Create Your Conference Agenda with ConfTool Pro

Scheduling at a Glance
The scheduling module of ConfTool Pro helps organizers to plan the agenda of their event. You can create time slots for your schedule and define sessions with session title, room and much more information. Assign accepted submissions to these sessions to make sure that all papers will be presented at the conference. Furthermore, assign session chairs or moderators to the sessions and add discussants to sessions or to each presentation if required. The ConfTool Pro scheduling module is also a tool for communication. Presented contributions can be made available as downloads to different user groups, and session chairs can access the personal e-mail addresses and CVs of presenters to allow them to get in touch with the presenters prior to the conference.

Benefits of the Conference Agenda
Keep the information of the agenda up-to-date quickly and easily and include changes in the program even shortly before the conference starts. By doing so, you can avoid having to inform everybody personally. Let the participants inform themselves in advance by providing downloads of the submitted papers. Write bulk e-mails to the presenters and notify them of the details of their sessions. Furthermore, use the ConfTool Pro agenda as a template to create a browsable copy that can be included in your own conference website or to compile your conference CD or USB flash drive.

Table of Contents
1. Overview of the Scheduling Module
2. Configuration Options of the Scheduling Module
3. Defining Session Rooms, Times and Sessions
4. Assigning Presentations to Sessions
5. General Hints

1.     Overview of the Scheduling Module

The “session overview” or “conference agenda” of ConfTool Pro helps you to plan the scientific program of your event. Create a timetable of the sessions which will take place at your conference. It will provide the framework of your conference schedule with all the presentations.

Every session of the agenda can include a lot of information. Give each session a specific name, include information for the overview page and for the session detail pages. Assign presentations to the sessions or opt for sessions without presentations from the list of accepted submissions (e.g. for plenary sessions or coffee breaks). Decide whether you want the abstracts of each presentation to be displayed and if you want to make the uploaded files available to specified user groups (e.g., registered participants only). You can elect session chairs, moderators and/or discussants for each session separately.

ConfTool Pro provides you with a number of display options for the agenda. The table view gives a compact survey when a conference has many parallel sessions. Choose the list view for a sequential output of all sessions. You can highlight sessions by using background colors and thus make browsing easier for conference participants. The navigation in the agenda is straightforward: Every user can choose between the table or list view and hide or show the presentations within the sessions. The system also provides a handy print view. Moreover, use the search function to find specific authors or titles of presentations.

Furthermore, ConfTool Pro provides an analysis tool to check if the authors read more than one paper, present papers in several sessions or if they are even scheduled to appear in two sessions at the same time (to avoid time conflicts).

Image 2: Sample schedule of conference in list view - Click on image to enlarge
Image 2: Sample schedule of conference in list view - Click on image to enlarge

2.     Configuration Options of the Scheduling Module

The conference scheduling module can be accessed via a separate navigation page:
Overview => Conference Program Scheduling

As always, explanations for each option can be found directly on the configuration pages. You can follow the options one by one as listed in the software.

Please start with the "Main Settings for Conference Session Overview":

Just like with all ConfTool modules, it is essential to make the page with the agenda accessible to "normal" users by enabling the module and defining a corresponding phase.

First, in the section "Display and Access Options for the Conference Agenda" you can decide who will have access to the agenda page. You can for instance grant access to the public or to registered participants only, using the option "Access Mode to Conference Agenda". Regardless of this, you can let session chairs, moderators and discussants have access to extended information about their sessions when you activate the option "Do Session Chairs / Moderators have Access to their Moderated Sessions?".

If you have parallel sessions (i.e., several sessions per time slot), decide how the sessions will be ordered in the output table view using the option "Order of Sessions in one Period" - they can be sorted by the name of the short title of the session or by session location / room. (Hint: To order names with numbers correctly, you may have to use a preceding zero or space, such as S01, S02, S03, …, S10, S11, S12 instead of S1, S2, S3, …, S10, S11, S12 etc.).

"Settings for Session Chairs, Moderators and/or Discussants" deals with the persons who will chair or moderate a session. Define a maximum number of presiding persons to be assigned to each session in the option "Max No. of Chairs". If you also want to assign, e.g., discussants to your sessions, simply edit the corresponding phrases to fit your needs. (For instance, update the phrases of the second entry as follows: "Second Session Chair" => "Second Discussant", "Session Chair" => "Discussant", "Chair" => "Discussant").

The section "Default Settings for Conference Agenda" lets you determine how the agenda page will look like when users open the page. For the "Default Presentation Mode" you can choose between the table and the list view. With the option "Limit the Number of Parallel Sessions Shown per Row (Table View)?" you can define after how many sessions a new row will be started in table view. (Hint: The first number is for the maximum number of sessions (columns) per row, the second number indicates the number of columns the table will have when the maximum has been exceeded - these are the default display settings and can be changed by the users).

Enable "Show Abstracts" when you want the abstracts to be shown in the detailed session view. Likewise, enable "Show Downloads" for the downloads to be displayed. These are the default visibility settings - you can define the access options for abstracts and downloads for each session separately (see below).

You can allow users to compile their personal agenda in the section "My Agenda". Here you have the option to restrict the availability of this feature to registered participants or even to participants without outstanding payments only. If enabled, users or participants can use the conference agenda to select their preferred sessions for their personal agenda. This function also allows organizers to get an overview of the interest in each session, which makes it easier to assign large enough rooms / venues. This entry in the forum provides more detailed information on how to enable and use the "My Agenda" function: Allowing users to create a personal agenda from the conference sessions.

In the section "Further Options", you can activate the option "Enable Extra Session Types". Once activated, you can create single presentation sessions (only one submission can be assigned to the session and the title of the submission will automatically be the title of the session) and referencing sessions (referring to another session with the exact same assigned contributions).

You will also be able to connect ConfTool to one of the available mobile conference apps "Conference4me" and "Eventor".

Image 3: Main settings for conference session overview - click to enlarge

3.     Defining Session Rooms, Times and Sessions

Now start creating the framework of the conference schedule by first defining the conference rooms in the option “Rooms for Conference Sessions”. Assign the room name and add further details, e.g., the facilities, size or location. Session rooms are optional and can also be defined at a later time.

Continue by establishing the “Time Periods for Sessions”. Define a date, starting and ending time. Define the maximum number of presentations to be assigned to a session within this time period in the option “Max No. of presentations per session for this period”. Please note that conference chairs can assign more presentations to these session slots, but a warning message will be displayed when the maximum number of presentations is exceeded. (Hint: Define “Sessions” without determined ending time by using the same time for start and end of the time period.)

Once you have established the conference rooms and session times, proceed by defining the actual sessions of your event on the page: “Create, Configure and Delete Sessions”. Give each session a “Short Title”, which will serve as a unique identifier and a “Title” to be shown in the agenda that can for instance describe the main topic of the session. The option “Assign Contributions” will help you to create sessions with or without presentations (this can be used e.g. for the opening session or coffee breaks).

Please note: If the Track-Chair-Module of ConfTool Pro has been installed (additional costs apply for this extra module) the setting for “Limit to Conference Track / Submission Type” can be very useful. By choosing a track for each session, track chairs can take over some of the scheduling tasks and will be able to assign accepted submissions to sessions of their own track. You will also have to give chairs the right to access the scheduling function by enabling the option “Chair Access to Conference Scheduling” here:
Overview => Settings => Settings for User Registration => Main Settings for User Registration and Management

Continue by selecting the “Session Time” and “Session Location”. Depending on the wording you have chosen for session chairs, discussants or moderators, you may now select presiding or moderating persons for the session. Information entered in “Further Information“ will directly be shown on the main session overview page (therefore keep this short), while details written for the “Session Abstract” will be displayed once the detailed session view and the display of abstracts is enabled for a session (see below).

Please note: To assign discussants to each presentation of a session separately, go to
Overview => Settings => Main Settings for Paper and Abstract Submission
and “Enable Discussants” in the section “Form Settings for all Submissions”. Now administrative users and chairs can select a discussant for each presentation when they edit the details of the presentation.

The section “Access to contributions in session overview for normal users” addresses the available session information for users. First, if you want to limit the session visibility and access to users from certain user groups, use the option "Limit Session Visibility to User Group". The option “Are the abstracts visible?” defines if the authors’ abstracts will be displayed in the detailed presentation of each session. The option “Can the contributions be downloaded?” determines who will get access to the uploaded papers. Please remember to enable the download for each submission type / track here:
Overview => Settings => Manage Submission Types / Conference Tracks
(option: “Download Settings / Accessibility of files”).

Finally, opt for a “Background Color” to distinguish sessions from one another or to group them visually, e.g., if they share a theme.

Image 4: Page for settings for single session - click to enlarge

4. Assigning Presentations to Sessions and Finalizing the Schedule

Before you continue to assign the presentations to sessions, please have a look at the available acceptance statuses:
Overview => Settings => Manage Acceptance Status

For each acceptance status which identifies submissions to be presented at the conference, make sure that the option "Assign to Session" is set to "Yes". The length of a presentation within a session can be determined by the acceptance status, specifically by the setting for the option "Length of Each Presentation". Else, you can also manually determine how long each presentation within a session will take. You can find more information here: Display duration of presentations within sessions in conference agenda.

Now continue by assigning the presentations to the sessions on the page:
Overview => Scheduling => Results of the Reviewing Procedure & Decision About Acceptance

Use the drop-down lists in the right-hand column "Session" to assign the submissions to sessions. Please remember that you can only assign presentations to sessions when the acceptance status and the session include the corresponding assignment rights. The number in square brackets after the session name displays the number of presentations already assigned to the particular session. Please note that your choice will be saved once you have picked a session or status from the drop-down list.

More information can be found on the page: Evaluating the Review Results and Setting the Acceptance Status of Submissions

Image 5: Submissions – assigning statuses and sessions overview page - click to enlarge

You will probably want to optimize the schedule a little bit before you present it online. You can do so here:
Overview => Scheduling => Edit the Conference Schedule

Start by clicking on "Edit Sessions" in the menu. This will give you the option to "Edit Session Details" of all sessions. You can filter by choosing a certain date or the name of a session room. To further edit the presentations within the sessions, first click on "Show Presentations" and then click on "presentations" next to the arrow within each session. The view will automatically scroll down to the corresponding session and three (or four) drop-down lists will appear next to the presentation(s). The first one will allow you to change the session assignment, the second one will enable you to modify the order of the presentations within each session, and you will be able to alter the acceptance status in the third drop-down list. If enabled for the session, you will find a fourth drop-down list which lets you determine the length of each presentation manually.

Image 6: Update single sessions in edit mode directly in conference schedule - Click to enlarge

In the editing menu bar, the option "Show Unassigned Presentations" ("Show Presentations" must be enabled) gives you a survey on the presentations which so far have not been assigned to any session. Check all entered data for each session by enabling "Show Abstracts" and "Show Metadata".

Please note that the page "Edit the Conference Schedule" is not accessible to normal users; they can only access the "Conference agenda" page if enabled.

Finally, test if there are any scheduling conflicts for presenters, chairs and discussants here:
Overview => Scheduling => Analyze Presenters and Chairs of the Conference Agenda
There are several options to choose from. You can look for persons who are supposed to present at two sessions at the same time, persons who appear in more than one session or do more than one presentation at the event, or authors who are listed for more than one submission. The tests for co-authors are based on the e-mail addresses of the users.

You can now view the conference schedule and how it is displayed to users who have access to it, here:
Overview => Scheduling => Conference Agenda
Make sure that everything is displayed the way it is supposed to look. Finally, enable the conference agenda by setting the corresponding phase on the page:
Overview => Conference Program Scheduling => Main Settings for Conference Session Overview.

For final testing we suggest that you log-in with different user roles to ascertain that the specific user rights are set correctly.

5. General Hints for the Usage of the Conference Scheduling Module

The conference schedule also serves as a communication tool. All authors who present a paper can be informed about their sessions easily via bulk e-mail when you call this function:
Overview => Bulk E-mails => Send E-mails to Authors (and Co-authors)

Session Chairs and Discussants can access the details of "their" sessions on the conference agenda page (their name is highlighted) and on the page "Show User Account Details" with their personal details. You can also send a bulk e-mail to all Moderators / Chairs / Discussants and inform them about their sessions on the page:
Overview => Bulk E-mails => Send E-mails to Session Moderators

The conference schedule can be used as a template to create a browsable copy or CD of the session overview.
Furthermore, it can also be useful for the export of abstracts for the conference proceedings when you want to emulate the order of the conference schedule.