Holding a Virtual BIRS Meeting

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, BIRS has embarked on a new method of holding scientific meetings: via video conferencing technology. At present, we are using Zoom Meetings software, but may switch to something else if we deem it more effective.

The first BIRS workshop to embark on this experiment is the New Perspectives in Colouring and Structure workshop, March 15 to March 20, 2020. Check out their schedule of talks, the video recordings, and if meetings are underway, the live stream to watch in real-time.

You can even join the virtual meeting yourself, to see what its like, by clicking the down-pointing arrows beside the talk titles in the schedule, and clicking the "Join meeting" link. For Wednesday, March 18th, the meeting link will be https://zoom.us/j/113182842. In the future, we may restrict who can join, but for now, we want to make it as frictionless as possible.

How To Prepare Your Virtual BIRS Meeting

1. Communicate with your participants

Contact your participants to inform them of the opportunity and check whether they are willing to present their lectures online. Note that BIRS provides mail lists for both Confirmed and Declined participants, which you can see at the bottom of each category of participants in the Workshops interface. The virtual meetings can accommodate up to 100 participants, so feel free to invite others who may be interested.

2. Let BIRS know

E-mail the BIRS Program Coordinator at [email protected] to let us know that you want to proceed with your meeting. Please include your event code, e.g., 20w5143, in the subject line.

3. Enter your schedule of talks

BIRS staff will setup the video meeting software to accommodate your schedule of talks. If you have not done so already, first register an account with our workshops management interface, at:


Once you are registered, navigate to your workshop and click the Schedule link. Click the "Add an Item on [Day]" to add items to the schedule. Select a name of a confirmed participant from the drop-down menu under the heading, "Speaker (if this is a talk):". The time zone is in Mountain Standard Time (Edmonton, Canada), MDT (UTC-6h).

4. Wait for meeting links to arrive

After BIRS staff creates virtual meetings in the collaboration software, we will update your schedule to add links in the talk descriptions, and contact you by email with the links. Participants will have one link to click on every day, to join the meeting.

Participating in the Meeting

If you have specific questions about the software, Zoom has extensive documentation at https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us.

When participants click the meeting links, they will be asked whether to open the Zoom software (if installed -- if not, it will ask to download & install), or to join with the web browser. Most modern computing devices -- desktop, laptop, tablet, phones -- can be used to join. Room-based videoconferencing systems can also join.

Upon joining the virtual meeting, the participant's microphone will automatically be set to Mute, so any noises they make will not interrupt the meeting underway. If they want to speak, first they click to unmute their microphone. They can also choose to enable or disable their computer's video camera, so others in the meeting can see their face.

The Zoom software does a pretty good job of picking out the active speaker, and putting the video focus on them. BIRS staff will make the organizer a co-host of the meeting, which will give you the ability to mute and unmute participants (if they have trouble doing it themselves), and to request that they turn on their video camera. A BIRS staff member will also be present in the virtual meeting, to assist if needed, and to start and stop live streaming and recording of the sessions.

During sessions, external viewers can watch on the BIRS live stream. After the day's meetings, recordings will be posted to the workshop web page. BIRS will also provide an easy way for participants to submit their slide files, to be included on the workshop web page.

Questions & Technical Help

If you have any technical questions please reach out to our Technology Manager at [email protected].

If you have logistical questions, please contact the BIRS Program Coordinator at [email protected].

You can reach the BIRS Scientific Director at [email protected].