Online poster presentations “just seem to fall short of the in-person experience” at meetings of the Genetics Society of America, said Suzy Brown, GSA’s senior director of meetings. (Courtesy GSA)
Convene editors reached out to a handful of organizations to see how they are incorporating lessons learned from the ways the pandemic affected their audiences, stakeholders, and members into their go-forward strategies. This is one in a series of stories from the January/February issue of Convene.
In early 2020, Suzy Brown, CMP, and her team acted quickly to move the Genetics Society of America’s (GSA) in-person The Allied Genetics Conference (TAGC), scheduled for that April in Washington, D.C., online — breaking new ground for the GSA. Since TAGC — a cross-disciplinary exchange which brings several smaller conferences together — is held only once every four years, it was important that the exchange of ideas between researchers could continue unimpeded, even if participants couldn’t travel or meet face-to-face, Brown, GSA’s senior director of meetings, told Convene in 2020.
One of the biggest takeaways from the experience was how dramatically the online format increased global scientists’ access to conference content — the number of attendees quadrupled, and participation rates grew from 46 countries to 79. When GSA surveyed attendees after the conference, “a number of them said they were only able to attend because it was virtual, because of travel bans, as well as costs,” Brown said at the time. “We want everybody to be able to share their science, regardless of where they’re located geographically or what kind of funding they may have available to them. We will probably always have a virtual component to all of our meetings — not a solely virtual meeting, but we think we will always have a virtual component.”
The next quadrennial Allied Genetics Conference isn’t scheduled until 2024 but here’s what GSA’s conference strategy looked like in 2022: GSA held four hybrid meetings, where most of the content, including keynotes, was streamed and recordings were available to registered attendees for 30 days after the meeting through the meeting app. In 2020, GSA didn’t charge registration fees for the online Allied Genetics Conference; in 2022, complimentary registration was offered to scientists who are full-time residents from low- and middle-income countries through a waiver program.