Covid-19 has entailed that conferences and congresses in the future will have an online and on location audience
Covid-19 has closed the access to conference and congress venues all around the world since early spring 2020, – but when one door closes, another one will open.
In the future you would probably consider whether you have a need to go or it is just nice to go, – even when we can travel across the globe to meet with fellow colleagues again.
In less than a year, online conferences and congresses have developed more than all previous years put together.
Meanwhile the global lockdown has demonstrated the advantages of online meetings, and how it is possible to manage and structure for instance a webinar versus a presentation in front of a physical audience.
Online vs. on location
In most presentations the use of slides, video and other graphics shared on a big screen are all central tools to highlight the key messages
With hundreds of other people around in an auditorium, it can be difficult to comprehend all details, and you might want to go back to slide missed during the presentation.
Viewing online gives you a wider outook on the subject as long as the presentation is designed for a laptop – featuring a minor video of the speaker and slides/graphics in focus.
Questions from the audience are also managed more effectively via an online chat, as written questions tend to be more precise than verbal ones.
By sending questions and comments through a moderator, capable of sorting and ranking the most important ones, the outcome will be improved to the benefit of the audience in general.
It is highly unlikely to replace the informal random dialogue taking place at physical conferences with online meetings.
To many participants, the social level plays a key role which is therefore why physical conferences will remain, but the traditional conference should be combined with an online path in mind.
Even though it is impossible to catch up with colleagues the same way online, virtual meetings have other advantages establishing new contacts, than meeting someone casually in line to the buffet.
By having participants answer specific questions about filed of research etc. prior to the conference, virtual meetings bring an opportunity to group people with exact same interests.
After having participated in such a “mind match” a participant tells; “My mind was absolutely blown by it, because I sat down, and I met six people that I’d never met before. Two of them were working on exactly the same problem that I was working on, and I’d never heard of them,” (the abstract is from the article, COVID-19 Ushers in the Future of Conferences)
More participants, less impact on climate
Conferences and congresses are often criticized because of the impact they have on the climate when thousands of people cross long distances to participate.
Researchers found that the carbon footprint from a specific congress, the 14th EAAE Congress in Slovenia (2014) added up to 300 tons, which is 0,5 ton per participant.
Besides the positive climatic effects decreasing emission from air travels, online conferences also attract far more people.
In the article, As COVID-19 forces conferences online, scientists discover upsides of virtual format, a conference organizer tells how they attracted 30.000 participants to an online conference after cancelation of the physical one expected to engage only a few hundred.
It should be noted that the theme of the conference was changed and adapted to the covid-19 situation, which alone created a higher demand.
Nevertheless, this demonstrates how sharing knowledge is possible to a greater extent when it is affordable for people, who do not have funds to participate physically.