"There is no substitute for face-to-face communication, intergenerational interactions, and chance encounters with colleagues that occur at an in-person meeting," writes Adele M. Caruso, DNP, CRNP, FAANP.
The urology community is coming together for the 2022 American Urological Association (AUA) annual meeting and looking forward to the swarm of activity, scientific findings, and innovation. Although, as a community, we became quite adept at exchanging information virtually, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication, intergenerational interactions, and chance encounters with colleagues that occur at an in-person meeting.
The urology community is looking forward to reconnecting. Urologists and advanced practice providers (APPs), colleagues, and friends, AUA committees, and the various professional societies reconvene for the big event. The human factor, personal contact, and emotions are irreplaceable and impossible to replicate with a virtual meeting. The 2022 AUA annual meeting will be the first in-person meeting for some. Many who have previously met online will be meeting face-to-face, and the anticipation is palpable.
In-person meetings are a primary source of member engagement and can maximize the social experience as well. Social events should incorporate onsite networking as this remains a highly valuable experience to build both personal and scientific relationships.1 Many of these social events are AUA staples and a “must do” for newcomers.
Professional benefits of in-person meetings extend the opportunity to sharpen public speaking skills beyond the 2-dimensional computer screen. This allows interaction with an audience, while defending one’s research and incorporating feedback.Momentous exposure to “urology legends” has a profound effect that spans beyond the meeting, and oftentimes influences a career for a lifetime.
In the face of the pandemic, virtual-only platforms were a lifeline to continue with scientific exchange and to remain connected. As we became more proficient with the nuances of conducting the virtual platform and the process and technology of those virtual platforms improved, other benefits became apparent. One of the benefits of attending virtually was and remains the reduced time to participate and the elimination of travel costs and accommodation costs. The “economy of time” is highly valued when considering a virtual meeting.2 A strength of virtual meetings during the pandemic was the ability to include experts and guests from a distance without significant costs in time, money, and travel.
On a lighter note, our colleagues in neurology designed a calculator expressly designed to decide whether to participate in an online meeting called the Should I Zoom Index (ShIZ Index). Their formula calculation incudes Value, Interaction, Wifi, Snack supply at home, Beverage supply, Time Zone, Pajamas, Complexity factor, and Home distraction factor. The interpretation ShiZ Index > 3: definitely Zoom; ShiZ Index <1; do not participate, and ShiZ Index between 1.0 and 3.0 translates to: keep the browser open and make adjustments to your retirement portfolio or follow your Twitter feed.3
Finally, there is the matter of participation to consider. In a recent Twitter poll by European Urology (@EUplatinum), “As we round out 2020 and the ongoing pandemic: Are you more or less likely to submit an abstract to a conference if the meeting is going to be virtual?” the majority of respondents 54%, indicated that they would be less likely to submit to a virtual conference. If urologists and APPs are less inclined to submit research abstracts to virtual-only conferences, this potentially translates into lost opportunities from the perspectives of both research dissemination and in-person fostering of research and mentoring collaborations.4
Hybrid meetings that combine the in-person format and streaming of remote presenters or streaming to a remote audience can be a challenge and are generally held at a higher cost. In hybrid meetings, presenters can speak in a face-to-face format, but also provide a virtual platform for a simultaneous interaction for those who are unable to physically attend.5 Hosting a hybrid meeting requires good-quality technical equipment, especially camera and microphones. Hybrid meetings have advantages of reaching a larger audience and can also offer more choice and personalization, with recording of live content available for viewing at a later time.
Hameed et al conducted a survey in 2020 to understand the preference of “hybrid” urological meetings compared with face-to-face-meetings and virtual meetings during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Five hundred twenty-six providers were surveyed on factors that may influence their preferences on a 5-point Likert scale for meeting types. They concluded that although there will be a place for face-to-face meetings, the COVID-19 situation has led to a preference toward hybrid meetings and the plausibility that most urological associations may trend towards a hybrid meeting model.
The 2022 AUA annual meeting is an in-person meeting and is also inclusive with a fully virtual option for attendees who are unable to be there in person. As we approach our upcoming meeting, it’s worthwhile to take advantage of all of the aspects of a classical meeting while realizing that the advanced technology and our recent virtual experiences will allow us to optimize our interactions as we go forward.
I say, let’s engage in another annual meeting by sharing in the latest research and innovations. Let’s embrace the opportunity to connect with our urology, APP, research and industry partners. I am personally looking forward to interacting with my urologist and APP colleagues in the society meetings, plenary sessions and course offerings, and special AUA events. Let’s be reunited and reignited in New Orleans!
As always, please feel free to provide your perspective by emailing me at UTeditors@mjhlifesciences.com.
1. Porpiglia F, Checcucci E, Autorino R, et al. Traditional and virtual congress meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic and the post-COVID-19 Era: Is it time to change the paradigm? Eur Urol. 2020;78(3):301-303. doi:10.1016/j.eururo.2020.04.018
2. Ellis R, Goodacre T, Mortensen N, et al. Application of human factors at hybrid meetings: facilitating productivity and inclusivity. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2022;S0266-4356(21)00489-7. doi:10.1016/j.bjoms.2021.12.055
3. Rutkove SB, Shefner JM, Bowser R, et al. To Zoom or not to Zoom: The should I travel index revisited during the coronavirus disease pandemic. Ann Neurol. 2021;89(6):1057-1058. doi:10.1002/ana.26038
4. Woodruff P, Wallis CJD, Albers P, Klaassen Z. Virtual conferences and the COVID-19 pandemic: are we missing out with an online only platform? Eur Urol. 2021;80(2):127-128. doi:10.1016/j.eururo.2021.03.019
5. Hameed BZ, Tanidir Y, Naik N, et al. Will "hybrid" meetings replace face-to-face meetings post COVID-19 Era? Perceptions and views from the urological community. Urology. 2021;156:52-57. doi:10.1016/j.urology.2021.02.001