Months after the first apparition of the global pandemic – bringing a dose of unknown and forcing us to change our ever ways of doing things, it is now time to assess and take stock.
Purpose of medical conferences
Conferences are a critical part for scientific advancements in medicine: along with publications, the medical community has always relied on conferences for two main reasons.
The first purpose is the diffusion of information: delegates look forward to learning and sharing the latest scientific researches and updates related to their specialities, including technologies and innovations. For many medical professionals, the consumption of educational content is required to obtain CPD or CPE points.
The second main expectation of the conferences is the opportunity to network, interact with one another and create future partnerships.
The big switch
Back in March/April, medicals societies and colleges, with most of their conferences scheduled in the upcoming months, faced 3 choices: cancelling, postponing or switching the traditional format to virtual.
To meet the two expectations of conferences in this new COVID-19 landscape, we have seen an accelerated adoption of new methods of information-sharing and collaboration among professionals, powered by technology and virtual platforms.
To continue to deliver our conferences and their purpose, human behaviours have been forced to change. The key to success of this transition to virtual has been a consistent training on the technology for delegates, speakers and sponsors, new ways to engage in a virtual space via video chat, algorithms to optimise networking based on interests, as well as a permanent communication to all delegates.
Avoid education recession
After a denial phase, the shift to virtual was necessary: we needed to save our events and conferences, as well as our CPD accreditations. To avoid a gap between professionals and their access to knowledge, a lot of Medical Colleges, Societies and Associations have decided to jump on the digital train. It has also insured the continuous delivery of CPD accreditation without disruption.
Increased reach and inclusion
Replacing live events with virtual experiences has enabled us to continue to deliver the benefits of face-to-face meetings, with an extended reach and impact. Beyond the obvious falling off of excessive expenses and travel inconveniences, going virtual has opened new opportunities for inclusion.
For instance, Delegates from jurisdictions that cannot travel due to various reasons have had the chance to join the international medical communities for the first time, when before the price of the flights, accommodation or even tickets to the event, were an obstacle. Going virtual has removed all of these obstacles.
Some traditional events had already got to a saturation point, highlighted by an inability to accommodate everyone wanting to attend. Despite great meeting facilities with large rooms available around the globe, conferences could often reach the number of maximum persons allowed in the room, especially when it comes to international events.
This problem will not be met in a virtual congress, since access to the Internet is practically unlimited, making a broader participation possible. It is quite amazing that technology has come so far that if Delegates have a device with internet – they can attend the conference without having to go anywhere.
Example of a successful virtual conference
The 2020 International Dementia Conference delivered by Joyn is the perfect example of these events that has benefited going virtual. While the conference was initially scheduled to be in person, then hybrid, it became eventually fully virtual.
This switch – initially designed as a “work around” – ended up being an incredible success and considered one of their best Conference yet, allowing continuous education, an increased reach and a broader participation.
Before the pandemic, most medical conferences were already on the edge of transformation, suggesting that the industry will be experiencing a permanent switch to virtual or hybrid.
This year has highlighted alternatives. We know they can initially be challenging but also rewarding and bringing even more benefits than we first thought. The virtual revolution has just started and 2020 has been the best time to test and try innovative solutions.