated to define and create this event with very little precedent to draw from. Please be patient with the team and generous with feedback, as this may be the first virtual conference for some, but it is not likely to be our last.

Have a great conference!

Finn Upham

Virtual technology Chair

ISMIR 2020