How One Hybrid Medical Conference Streamlined CME, F&B, and More

Author: Jennifer N. Dienst       

hybrid events

Attendees of the Georgia Society of Interventional Pain Physicians’ 2020 16th Annual Pain Summit socialize outdoors during a reception at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. The summit hosted 93 total attendees, with about half of those attending live and the rest tuning in virtually.

For organizers of continuing medical education (CME) events, the switch from a live format to virtual is anything but simple. That’s because earning credits online has different requirements than if they were done in person, as the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis saw with their virtual congress this past July.

So when Tara M. Morrison, CAE, CMP, president of Association Management Executives Inc., planned the Georgia Society of Interventional Pain Physicians’ (GSIPP) 2020 16th Annual Pain Summit, held Aug. 28-30 at Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, she decided to scrap offering separate in-person and virtual programs entirely. Instead, she chose the simple solution of livestreaming the summit via Zoom.

Since anyone who participated in the summit, whether they attended in-person or virtually, could claim the CME credits, “this made it so we were not excluding anybody — anybody who either had travel restricted by their hospital, or who weren’t comfortable with coming,” said Morrison, whose company specializes in organizing conferences and events for health-care groups.

In total, the summit hosted 93 total attendees, with about half of those tuning in virtually. The livestream option also gave on-site attendees the ability to pick and choose what elements they wanted to attend in person. “So, if they decided that they weren’t comfortable in the meeting space, they could sit up in their hotel room and watch the livestream,” Morrison said, adding that about 25 percent of their virtual attendees actually stayed on site.

hybrid events

Ample signage and gentility of the staff at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, went a long way toward helping enforce safety protocols for the GSIPP summit. “I felt like I had a team and a partnership with them,” organizer Tara M. Morrison said.

Going High- and Low-Tech

To minimize face-to-face interaction, Morrison went completely paperless, relying heavily on the event’s app, Results at Hand. Registered attendees could use the app to check in upon arriving at the conference as well as to check into each CME session. This, Morrison said, proved to be an unexpected positive, in that attendees who had been reluctant to use the app were now forced to adapt. “This has also been an opportunity to make people evolve when they may not have wanted to, and to do things and change things that [we’ve] wanted to change for a long time,” she said.

To mitigate crowding during meals, Morrison used a color-coded system. At registration, her team assigned either a red, blue, or green sticker to attendee name badges. At lunch and breakfast, attendees were simply directed to the food-and-beverage station with the color that matched their badge.

The biggest pain point? Receptions. Even hosting them outside, “I still felt a little uncomfortable,” Morrison said, because of the way people, instinctively, move closer to each other as they drink and converse.

But it gave her an idea — why not host a guided tasting instead? Because a host is taking attendees through a wine flight or a cocktail recipe, participants are actively participating instead of congregating. And since the activity calls for a setup with individual place settings that can be spaced out appropriately, attendees are physically unable to cluster. For her next event, Morrison says she plans to offer four tastings — wine, beer, cocktail, and mocktail — with each running 20 to 30 minutes. “It’s still fun, and reception-esque,” she said, “but less in-your-face.”

Jennifer N. Dienst is managing editor at Convene.

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