Late last Friday, in a rare moment of pre-weekend creativity, I quickly jotted down a dual Twitter/LinkedIn post regarding advice for groups who are being forced to turn their live conference into an online event. More and more organizations seem to be going this route — just this morning, I read about another half-dozen or so larger meetings that canceled their live event and are going the online route. Medscape has a nice summary of all of the current cancellations, but things are changing by the hour as more groups assess their options.
(Quick aside: What does this mean for grant-funded satellite symposia at these cancelled live meeting? I don’t know – I’m not working on any of these. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments. I’m curious to know what groups are doing and what communications are ongoing between supporters/providers)
Anyway, as things continue to spiral worldwide with coronavirus, I thought I’d expand a little bit on the thoughts I shared via social media last week. Maybe Derek will even be inspired to add a comment or two of his own…(note from Derek: Nope. Busy.)
For those of you who are suddenly responsible for figuring out how to turn that live conference into an online event, a few pieces of advice after 6+ years of experience with CMEpalooza:
1. Rethink the format of your sessions. Some things don’t work online at all (problem solving in groups, for one), but some formats just need to be tweaked. Be creative and develop interesting ways to incorporate your faculty into your online sessions.
2. Consider opportunities for audience engagement. You can still use an audience response system. You can still take questions from attendees/viewers. You just need to figure out how to do it within the platform you want to use.
3. Expect some technology issues. You know how the microphone in that live conference room will sometimes buzz and you rush to find the AV tech? This is no different. There will be faculty whose audio doesn’t quite sync up with their video. There may be someone who mysteriously gets “kicked out” of the presentation room. Be upfront with your viewers in letting them know that things may not go perfectly. Prepare for the eventualities and learn to troubleshoot in real time (or work with someone who can).
4. Talk to your IT team and get their ideas. You want to hold concurrent sessions available to viewers through different links? You want to try Facebook Live? You want to experiment with something I’m not even smart enough to think of? Your IT people are the ones who hopefully are keeping up on online tech so don’t discount their input. If nothing else, there will likely be some infrastructure development necessary for your website, so you’ll be needing their help.
5. Keep in close contact with your faculty. Some of these people may have been waiting for years to present their groundbreaking research at your meeting. They are probably incredibly anxious wondering what’s going to happen now. Reassure them that you are working on a solution (you are, right?) that will still allow them the opportunity to be in the spotlight.
6. Consider the attention span of your attendees. Much as we may want to believe otherwise, Derek and I are smart enough to know that pretty much no one watches all 8 hours of CMEpalooza straight through. But then again, not many people will sit in sessions at a live meeting for 8 hours straight either. Be realistic with the expectations of your audience. If you have 2 or 3 “can’t miss” sessions, think about whether you want to bunch them together in one 90-minute block or space them out throughout the day. I don’t know that one solution is better than the other – depends on your audience.
7. Don’t throw up your hands and say “This won’t be as good as a live meeting.” That isn’t true. Different does not equate to worse. Hey, maybe you’ll be a hero and show that different can actually be better.