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With Five Days to Prepare, ASTRO’s Annual Refresher Meeting Went Virtual

By April 15, 2020 June 23rd, 2020 Projection

The ASTRO Annual Refresher event typically draws 500 attendees each year from around the world who come for a review of core competencies and updates on emerging trends across radiation oncology.

But with the coronavirus pandemic forcing all in-person events to cancel – many at the last minute – ASTRO had to make a decision seven days before attendees arrived in New Orleans. Do we cancel altogether or move to a virtual event?

The ASTRO meeting team and its partners, including Projection, spent two days discussing and weighing their options and ultimately decided to move forward with a fully-virtual event

 

The Projection Approach

With only five days before the event kicked off, the team got to work. The first step was to send instructions to scheduled presenters about how to create a pre-recorded, narrated version of the presentations they were planning to deliver live. With presenters working on getting their content recorded, the Projection team scripted the opening slides, VOGs and sponsor slides that would be played during breaks in the agenda.

The team decided to use Zoom Webinar as the virtual tool, which was controlled by a Projection IT Specialist from a single command center.

In all, 44 presentations were executed: More than half were prerecorded and the rest were delivered live. (Full control was given to each of the live presenters who wanted to manage their live talks). Three ASTRO Team members served as speaker managers, communicating with the next presenter(s) to make sure they were ready before they went live on screen, and social Q&A was utilized for virtual attendees to ask questions to presenters in real time.

 

The Results

The virtual event drew more attendees than the in-person meeting: 250 attendees logged on to the first virtual session and more than 350 to the second. And over the three-day meeting, those numbers continued to rise. In addition to the impressive participation numbers, the entire event was recorded so ASTRO can place the content online for on-demand viewing by its members.

The success of ASTRO’s first fully-virtual event has opened up new ideas and opportunities for more virtual or hybrid event models in the future. Whether it is their Plan A or a backup plan, one thing is certain: ASTRO will be prepared.