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Increased attendance (52%), collaboration, fun & learning: A Behind-the-scenes Look at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Virtual Annual Meeting

By November 5, 2020February 2nd, 2021Projection

At Projection, we’ve been AAP’s audiovisual partner since 1983. Over that time, we’ve designed and executed some incredible and inspiring experiences together, aimed not only to deliver educational content to the association’s membership, but to convey, instill and re-invigorate their sense of community, pride and purpose. Each year, we strive to create experiences that build upon the unique community for which AAP is known. The end result is often goosebump-inducing, as the AAP team finds new and creative ways to inspire their passion-driven members. (Check out our video case study showing the 2018 in-person meeting.)This year, of course, looked different as the meeting went fully virtual, and members from around the world logged on, rather than checked in. What did not look different was the team’s commitment to designing an experience for attendees that infused fun, collaboration and inspiration into the four-day meeting.

A key ingredient for every virtual meeting: FUN
One thing we’ve learned as we’ve helped design and execute virtual meetings is the importance of infusing fun into the agenda. AAP has always prioritized this element, as their members often bring family members – including kids – to their annual meeting. From hula hoops to air hockey, the convention floor is always bustling with activity, as the AAP uses the physical space to enhance the experience for every registered attendee. With this year’s virtual-only event, our teams had to get extra creative with how to deliver that element of fun.

First, we added comedy. We created an opening to the plenary session that showed off the fabulous personalities of the event’s hosts – both practicing pediatricians themselves – and loosened everyone up for all the agenda had in store for them. Doing so really warmed attendees up to the two hosts that would be guiding their experience over the four days, which set the stage – and personality of the event – perfectly.

Second, we added musical acts. We all know music has a way of engaging people, which is why it’s a key element of every AAP event we design. This year, we did this by having the Melisizwe Brothers perform for attendees. Side note: If you haven’t heard of Melisizwe Brothers, check them out; they are incredible! (Also, a shout out to CSI Destination Management who helped find and book the talent.)


Third, we added flavor. World renowned chef, Wolfgang Puck, logged on to deliver a cooking lesson, including an extensive live Q&A period where he answered questions about his recipes, process and inspiration. One of the big questions of the session: How to get your kids to eat more than macaroni and cheese and French fries?

Fourth, we added some competition. In years past, the AAP annual meeting featured a Jeopardy-like trivia game, where a few select individuals compete and test their knowledge of pediatric medicine. While always a hit, the majority of attendees are simply spectators. This year, we designed a game where every attendee could play, which increased engagement and the [in-good-fun] competition levels between AAP members.

AAP extends member value with 24/7 content
Like many virtual meetings over the past seven months, AAP saw an impressive increase in attendance – 52 percent. In 2019, the in-person meeting drew 9,671 attendees. This year, that number grew to 14,700, with an increase in international attendees over last year.

The AAP team wanted to ensure all attendees received maximum value from the four-day agenda, which was packed full, from kick-off to closing, with educational content and opportunities. With 592 live speakers and 413 pre-recordings, it would be impossible for any individual attendee to participate in every session. That’s why the team decided to make all of the content available to attendees online, so they could re-watch or consume it for the first time – at their convenience – through the end of January.

A look at the tech behind the meeting
The meeting was hosted on CadmiumCD’s eventScribe platform. For the meeting’s live speakers and presenters, AAP used for the virtual speaker ready room, rehearsals and uploads of pre-recordings. Beyond these, the meeting leveraged multiple tools to deliver the desired experience:

  • vMix Software Video Mixer and Switcher with personalized kits for plenary session speakers;
  • Zoom for section and counsel meetings and Spanish-language translation;
  • for polling and the trivia game show;
  • A combination of Unreal Engine, camera tracking and green screen technology to build a 60 Minutes-inspired 3-D environment to produce the president’s address and interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Cindy Airhart, CAE, Senior Director, Meetings and Travel, American Academy of Pediatrics said: “It was really important that we didn’t lose what our members have come to expect from the annual meeting: A balance of education and experience. Our members love to learn and laugh and collaborate together, so it was critical that the virtual experience seamlessly enabled each of those elements.”

As always, the AAP annual meeting was an incredible experience for everyone – even those of us behind the scenes. While we missed being together to pull this one off, the hardest part was not being able to celebrate the exceptional work and partnership that went into making it a success. So, for now, a virtual toast and – after a short rest, of course – we’ll get to work on designing next year’s experience.

To check out more of our virtual work, visit our Virtual Services page.