The lingering COVID pandemic forced the largest meeting of hearing scientists worldwide to adopt a completely virtual format. The Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) had to move quickly to accomplish the feat which was viewed as very successful by participants.
ARO Past-President Keiko Hirose, MD, recently hosted a panel of otolaryngology researchers to discuss their impressions of the virtual event.
“Personally, I feel the event was a resounding success,” said Hirose. “The number of submitted abstracts dropped about 20%, but the number of registered attendees actually increased to the highest ever – about two thousand.”
When discussing whether future meetings should be a hybrid event (combination of in-person and virtual options), the panelists highlighted two concerns:
- The meeting would lose its opportunity for personal interaction that is the real driving force for advancing science.
- Too many registrants would choose to attend virtually, and the meeting would fail to meet the minimum number of on-site participants required by contracted venues.
“The real value of ARO has always been the spontaneous in-person interaction,” said ARO council member Mark Warchol, PhD. “Those are lost with a virtual format.”
Overall, panelists considered the event a positive experience for a number of reasons:
- Technical issues were extremely rare;
- Recorded live presentations allowed later viewing and eliminated participants’ having to choose between two concurrent presentations;
- Events like the annual awards ceremony were well produced and enjoyable in spite of the virtual format;
- The online meeting likely allowed some students and trainees the opportunity to attend a national meeting that the cost of attending in person might hinder.
Dr. Hirose will convey the group’s evaluation and comments to ARO leadership. They are busy conducting a self-evaluation of the meeting and deciding on the format for next year’s event which is scheduled to be held in San Jose, California.