Here are four benefits that virtual meetings have over in-person conferences.
As the Covid-19-induced new norm is underway, communication is rapidly and universally approaching to an online format. Fortunately, the virtual space provides the necessary capabilities for continued, effective, and personal collaboration. Bioinsider is engaged in providing the scientific community a virtual experience proportionate to in-person meetings, roundtables, and conferences.
Increased Number of Participants
The number of participants is significantly increased due to location no longer being a barrier and eliminating weeks of preplanning. Virtual meetings are known to have more participants due to the online format. For example, the attendance of The Allied Genetics Conference (TAGC) in April 2020 increased from 2650 individual participants to over 14000 when it was decided to hold a virtual conference due to Covid-191. This format helps those who cannot travel to the conference location and those who have busy lives and cannot take several days off for in-person participation. Instead of planning weeks or months ahead, busy professionals can log on and join the conference from the comfort of their home office.
Networking amongst scientists has always created awkward situations when introducing oneself to a person they don’t know. Virtual meetings can simulate the networking experience by offering a speed-networking hour-long session where people can be split up into different sections or “breakout rooms. “2 In addition, virtual conference-goers can participate in asynchronous networking sessions by using applications like Slack.2 Slack is a business communication platform that allows professionals to communicate with each other. Early-career scientists have increased opportunities to interact with established scientists. Conversely, established scientists also experience benefits as they are able to effectively communicate their message into the minds of young researchers easily via a virtual platform. They can motivate a broader population of early-career scientists to follow in their footsteps and continue vital research.
More Choice in How One Can Participate
Another valuable benefit that virtual conferences have over in-person conferences is that of more choice. Virtual conferences can last from several days to several months at a time. “Longer events allow delegates to decide when to participate; there will be more time to select various activities, without having to choose between concurrent presentations as at traditional meetings.”3 Being able to learn as much as a person can about the newest research is what science conferences are all about. Virtual conferences take the best aspects of a science conference and put them into one format. The format of virtual conferences provides conference participants access to all video and audio recordings. These on-demand recordings can be accessed at any time. In turn, on-demand recordings give conference-goers the ability to learn about all the new research they are interested in, rather than all the presentations they had the time to watch during the event.
Variety of Discussion and Presentation Models
One of the benefits of a virtual conference is that it can be structured in various ways that appeal to various scientists worldwide. For instance, people who do not want to participate in discussions with people of common interests. Instead, they can be put into groups with people who study different topics to learn from one another. The virtual conference platform “can be used to provide participants with a master sheet of the different agendas up for discussion ahead of time, which can then be used to make sure everyone stays on track.” 4 The agenda given before the conference to all participants will enable the conference-goers to personalize their discussions. If they are comfortable discussing their research with others, not in the field, they can choose to do so. If not, they can discuss their research with people of common interests.
Virtual meetings also provide presenters benefits. The most significant benefit for presenters is that they can pre-record their talk. This allows them to prepare it in advance when they have time, instead of switching their schedule around to present at a conference. After the pre-recorded presentation is shown, presenters can have a one-hour discussion session to answer questions from other conference participants who watched the presentation. This ability to showcase new research while not being physically present can only be done through virtual conferences.
In conclusion, virtual conferences allow professionals to personalize their conference experience. They enable them to gain as much information as possible, which, in turn, will enable professionals to advance in their specific fields. The virtual space provides a platform to exchange new research and ideas between many participants from various nations. It engages scientists to look at problems in novel ways. Virtual meetings expand the discussion format into one where anyone, anywhere can participate. Networking is also revolutionized by providing new ways of establishing connections among conference-goers. Virtual meetings are the future of scientific conferences, and our understanding of their benefits is only beginning.
1 PCMA. (2020, September 14). Scientific Meetings Going Virtual and Reaching the World. https://www.pcma.org/scientific-meetings-going-virtual-reaching-world/
2 Kornei, K. (2020, October 8). Opportunities and Challenges of Virtual Meetings. Eos. https://eos.org/features/opportunities-and-challenges-of-virtual-meetings
3 Lecueder, S., & Manyari, D. (2000). Virtual Congresses. National Institute of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC61452/4 Express Virtual Meetings. (2020). 12 key benefits of video conferencing. https://www.expressvirtualmeetings.com/en-au/blog/12-key-benefits-of-video-conferencing