Associations Prep and Debut Virtual Conference Options

With coronavirus causing many groups to rethink face-to-face meeting plans, some have turned to virtual offerings as way to deliver the education their attendees need.

While growing concerns about COVID-19 have caused events big and small to postpone or cancel, many associations are hustling 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 are taking 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 [PDF] 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 understanding 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 [PDF]. “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, beginning on Monday, March 16, will feature 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

Earlier this week, SOPHE announced that its 2020 conference would be presented virtually starting on March 18.

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

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

What virtual options are you considering for your conferences and events? Please tell us about them in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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