Reflections on the first-ever virtual BGS Autumn Meeting
Dr Anil Kumar, Consultant Physician & Geriatrician, County Hospital, Stafford and Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine at Keele University. He tweets @dranilsinha. Dr Punam Sinha, SAS doctor, Royal Wolverhampton Trust.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought lots of changes, and we have come to accept many of these as our new normal. The BGS had to cancel the Spring Meeting 2020 as face-to-face meetings were understandably not possible due to the pandemic. The BGS team bounced back for the Autumn Meeting with an entirely virtual conference, and it was a huge success by any standard.
For many of us, this was the first time that we had attended the meeting completely glued to a screen. It was a very different experience from the traditional three-day meetings that we had attended in the past. First of all, no journeys were undertaken, and hence, no hassle of hotel or train reservations, or even wondering where to park the car! We were attending from the comfort of our house, enjoying the view of our garden and watching the screen.
The BGS office had sent the complete programme in advance, so in our own time we debated and decided which opportunities we wanted to attend. We were also able to see the posters and to attend the exhibition hall. The Swapcard platform allowed easy interaction with attendees. As soon as one logged in, there was an overview of the whole programme so that one could choose which session to join live. For the first time, we were able to listen to the whole programme back to back and could utilise the time well by swapping to another session if something finished early. The use of simultaneous chat box and question box functions worked well and was taken advantage of by many. This was often enlightening as one could see some of the mind-boggling questions, and entertaining comments too. The moderators were excellent as they identified relevant questions and comments and brought these out for discussion. It was gratifying to have some of our questions picked up by the moderators. We would have never been able to successfully ask so many questions or learn about a topic from so many people in a face-to-face conference.
There was an excellent talk by Suresh Rattan which we re-listened to this week, and we confirm that it was outstanding and congratulate the BGS office for selecting him for the guest lecture. There is also a longer-term wonderful opportunity as the lectures are available for one year. Another bonus is that personally both my wife and I were able to watch from home, which is not usually possible due to childcare, and we usually have to decide which of us attends events.
A remaining question is what we felt we missed with the virtual conference. On reflection, there is very little to consider, aside from meeting people face-to-face, which remains very important as we are all social animals and like to talk and eat together. However, the learning opportunities were thoroughly met, and in this the meeting fulfilled its purpose beyond our expectations. We suspect that for many, this form of conference is really welcome, and we hope it can continue as an option in the future. In an ideal world there would be a hybrid option, where some participants might attend physically, but the majority would be participating virtually.