FAQs 45th GSA Conference, Indianapolis In-person and Virtual

GSA 2021 FAQs, In-person and Virtual Conference (this will be periodically updated so please revisit for new information)

Health of our attendees:

  • The GSA and our meeting hotel are working together to follow CDC guidelines to make attendance at the meeting as safe as possible. We expect that:
    • all attendees will be vaccinated at the time of the meeting who are able to be vaccinated;
    • attendees should wear masks at all times except when drinking or eating;
  • Other COVID protocols include:
    • Attendees must wear a badge at all times in order to attend GSA sessions (so that we can assure that only registered participants who have agreed to our guidelines are in those rooms);
    • There will be 30 minutes in between sessions in the same room so that everyone has time to get in and out easily;
    • Hotel staff will clean all AV equipment in between sessions;
    • There will be no "head tables" with presenters sitting together for panels - just a lectern with theater-style seating for everyone who isn't speaking;
    • The presenter (only) may remove their mask to present if they are appropriately distanced from the audience if they wish to;
    • We arranged with the hotel to have almost all session rooms in the same area of the second floor so that we're not going up and down on crowded elevators all day;
    • There will be a limit on the number of audience chairs in all rooms so that people can spread out;
    • banquet tables will only seat 4 people (as opposed to 6-8 people).
  • The GSA will follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control as well as any additional requirements set by the conference hotels and the local government. We reserve the authority to require guidelines in excess of those mandated by the state of Indiana or the hotel. We will regularly update members on health and safety guidelines via our website.
  • We welcome questions and suggestions - just email us.


  • Why raise these rates now? The technical costs of offering both a virtual and an in-person conference require significant extra costs for technology and for labor. The old registration fee rates will not cover these necessities. Any raise in the rates is always a bit of a surprise, but in fact these rates are still below those of many of the other organizations our members belong to. APSA is running a conference along similar lines to ours and their rates are more. The MLA’s rates for a virtual conference are only slightly lower than ours will be, and require significantly lower infrastructural costs. The AHA’s rates for the 2022 in-person conference are also higher.
  • I’m participating virtually; why do I have to pay more than last year? One of the reasons we are able to afford to hold a conference with two formats is because we are having an in-person conference, thus avoiding paying a cancellation penalty of well over a hundred thousand dollars. That means that those in the GSA participating in person and paying for travel, hotels, and food, are making the virtual conference possible. We hope those participating virtually will also do their part.
  • My university has frozen my travel budget. Will there be funding available for members in this situation? Yes! Many of our members are in a similar situation. We don’t want the registration fees to bar anyone from attending. Remember, we do have the GSA Community Fund which can help defray membership and registration costs as well as the Travel Fund for those traveling from overseas.
  • I need to pay for registration from my department account and meals and contributions from another. Is this possible? Yes! You can return to the conference registration page at any point to purchase (or donate) banquet meals, or make a contribution to one of our many initiatives such as the Community Fund. Members who use department purchasing cards may find this feature particularly helpful. 

Attending the Conference:

  • What will I need to participate in the virtual conference? The conference will use the OpenWater platform for all virtual panels, seminars, roundtables, and plenary events. Although the platform uses Zoom, you don't need an invite; we'll send round the URL for our site a few days before the conference, and the Zoom links are embedded on that schedule (you'll be able to join a few minutes before your presentation). If you are familiar with Zoom or a similar platform and have been able to participate in similar events, you will be able to join the GSA conference as well. If you are presenting, you will need a computer with a webcam and microphone and a reliable internet connection, and it's helpful to have the latest version of Zoom on your computer. We will provide more detailed information in Training Guides provided by Open Water.
  • Why can’t we just “zoom” in participants from our meeting room? Our official policy does not permit members to arrange informal "hybrid" panels with a separate Zoom/FaceTime or similar call for the following reasons:
1) We are extremely concerned about bandwidth, as in all years, especially in conference rooms (which run on a different system than hotel rooms in most chain hotels). Although we pay a considerable fee for public high-speed access in conference rooms, hotels are just not equipped to handle the kinds of internet usage in those spaces that most of us are used to on our campuses. We would therefore like to ensure that we are not affecting bandwidth for those conference rooms that need it for the level of internet usage that we normally have, such as streaming brief video clips as part of a paper presentation, or even members' emails, texts, and phone calls trying to connect with each other or check in with colleagues or family members back home. 

2) Informal arrangements with Zoom calls and the like don't offer much of a satisfactory experience for participants, whether panelists or audience members. Ad hoc Zoom calls without adequate dedicated bandwidth and technical support staff can interfere with a presentation to the extent that audience members cannot understand the presenter. 
  • Will virtual papers be delivered live? Open Water will have options to either present papers live or to pre-record them as well as how-to videos and instructions. 
  • How will seminars work? Both in-person and virtual seminars whose participants have chosen to participate this year will have three-day sessions as usual. We are working on options for auditors.
  • Will there be an option for pre-recorded (asynchronous) virtual presentations? Panelists may upload a pre-recorded video to be played during the panel session, with the panelist present for Q&A. Presenters who are concerned about unstable internet connections may find this option helpful. We are unable to open the virtual conference website far enough in advance to allow members to view video presentations prior to the scheduled panel time.
  • Will virtual sessions be recorded? All virtual sessions will have a recording option. Recording requires consent by all panelists, including moderator and commentator. Moderators must seek permission for recording at the beginning of the session from all panelists and then start the recording. Recorded sessions will be maintained on the conference website for one month after the conclusion of the proceedings; they will remain available to registered participants only.
  • How can we guarantee that no one downloads the recording and uses it without my permission? The conference platform will not provide any downloading options for videos on the site.
  • I live in a different timezone than the other panelists. Can we request a time so that everyone can easily present together? Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate requests for specific times to help with this issue. We are trying to schedule all panels in times that are as unburdensome as we can make them. However, just like at an in-person conference, where we are unable to accommodate all scheduling requests, we hope you will understand that we cannot accommodate all time-zone-based requests for our virtual conference, either.
  • I want to come to Indianapolis for the conference, but my panel will be virtual. How will that work? We hope even those of you with virtual panels will be able to join us in Indianapolis. We expect you will be able to access the virtual conference via the internet in your hotel room. That is bandwidth, however, that the GSA will not have paid for in advance. There is a daily charge of $14.95 for “basic” internet access with a $2.00 surcharge for “enhanced” service. You can also access the basic service for free by joining the Marriott “Bonvoy” app (which also enables remote means of checking in and out of the hotel). While the GSA as an association cannot endorse a commercial product such as this particular service, we know that some GSA members already use such hotel loyalty programs, and we do want everyone to know of this option.
  • Why can't I substitute one speaker for another? The program committee, who all volunteer their time to peer review all submissions and craft the conference, have worked particularly hard this year, accommodating postponed panels, correcting submissions, creating panels out of individual presentations, and working with two formats. We ask you to respect their efforts.

Special Events:

  • Will there be an Arts Night? As in 2020, Arts Night will be a virtual event, and is planned for September 28, the Tuesday prior to the beginning of the conference. Stay tuned for further announcements!
  • What about the Awards Ceremony? The Awards Ceremony will take place in the afternoon of Thursday, September 30 around 16:00 East Coast Time in Indianapolis. We are working on the technology to have it also either stream live or be recorded for later viewing by virtual participants.


  • How do I exhibit at this year's conference? Publishers and exhibitors wishing to exhibit will need to fill out an exhibitor form; you can find more information and the form *here*. You can exhibit just virtually, or virtually and in-person (all in-person booths receive a virtual gallery exhibit).
  • Where do I register? Do representatives of my association need to register individually? You can register now to reserve a virtual and/or in-person booth under members services >> *conference registration* (scroll down to the exhibitor section). We are happy to provide registration for all representatives from the publisher/exhibitor; you can email those names to Dr. Benita Blessing (operations@thegsa.org).
  • I want to advertise in the program. How can I? We are selling advertising space in our program. Please contact Operations Director Benita Blessing (operations@thegsa.org). The program book will be an online only format this year but will have live links to navigate around the program. Advertisers can include a URL on their ad that will link to their website. The program book order form can be found here.
  • How can I feature my books and meet with potential authors, etc.? Our virtual conference hosts will have options built into the system to allow both special exhibition space and the option of setting up individual meetings. Please bear with us while we set these up. We will also have options for in-person exhibitors that will come with access to the virtual exhibitor gallery as well.

Other Questions:

  • Where’s the beef?!? Why no meat in the banquets? This decision was taken for two reasons, both having to do with costs of a different kind. We are all living through the ongoing climate emergency. Foregoing meat for these meals is a gesture towards developing environmental best practices for the German Studies Association. Additionally, this keeps the banquet prices as low as possible.
  • How will we support participation of all members, especially those who have been most deeply impacted by the financial hit of COVID? In light of the global health pandemic resulting from the emergence of the Covid-19 virus, the GSA began a targeted fundraising campaign in 2020. “The GSA Community Fund” supports the participation of a diverse body of conference presenters and attendees as part of the 2020 conference. The donation link to “The GSA Community Fund” can be found on the membership page of the GSA website: https://thegsa.org/members/join.
    • As a non-profit, GSA is committed to covering its operating expenses and, whenever possible, increasing our endowment funds to grow support for its members in need: https://www.thegsa.org/blog/donate-gsa
    • The GSA offers travel grants to attend its in-person conferences. More information about these travel grants, including the application process, can be found here: https://www.thegsa.org/prizes/travel-grants]
  • What can I do to help make the 2021 Annual Conference a positive experience? This is a new venture for all of us, and we are so grateful for your patience and understanding. We hope that as many members as possible will participate in the conference. Panels need an audience! If you have ideas or suggestions about how to help us, please get in touch with either Margaret Menninger or Benita Blessing.