Three Quick Transitions to Virtual Meetings

Move to Virtual Associations Now Spring 2020 Issue By: Samantha Whitehorne

A look at how COVID-19 led three associations to transition their in-person events to virtual ones.

While growing concerns about COVID-19 have caused events big and small to postpone or cancel, many associations hustled in March to ensure the show will go on, even if that means moving all or parts of their conferences to a virtual environment. Here’s a look at how three associations took their events online.

International Antiviral Society-USA. On March 6, IAS-USA announced that its Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) would go virtual at its regularly scheduled time, which happened to be only two days later. IAS-USA quickly developed a plan to get presenters to submit video recordings of their slide presentations, which were then streamed to attendees. In addition, poster presenters had the option to upload a five-minute video description of their research. Poster presenter videos were available to attendees during the virtual conference via the mobile app. IAS-USA was even able to add a special session on COVID-19, which featured four speakers discussing global efforts to control the outbreak.

After the virtual conference wrapped up, IAS-USA thanked everyone for their patience and as they navigated their first virtual event.

“Although we could not organize as much real-time interaction and question and answer sessions as we would have liked, the energy and technological savvy of our audiovisual staff and some of our PC members enabled us to add a mechanism for direct interaction in sessions …,” organizers said a press release. “We all have learned a lot through this process, and as we all do as scientists, we will analyze the data and outcomes we have observed and use the information to move CROI forward in the future.”

Consortium for School Networking. On March 11, CoSN’s board decided to transform its 2020 conference to a two-part virtual experience.

“Like most associations, CoSN relies heavily on its large annual conference as a means to continue its hard work throughout the year,” said Board Chair Pete Just in a letter. “I know that many of you will be disappointed that the conference in its previous form has been transformed, but CoSN is very hopeful about what we can still offer in these difficult times.”

The first part, which began on March 16, featured the conference’s previously scheduled keynoters streaming their sessions over the course of three days. Then, in May, the second part will kick off with a full virtual conference that will mirror CoSN’s previously planned in-person event.

According to the group, all CoSN2020 participants will be automatically enrolled in the virtual opportunity and provided with a $200 credit toward any CoSN learning opportunity in the next 12 months, including registration to CoSN2021 in Austin, Texas.

Society for Public Health Education. SOPHE announced that its 2020 conference would also be presented virtually beginning on March 18.

Like CoSN, SOPHE is doing a multipart rollout of its virtual meeting: All three conference plenaries were streamed live March 18-20, along with some concurrent sessions, and then the remainder of concurrent sessions were broadcast over the next three to four weeks.

In addition, SOPHE hosted a virtual exhibit hall. Exhibitors were able to upload video presentations, provide literature, and interact with virtual attendees.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "A Move to Virtual."] 

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.