An alternative to executing a full-spectrum virtual meeting
The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) was planning its annual meeting in Baltimore for early May when the country – and all large events – had to shut down. While weighing options, one thing was crystal clear: Not sharing the vital research of its members was not an option. After all, ARVO members have information and insights to share that are critical to moving the field forward.
ARVO did not have the time to put together a full virtual event but decided that providing and hosting content in an online forum would serve its member base well. Working together with the ARVO team, we identified options that would enable researchers to easily share their science with the eye and vision science community from a distance.
Speakers submit narrated presentations
ARVO invited all six thousand (6,000) individuals who were scheduled to give a paper or poster presentation at the Baltimore event to record a narrated version of their session. This option ensured that presenters were able to share their planned talks in a way that’s easy and (relatively) low-tech for them. Ultimately, 1,000 presentations were sent in.
(Keep in mind when putting any onus on speakers: Presenters are often not tech experts. Consider what you will be asking of the speakers themselves, and whether or not it’s realistic and feasible for them. Make it as easy as possible, from how you communicate to technology you use.)
Each presenter recorded a narrated version of her/his talk – using the built-in recording features of PowerPoint and Keynote – and then exported as an MP4 video to their computer. (For a detailed “how-to,” check out our guide: How to Create a Cross Platform Narrated Version of Your Presentation)
On the backend, we set up an easy-to-navigate system – a website – for uploading a final presentation. Each presenter received login information so the site could match the individual with her/his scheduled presentation. It even enabled interaction with the Projection team; a speaker could upload a “test” presentation for our team members to review and provide feedback. All communication between a presenter and the technical team was done via email, so it could fit right into each presenter’s existing workflow. As the last presentation was uploaded, the team managed 350 Help Desk tickets through the site.
Once all presentations were in the system, the file names are updated per ARVO’s Learning Management System (LMS) system requirements and turned over to the association team via Dropbox.
Like any event, communication is key
As meeting professionals, we know that communication and planning are key. Whether on-site or virtual, it’s important that both organizers and presenters are aligned and working in tandem, with no gaps where misunderstanding can breed errors (which, as we all know, can lead to poor attendee experience).
Dedicated to the best experience for its members, ARVO sent out an email on April 6th to all confirmed speakers (even those who chose to withdraw prior to the cancellation) with an invitation to participate, details, instructions and recording specifications. On the backend, our technical team was available to answer questions, troubleshoot and ensure quality content.
All 1,000 of the final presentations will be hosted in ARVOLearn, ARVO’s online learning platform, and available to all members and nonmember subscribers. Paper and poster presentations will be identified separately within the site.
While none of us are sure what the next months or year will have in store for in-person meetings, we are sure that the ARVO community will have access to important and timely resources and information that will enable the eye and vision science community to do the critical work they do.
Lancey Cowen, JD, CAE at ARVO: “Our members come to our Annual Meeting to share ideas that move the vision and ophthalmology field forward. Therefore, when we had to cancel, we knew we needed to come up with a way to facilitate that sharing; we simply couldn’t have a year go by where those ideas sat on the shelf. Having this content available for members to digest on their own schedule allows us to serve the community in a safe way until we can meet again.”