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How to log in and join the #NICAR21 conference

Welcome to the virtual #NICAR21 conference! If you’ve already registered, here’s what you need to know to access the conference. 

(If you still need to register, you can do that online and then follow these instructions. You will receive an email to access the conference platform within one business day of registration. During conference week, we will work to give access as soon as possible after registration.)

Getting started & accessing the virtual conference platform

The NICAR21 virtual conference is online at We highly recommend you bookmark this URL for easy access, especially since you can access it for a full year!

If you’ve already registered, you should have received an email link with access to Pathable, our virtual conference platform. Using the link from that email, you’ll be asked to set a password. You will need this email and password to access Pathable during and after the conference.

Can’t find the email? Search your inbox and Spam folder for “Pathable.” If you still can’t find it, email

What are the technical requirements?

  • Google Chrome: Recommended browser for the best experience on Pathable. Make sure you are running the latest version, and that you allow pop-ups.
  • Zoom: Please download Zoom to your computer before the start of the conference.

What time zone is the agenda?

The Pathable agenda will automatically reflect your time zone.

How do I build my own schedule?

To add live sessions to your agenda, start on the main Agenda page (go to Schedule > Agenda). When you find a session you want to add to your schedule, click on the green plus sign located in the upper right-hand corner of each session.

Anything you add will show up on your My Agenda page (go to Schedule > My Agenda). You can also export your schedule to your personal calendar by using the Export Calendar feature located in My Agenda.

How do hands-on classes work?

The conference features seven virtual data labs where you can learn spreadsheets, SQL, data wrangling, data viz, Python, R and web scraping -- with no sign-ups or extra fee required. The classes are all on demand and will be available for a year after the conference so you can work at your own pace and  come back for refreshers. 

Access the labs under Schedule > Virtual hands-on labs.

How can I get live help with hands-on skill lessons?

To compliment the virtual labs, we are offering live office hours where you can meet with an experience data journalist to help with a particular skill or project. Sign up here to be matched with an expert. 

Note: You must sign up by Monday, Feb. 22 for one-on-one office hours. If you don’t sign up, you can come to open office hours found on the Agenda.

Will all the sessions be recorded?

Most of the live sessions are being recorded and will be available in Pathable for one year after the conference. Every session description notes whether the session will be recorded. 

As a general rule: panels and conversations will be recorded; networking and happy hour sessions will not.

Recorded sessions will be available for viewing a few hours after the session concludes. In addition, any tipsheets from the session will be available in the Files tab for each session. 

How does Zoom work inside Pathable?

Most panels (webinar-style meetings) will have the Zoom room embedded inside the Pathable page. This allows you to view the session even if your device or organization limits Zoom access. When you’re in the Pathable room, you’ll see the video on the left and the chat box on the right. 

When you “Join a live meeting,” you may experience a brief delay and see a gray/black box as the embedded video loads.

If the embedded format shown above isn’t working, you also have the option to “use the Zoom app instead.” This will open a new Zoom window. (Find it directly under the video window in Pathable.)

Will I be on a camera? Will I be muted?

It depends! There are two types of Zoom rooms, each noted at the bottom of that session’s description.

  • Webinar room: Only speakers can be on video and unmute themselves. Attendees are in listen/view-only mode, unless they use the “Raise Hand” button and the session host allows them to speak. At NICAR21, we use this setup for most of the live panels and demos.
  • Meeting room: These are what most of us use in our day-to-day lives. Anyone — speakers or attendees — can be on video and unmute if they choose. At NICAR21, we mostly use this setup for networking sessions, conversations and a few demos.

Finally, a note: If your organization or device limits Zoom access, you may not be able to unmute or go on video. But you should still be able to view the content and use the chat in Pathable.

Can I go in and out of sessions?

Yes, you can enter and leave any live session (as long as it is not at capacity).

How do I get technical support or help?

If you are having technical difficulties, make sure you are using Google Chrome. This will take care of some common problems, like a slow-loading browser or audio issues. But if you still need help, reach out one of the following ways:

  • Use our live Help Desk: An IRE staff member will be available each day during the conference to assist with any questions. Here are the Help Desk hours:
    • Wednesday, March 3: 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. (ET)
    • Thursday, March 4: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (ET)
    • Friday, March 5: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (ET)
  • Contact Pathable Technical Support: From the Pathable navigation bar, click on Tech Support > Get Support. This will open a chat box and connect you with someone at Pathable. This is a free service provided to attendees by IRE.
  • Send IRE an email. If you have a question about registration or other non-technical issues, email us at

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