New Virtual Conference Schedules Rolling Out in 2021

With a year of virtual events behind them, many organizations are taking what they learned and applying it to their 2021 online conferences. For example, while many 2020 virtual conferences followed a schedule similar to in-person events, different offerings are debuting this year.

When associations had to transition their in-person events to virtual last year, they typically stuck to the same schedule, hosting the conference over a set number of consecutive days. But with a year of learning and attendee feedback under their belts, many are experimenting with different schedules for their 2021 events. Here are just a few examples:

American Association for Cancer Research. The AACR Annual Meeting 2021 will be presented over two one-week periods. Week one, which will start in mid-April, will feature the opening ceremony, plenary sessions, major scientific sessions, and award lectures. Abstracts will also be presented in plenary sessions, mini-symposia, and e-poster sessions during this week. And week two, which begins May 17, will include education sessions, methods workshops, meet-the-expert sessions, and professional advancement sessions.

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. SICB 2021, which took place in January and February, was reimagined so that it could span two months. Different from many other virtual conferences, our aim for extending the conference period over two months is to reduce the stress and fatigue brought on by too much screen time, which many of us are experiencing,” SICB said on its website. “This format allows attendees to view scientific content at their leisure and provides a schedule with less overlap of multiple events of interest.” From January 3 to 7, attendees could attend live-streamed symposia and plenary lectures; ask questions on live, moderated discussion boards; and participate in networking and social events. Then, during the extended meeting time that lasted until February 28, participants could watch on-demand content and attend additional scientific discussions, workshops, business meetings, and networking and socializing opportunities.

World Sleep Society. The World Sleep 2021 Virtual Meeting actually kicked off in early December 2020, but WSS is calling it an “ongoing online event” since it doesn’t conclude until December 2, 2021. Following the three-day live event held last December, WSS is hosting four other one-day virtual events throughout the year that will provide the latest updates on sleep medicine to attendees and give them the chance to network with colleagues and other industry experts.

With your attendees balancing work and life demands and also suffering from the effects of too much screen time, they’ll appreciate new formats and timeframes that allow them to participate in your meeting for short bursts or at different points during the year.

How have you tweaked or experimented with the length and schedules of your virtual conferences? Please share in the comments.

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Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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