Resources for SPIE Conference Chairs

Thank you for your leadership

The responsibilities of being conference chair, program committee member, or session chair are crucial to the success of SPIE events, and it is you, our incredible volunteers, who are the true engine of the Society. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the entire staff of SPIE, thank you for volunteering your time and dedication—we truly could not do this without you.

Below you'll find information specific for each of these roles. All volunteer leadership roles with SPIE are tasked with furthering and promoting a culture of inclusion and pushing diversity of ideas. If you have any questions or concerns at any point along the way, please don't hesitate to contact your conference program coordinator.

Conference Chair Responsibilities

Below is a short list of tasks and responsibilities inherent in the role of conference chair:

  • Build a diverse program committee
  • Submit a call for papers to SPIE
  • Identify potential invited papers
  • Solicit and review abstract submissions
  • Contact potential conference sponsors to help support travel and fees for speakers (optional)
  • Work with chairs of other conferences to avoid overlap of competing session topics and/or to arrange for joint sessions
  • Organize the conference program and submit to SPIE
  • Work with the SPIE staff proceedings coordinator to help ensure that speakers submit a manuscript for the conference proceedings
  • Assess and approve manuscripts for publication in the conference proceedings
  • Select and confirm session chairs to ensure a smooth-running conference program at the event
  • Adhere to due dates/deadlines so that SPIE can effectively promote the meeting and keep authors notified

Build a Successful Conference and Technical Community

A volunteer may chair more than one SPIE conference provided they are not part of the same SPIE meeting. Committee involvement should be limited to those conferences in which you can actively participate. To encourage a diverse and growing volunteer base, SPIE has implemented the following.

CONFERENCE CHAIR ROLE. Two chairs per conference is generally most effective, and therefore a two-chair maximum is SPIE's recommendation. However, you may have up to three people listed under the "Conference Chair" role, provided they:

  • Actively participate in organizing the conference (see duties outlined above, including attending the conference)
  • Actively work in their field at a university, lab, research institute, or company that aligns with the technical topic of the conference
    • Those who are retired, have transitioned to a new field, or have emeritus status, will not be considered for new chair roles
    • If your work status changes within the meeting cycle, please be prepared to rotate off, and speak with SPIE about finding a replacement in time for the following meeting cycle
  • Abide by and respect SPIE guidelines and responsibilities outlined for the role

Here are a few other ideas conference chairs have found useful in building strong conference participation and communities:

  • Establish conference best paper (for students and/or all authors) or other awards. You can obtain company sponsorship in order to provide a monetary prize. SPIE supports by providing promotion in programs, award certificates, and management of the funds
  • Promote conference-specific websites
  • Create a list of hot topics for SPIE to use in social media
  • Collect the names and e-mails of attendees onsite so that you can create an online community and send reminders and conference updates
  • Schedule informal (no-host) dinners during the week
  • Create conference-specific call for papers emails

CONFERENCE CO-CHAIR ROLE. This is a sub-role listed under the main conference chair role and is intended as a mentoring position:

  • If there is a volunteer who you are mentoring for conference chair, you may assign them as conference co-chair and submit a rotation plan to SPIE
  • If a conference "co-chair" is performing the duties of main conference chair, they should be rotated to the main conference chair role
  • The conference co-chair role should be preserved only for short-term rotational purposes, i.e. for a new incoming chair who is in need of mentoring

PROGRAM COMMITTEE ROLE. Program committees are integral to building a diverse program year in and out, and each committee member contributes as follows:

  • Be available and responsive to SPIE staff and chairs
  • Solicit speakers
  • Review abstracts when assigned
  • Provide feedback to chairs regarding submissions and the program
  • Engage with the program with the shared aim of nurturing innovation and building excitement
  • Review manuscripts when assigned
  • Chair session(s) onsite

EQUITY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION. As you are building your program committee and inviting speakers, be conscientious about the implications for diversity and inclusion.

SPIE believes in the development of collaborative environments that value participation from individuals with different ideas and perspectives, which ultimately have a positive impact on the science of light. The quality of technical discourse is improved through diversity of participants – diversity in gender, geography, race, heritage, experience, age, sector, and other characteristics. As you work to build your program committee and invite speakers and panelists, we expect you to keep this in mind and work towards bringing together people from different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives in order to support innovation and build a more inclusive optics and photonics experience for all our attendees. Thank you for helping to achieve SPIE's mission for inclusion and diversity.

Conference Sponsorships
  • As a not-for-profit professional society, SPIE actively seeks sponsorship funds to help support the costs related to running world-class events
  • For additional conference support contact potential eligible sponsors (see requirements below) to arrange for funding for purposes such as speaker travel support, awards, catering for special events, etc.
  • Funds received from conference sponsorships will be earmarked directly to support your conference

Conference sponsor eligibility

Conference sponsors can be nonprofit or commercial organizations or companies, government entities, funding agencies, regional or community agencies, etc. However, to avoid conflict of interest, SPIE does not accept conference sponsorships from other professional societies, publishers, or event organizers. Please do not request funding from these organizations.

Approaching a potential conference sponsor

We recommend that the conference chair(s) reach out directly to any potential sponsor. However, SPIE may send the message on your behalf if you provide us with the contact information. See the sample Co-sponsor Letter—if you decide to use this letter, please change the sponsor amount request to what you deem reasonable.

Confirming a potential conference sponsor

  • After the sponsorhip is confirmed, SPIE will send a message that includes information about how to transfer sponsorship funds
  • SPIE will collect and manage the funds, rolling any unused portion over to the following year, unless directed otherwise
  • The conference chair(s) must inform their conference program coordinator how they would like the funds to be distributed
  • SPIE does not deduct administrative costs from the sponsorship funds
  • Funds can be used to pay for a portion or all of a registration fee, reimburse some travel expenses for selected speakers, cash awards for speakers, and/or catering for a special event
  • Travel reimbursements are issued after the meeting. The awardee is required to submit receipts to SPIE
  • If the conference sponsor ties any financial requirements to their sponsorship such as a free registration for one of their representatives, this will be deducted from the sponsorship amount

Conference sponsor recognition

Conference sponsors are given recognition in the following ways:

  • Sponsorship recognition is shown on the awards page for the event
  • Company logo is displayed as sponsor in the conference call for papers online and in distributed PDF
  • Company logo is displayed as sponsor in the conference program, both online and in the full program PDF
  • Logo included with other sponsors on the sponsors wall at the event (where applicable by event)
  • Logo included with other sponsors in the sponsors grid in PDF and print versions of the event program

Conference Awards

Any SPIE conference can run awards, and SPIE staff is here to help. It is recommended that chairs bring in funding through conference sponsorship(s) (see above) to make the award more attractive to presenters, and to establish third-party support that can often transfer year over year. SPIE conference chairs advertise multiple award types, and run them in various different ways with different application requirements, review expectations, and awardee notification timelines, making it difficult to recommend what award to offer and how to run it. However, here is a list of the most popular award types:

  • Best Paper Award
  • Best Student Paper Award
  • Best Presentation Award
  • Best Student Presentation Award
  • Best Poster Award
  • Best Student Poster Award
  • Rising Researcher Award
  • Young Investigator Award
  • Translational Research Award
  • Innovation Award
  • Travel Support Award

After your conference award is established, SPIE staff will support you by helping you define the application process and advertising it in the conference call for papers and on the awards page for the event along with other conference awards being offered. SPIE staff will also help define when the announcement of the winner will take place, and provide the award certificate.

Call for Papers Guidelines

Include the following elements in the Call for Papers:

  • Focused conference title
  • Conference chair(s) full name(s), affiliation(s), and full contact information
  • List of confirmed program committee members, including affiliations and full contact information
    • program committee should reflect appropriate diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, lifestyle, and geography, and should draw from a variety of affiliations in academia, government, and industry
    • committee members should be active in soliciting abstracts and evaluating submissions for the conference program
  • Introductory paragraph describing the intended content and scope of the conference you are chairing
  • Bulleted phrases highlighting specific topics of interest
  • A separate list of up to 30 topics to be listed in the abstract submission wizard; submitting authors can select up to 3 relevant topics, which you can then use for sorting and building the conference sessions.
  • Sample Call for Papers

SPIE reserves the right to edit copy as necessary. Full contact information will not be published; it is used to locate people in our database and keep our database current.

After SPIE receives your Call for Papers:

  • Call for Papers will be posted online and enable interested participants to view call descriptions, committees, and additional information and submit abstracts directly through the webpage
  • Promotional email and social media campaigns will be conducted by SPIE with the aim of generating interest in the Call for Papers *
  • A short call PDF will be posted for download directly from the Call for Papers webpage

* Note regarding conference promotions: due to anti-spam laws, GDPR, and the opt-in requirement for people to receive promotional emails from SPIE, SPIE is bound to a promotional email schedule that limits the number of emails that can be sent to promote an event and solicit submissions. It is important for conference chairs and their program committee to help SPIE advertise and promote their conference, and attract submissions and participation.

Abstract Solicitation and Submission

Know your conference timeline for the abstract deadline.

  • Enlist your program committee's help in obtaining quality conference presenters/authors
  • Although the call for papers has a wide reach, personal contact does the most to produce a full and varied conference program
  • Due to anti-spam laws, GDPR, and the opt-in requirement for people to receive promotional emails from SPIE, SPIE is bound to a promotional email schedule that limits the number of emails that can be sent to promote an event and solicit submissions. It is important for conference chairs and their program committee to help SPIE advertise and promote their conference attract submissions and participation
  • Conferences are most successful when the organizing committee recruits speakers from beyond their own institutions to include a broad range of organizations from academia, government, and industry
  • Direct all presenters (including invited presenters) to submit their abstracts via the conference website by the abstract due date
  • Do not offer fee waivers or other author support without having secured funding via conference sponsorship(s) to cover the costs

As you contact your colleagues to submit abstracts, be sure to communicate the following:

  • When submitting an abstract, all authors must agree to the following conditions:
    • An author or coauthor (including keynote, invited, and solicited presenters) will register at the author/speaker registration rate, attend the meeting, and make the presentation as scheduled (current SPIE Members receive an additional discount on the registration fee)
    • Authors and coauthors attending the meeting must secure funding for their registration fees, travel, and accommodations, independent of SPIE, through their sponsoring organizations
    • All clearances, including government and company clearance, must be obtained prior to presentation and publication. DoD contractors should allow at least 60 days for clearance
  • SPIE is authorized to circulate the abstracts to conference committee members for review and selection purposes
  • Accepted abstracts may be published in printed and/or online programs promoting the conference
  • Only abstracts that are suitable for publication should be submitted
  • A manuscript for all accepted oral and poster presentations will be submitted for publication in the Proceedings of SPIE in the SPIE Digital Library
  • Other content types, i.e. oral presentation video and Poster PDF with optional preview video, may also be required

SPIE continues to enforce the "no present, no publish" policy

Presenters/Authors should be aware that their presentations must be given as scheduled at the meeting, or the manuscripts will not be included in the conference proceedings in the SPIE Digital Library. 

Review of Abstracts and Manuscripts

The SPIE submission and review system allows you to review abstracts and manuscripts submitted to your conference. Conference chairs and assigned reviewers can access and review submissions via their account at

Access the Review System
View the User Guide for SPIE Submission Review System

Guidelines for reviewing abstract submissions

Conference chairs are responsible for the review decisions on all abstracts submitted for participation with the conference. Chairs may enlist the help of their program committee in this process. If assigning reviewers:

  • Notify reviewers about their assignments, review criteria, and deadline
  • Abstracts are accessible to assigned reviewers through their account at
  • Any person conducting reviews must be 1) linked to the conference as either a committee member or reviewer, and 2) assigned submission(s) to review
  • See User Guide for SPIE Submission Review System for instructions on how to assign and notify reviewers
  • Reviewers can only see submissions that are assigned to them

The goal of the abstract review is to assess whether the abstract:

  • is technically sound
  • contains new, original research content or scientific concepts
  • is non-commercial in nature
  • includes sufficient technical data and description to explain results and support conclusions

Keep in mind:

  • Reject any paper of poor quality, or that does not meet content or presentation expectations
  • Refer submissions to other conferences if you think they would fit better elsewhere
  • Privileged information or ideas obtained through access to and review of conference abstracts prior to presentation for the purpose of conference organization must be kept confidential and not be used for competitive gain

Program Guidelines

The quality of technical discourse is improved through diversity of participants – diversity in gender, geography, race, heritage, experience, age, sector, and other characteristics. As you work to invite speakers and panelists for SPIE programs, it is important that we bring together people from different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives in order to support innovation through a broad array of ideas. Environments that value inclusion will ultimately have a positive impact on all of us, as we connect to explore applications of light-based technologies.

  • Work to solidify any special event programming that is affiliated with your conference, including panel discussions, evening technical events, i.e. speakers and/or technical or open discussions
  • For conference submissions, after you and your committee have completed the abstract review process, determine session categories and place papers in sessions
  • Enlist the help of your program committee or other reviewers. See the section above on Review of Abstracts and Manuscripts.
  • Ensure that the number of presentations submitted from any one organization is not of disproportionate contribution in relation to the size of the overall program, including research from one’s own institution
  • Your SPIE Program Coordinator will send you a scheduling template with instructions as the program due date approaches
  • An approximate number of accepted oral presentations for a two-day conference is 36-40
  • SPIE reserves the right to cancel or combine conferences with less than 20 viable submissions received for oral presentation

Include the following information with your program:

  • Session Titles
  • Session Chairs (full name and affiliation + email address, which helps SPIE staff find and link the correct person). Note that:
    • Full names and affiliations of session chairs are needed for the program
    • Session chair duties include, but are not limited to, introducing the session topic and each speaker, maintaining the final schedule, and tracking session changes
    • Session chairs should be confirmed before being assigned in the program
  • List of paper numbers in each session, in sequence, with invited papers noted
    • Invited papers are generally allocated 30 minutes duration
    • Keynote papers are generally allocated 40 minutes duration
    • Contributed papers are generally allocated 20 minutes duration
    • We recommend that speakers coming from countries that have a higher potential for travel-related issues be placed just prior to coffee or lunch breaks, or at the end of the day
  • List of poster papers
  • If you received papers that fit better into another conference, it is important to notify the SPIE Program Coordinator as soon as possible so they can move the submission in time to have it reviewed and scheduled
  • List of rejected papers
    • To assure a high-quality conference, reject commercial papers, papers with no research content, and papers in which supporting data or technical description cannot be given for proprietary reasons
  • Allow 20-30 minutes for the morning and afternoon breaks (recommended between 10:00 to 11:00 AM and 3:00 to 4:00 PM each day) and allow at least 1 hour for lunch (90 minutes recommended during exhibition days)
  • Conference chairs and committee members are encouraged to make suggestions for potential panel discussions, workshops, and related technical events; Contact your SPIE Program Coordinator
  • After the program is finalized, the contact author of each submission will be notified by SPIE staff via email of acceptance or rejection

Submit Your Conference Program

Know your due date. View the important dates timeline of your conference for the date your program is due to your Program Coordinator

After your conference program is sent to SPIE:

  • Acceptance notifications are sent by SPIE to the contact author for each accepted presentation; speakers should then begin their visa application process, make travel arrangements, finalize funding, and start preparation of their presentations and manuscripts
  • Promotional emails are sent and social media campaigns are launched by SPIE to participants, potential attendees with related technical interest areas, and related email lists and social media contacts. It is critical to have all programs published and accessible online during the promotional stages to build an audience for your conference

Student Author Conference Support

SPIE understands that full-time students may need some financial assistance. The Society offers a limited number of supplemental travel grants (airfare/lodging) and conference registration fee waivers to SPIE Student Members who are authors, Student Chapter Members, and Student Attendees, who are planning to present or attend an SPIE meeting.

  • If you are aware of such a student please direct them to the SPIE Student Conference Support page to determine if they are eligible for consideration
  • Students must complete the application and submit supporting materials by the advertised deadline

Program Information and the SPIE Conferences mobile app are the primary source for SPIE conference programs and special events.

In some cases, after the program is published online, we may also post a PDF file of the program. If a PDF file is posted, it is important to note that this file is not updated with changes that occur after it is posted, and therefore only reflects the program at that point in time when it is posted. The PDF is meant to give attendees a broad view of the programs and events that are scheduled, but for the most recent updates, it is important to view the program on the SPIE website or the SPIE mobile app.

SPIE staff and conference chairs must strive to limit program changes as much as possible after the program is published, as authors and attendees make their travel plans based on the published version of the programs. Make sure to send any cancellations you receive from speakers/authors to your Program Coordinator, who will in turn also notify you of any cancellations they receive. We will adjust programs with as much minimal impact as possible to the schedule.

If SPIE is printing a Final Technical Program for onsite distribution at the meeting, note that it will only reflect the most up-to-date information at the time of printing; for the most recent updates, it is important to view the program on the SPIE website or the SPIE Conferences mobile app. The online programs are fully refreshed daily, and some information updates multiple times each day.

Resources for Sharing Your Conference with Your Network

Follow SPIE on social media and tag SPIE in your social media posts

Linked In Twitter Facebook SPIE Instagram
LinkedIn Twitter

Registration Fees
  • Conference chairs receive a full fee waiver and complimentary access to the online proceedings (50 downloads of your choice from the SPIE Digital Library). Conference chairs do not need to complete a registration form unless they wish to purchase other items such as a banquet ticket or course registration.
  • Conference co-chairs, program committee, session chairs, speakers (including invited and keynote), authors, and non-author attendees pay the appropriate registration fee
  • SPIE members receive a reduced rate for conference registrations. See more benefits included with an SPIE Membership

Onsite Responsibilities

When attending in-person, conference chair responsibilities include:

  • Pick up registration materials at Chair Services
  • Check for any late program updates on the program, mobile app, or the room sign located in front of the conference room
  • Provide backup for session chairs and deal with any speaker cancellation or no-shows
  • Ensure that the session information is sent to SPIE staff after each session ends (session chairs send the information electronically via the SPIE Conferences mobile app, and conference chairs can mark and comment for session chairs through the SPIE mobile app if for some reason the session chair is unable to attend). If neither the session chair or the conference chair have access to the SPIE mobile app, hardcopy Session Report forms are available at the Chair Services desk, Speaker Check-In, or from the room monitor located in the hall outside the conference rooms. In order for SPIE to enforce its publication policy, it is very important that SPIE staff is updated about what happens in each session
  • Attend the planning meeting for next year's symposium
  • Represent SPIE in a professional and ethical manner; be familiar with SPIE code of conduct and anti-harassment policy
  • Report unethical or inappropriate behavior:

Chairing a Session

Before the conference:

  • View the technical program on or in the SPIE Conferences mobile app to review information about the session you are chairing
  • If the speakers provided a biography, they will be available both in the program and in the mobile app
  • Register for the meeting as Session Chair (not necessary for Conference Chairs). Note that in-person meetings may have an early-bird registration date; prices will increase after this date

Chairing the session:

  • Introduce the session topic
  • Introduce the speakers
  • Maintain the program schedule
  • Be prepared for the unexpected!
  • If you find a presenter has failed to attend:
    • Note the no show on the Session Report Form in the SPIE Conferences mobile app (or PDF or printed form)
    • DO NOT move to the next paper. Attendees plan for the talks they want to hear based on the published schedule; Choose one of these options:
      • Fill the presentation slot with a standby paper (if there are no official standby authors for your session, make arrangements in advance to have one or two presenters/presentations ready)
      • Open the floor to an extended Q&A session for speakers who have already presented
      • Have one or two hot topics ready for discussion
      • Open the floor for discussion on any topic of interest to the audience
    • Start the next talk at its published, scheduled time
  • When the session is complete, submit the Session Report Form to SPIE

How to submit the Session Report Form to SPIE:

  • The SPIE Conferences mobile app will help you report on your session; The app is available and FREE for both iOS and Android devices
  • YOU MUST BE LINKED as the official session chair of the session to be able to use the SPIE Conferences mobile app for session chairing
  • Please adhere to the scheduled times listed in the SPIE Conferences mobile app (or version of program)
  • Using the SPIE Conferences mobile app, find the session you are chairing and mark whether each paper was presented or not, make any journal recommendations, and enter comment if you have comments
  • At the end of your session, after marking and commenting on each presentation, scroll down to the bottom of the presentations in your session and click "Review & Send" to automatically send the session report through the app to SPIE staff. If you have technical difficulties and are unable to send the session report via the app, send a screenshot of your completed session report to
  • If you do not have access to the SPIE Conferences mobile app:

If you have any questions or need more information, contact your Conference Program Coordinator. (See list of Program Coordinators)

Assessing Manuscript Submissions

Conference chairs also act as editors for their conference proceedings and work with their designated SPIE staff proceedings coordinator to collect all manuscripts and resolve any publication issues.

  • An SPIE staff proceedings coordinator will be assigned to your conference at the time the program is launched
  • At minimum, conference chairs are expected to assess each manuscript and mark it as accepted for publication in the review system
  • It is advisable to assign committee members or others to review manuscripts, to help inform the final decision of the conference chair to accept, reject, or request revision
  • Chairs assign and notify reviewers about their assignments, review criteria, and deadline in the review system
  • Manuscripts are accessible to assigned reviewers through their account at
  • See User Guide for SPIE Submission Review System for instructions on how to assign and notify reviewers)
  • Reviewers can only see submissions assigned to them

Proceedings of SPIE provide rapid reporting on ideas, techniques, and results of current research. Papers may be status reports of work in progress or descriptions of completed research.

The goal of proceedings manuscript review is to assess whether the manuscript:

  • is technically sound
  • contains new, original research content or scientific concepts
  • is non-commercial in nature
  • includes sufficient technical data and description to explain results and support conclusions

In addition, manuscripts approved for publication must:

  • include adequate and appropriate references
  • be written clearly, with all text and figures readily understandable (allowance is made for authors for whom English is a second language, provided the paper is comprehensible)

Keep in mind:

  • Many manuscripts are acceptable for publication as submitted
  • Reviewers do not need to address formatting errors, as SPIE will assess these aspects
  • Privileged information or ideas obtained through access to and review of manuscripts prior to publication must be kept confidential and not be used for competitive gain

SPIE Anti-Harassment Policy

SPIE promotes an environment that is free of inappropriate behavior for all our volunteers, staff, and attendees. Please review and familiarize yourself with the SPIE Anti-Harassment Policies.