Conferences and Meetings
Conferences and Meetings
https://asa1cadmoremedia.blob.core.windows.net/asset-938c68df-2682-400a-8d17-dc57b4e289e0/Session 4_Society Street_Recording.mp4
SIMON INGER: Hello, everybody. Again, thank you for tuning in for the fourth session on 'Conference and Meetings'. We've had three fantastic sessions thus far. I'm told it takes a little while for people to just get in and log on, so I'm just going to say just a couple of words. Obviously, conferences and meetings, when we put this on the original schedule, we had no idea what was going to be happening.
SIMON INGER: And that's going to give us an awful lot more to talk about, as so many societies are facing cancellations of their conferences across the board. So I expect this to be a very interesting and lively conversation with lots of questions from the audience as well. This session is being chaired by Mona Hidayet from Advantage, and I will pass it over to her now. So Mona, it's all yours.
MONA HIDAYET: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Mona Hidayet. I am the Executive Director of Clients and Products at Advantage CS. For those of you that don't know what Advantage is, we are a subscription and association membership software solution for publishers and associations worldwide. So while we are not the society ourselves, we work with several. And so we're in tune with what's happening in the industry.
MONA HIDAYET: Our session today is meant to be a discussion, so I highly encourage you to submit your questions and look-- submit your questions and think of maybe personal anecdotes that you can contribute as well. I am going to have each panelist introduce themselves, starting with Paco. So I will turn it over to you, Paco, to make your introduction.
PACO NATHAN: Hi, thank you very much. I appreciate it. My name is Paco Nathan. And formally, my background is in machine learning. That's the kind of work that I do. But I've also been involved in a lot of technology conferences through work with Databricks, but then also a few years at O'Reilly Media where I led the learning team. And in particular there, we did a lot of work with online meetings, online training, particularly very hands-on interactive with an instructor.
PACO NATHAN: And so I'd like to share some of the best practices that we found. Some of it's kind of counter-intuitive.
MONA HIDAYET: Great. Can we turn it over to Alexa now, please?
ALEXA TULLET: --the president of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science. I'm really excited for our discussion today, because we as a society are very young. So just a little bit of background about SIPS-- we're a group of psychologists who are primarily interested in new research practices and ways of sort of advancing policy changes to make psychological science more transparent and open and replicable.
ALEXA TULLET: So we started in 2016. We're quite a small society. And I'm also very new to leadership roles within society. So I hope to learn a lot from our discussion today.
MONA HIDAYET: Diane, if you could introduce yourself?
DIANE KOVATS: [INAUDIBLE] Diane Kovats. [? executive ?] director at the International Society for Computational Biology. I have the pleasure of serving just under 3,500 members worldwide. ISCB a small organization-- also very young. We're about to celebrate 25 years now as an organization. We are kind of unique in the fact that we don't have any major publication that helps support the operations of the society.
DIANE KOVATS: So we really rely on membership revenues, as well as conference revenues. So I'm excited today to talk about what ISCB has done in these challenging times and what we plan to do as we move forward in the future as it relates to conferences and strategic initiatives around societal operations.
MONA HIDAYET: --fourth and final panelist, Violaine?
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: I'm Violaine Iglesias. I'm the CEO and co-founder of a company called Cadmore Media. We are a very young company too, but a really young one. We're just two years old. We have launched this company. It's a company that provides technology to society specifically to help them publish more video and audio content. So our focus is not just on conferences, and I'm not an event organizer.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: But in the context of our work, we have found that among the use cases that we support-- that's going to be video journals, academic collections-- conferences take a huge place. So we're in the middle of writing a white paper that is focusing on the value of recordings from conference sessions and what societies are doing to leverage that value.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So starting with medical societies, who are a little bit in front of everybody else in this space. And obviously with the current context, those discussions have become really interesting in the past few weeks, because everything's changing. And so we've gone from talking about recording live sessions at conferences to supporting virtual conferences, and how societies are pivoting overnight to virtual and what kind of challenges that poses, but also what kind of opportunities that is going to present.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So that's my background. I'm going to switch off my camera. Alexa, I know--
MONA HIDAYET: Can I have you stay on for just a second? I'm going to start with asking you a question first.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: Sure.
MONA HIDAYET: You have been interviewing several societies about their contingency plans during this time. Can you share with us what some of those contingency plans look like, perhaps touch on the virtual events versus the physical ones?
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: Yes. So yes, we're talking to many societies about what their plans are. And it really depends on mostly when their conferences are. So you've got the big societies that run hundreds of conferences at times, or even just a few conferences, in which case they are affected. They were affected from the start and they are affected on an ongoing basis.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So there's a March meeting, there's an April meeting, et cetera. So those are trying to rescue the meetings that were canceled. And they're putting together really quick solutions for the virtual events that are coming up. And then you've got other societies that have meetings that may be in May or June or September, and they're not really sure what to do.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So I would kind of place them into three categories. You've got the ones that have had their conferences canceled overnight. So the American Physical Society is the prime example. I think it was the most traumatic for everybody, because it was canceled right before it was supposed to happen. So in that case, they had a repository that actually was created by the members by attendees themselves.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So it was created a bit on an ad hoc basis. But now they're taking control over this and they're going to be providing both repositories for the past content, but also virtual events really quickly. Then you've got the events that were canceled already in April and May. Those societies are either postponing or canceling altogether. And in most cases, they are trying to gather the content that was supposed to be presented.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So sometimes it's just a repository with PowerPoint presentations. Sometimes it's a little bit more sophisticated with on-demand presentations-- so recordings that the speakers may take of their presentations that are then offered in a repository. Oftentimes that is coupled with a virtual event that is focused on the keynotes, for example, and some life discussions.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So that's one thing that they're trying to do. So in other cases, when you come into July, August, September, and anything after that, the physical conference is very much in the air. So in that case, it's really interesting to see what they should do, because postponing is one option. But then what do you do? When do you postpone?
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: When are things going to become normal again? So in that case, one thing that we're seeing is that you can look at a contingency plan that involves a few things. That involves a virtual component in any case so that in case the physical conference happens, you can support the attendees and the speakers who are not going to be there. Because in any case, even if your conference happens, there's no travel planning that is happening in any place of the world right now.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: And budgets might be cut, so there is going to be some attrition. And that might be for the speakers too, for even speakers that had talks that were accepted. So in that case, you need to be able to provide live-streaming. And you need a way to dial in the speakers remotely, and then you need to have a strong on-demand option. And of course, you need a fallback option that's going to be fully virtual-- so a virtual event like this one, which takes different formats.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: And it really depends on how many sessions you had in the first place. This event was-- I mean, I'm not going to say it was relatively easy, because somebody is going to kill me afterwards. But it was still doable, because it was only one day and it was only a limited amount of sessions. When you come to 1,000 sessions, then you need to have more creative options like more on-demand content, for example, and various ways to present the content, various ways to give speakers the opportunity to present their content, and then attendees to consume it.
MONA HIDAYET: I do want to ask you about your contingency plan. But first, I'm just going to ask Paco to check his admin chat. We're trying to get your attention. And I'll ask--
PACO NATHAN: Oh, yes. OK.
MONA HIDAYET: So I'll ask you, Diane, as the executive director of ISCB, tell me about how COVID-19 has affected your organization's upcoming events. And what type of contingency planning are you doing?
DIANE KOVATS: Yeah, so it's been challenging. Once I took a moment to put down the bottle-- it was just wine, so I feel like a little bit of consumption right now is useful. Things have changed so rapidly. So if you would have asked me this question two weeks ago, my answer would be completely different than what it is today. So I think what ISCB had that some others may not already have in place is we were already doing 100% content caption of our big annual meeting-- which is our flagship meeting, the one that really drives the society in terms of our operations from those revenues from that annual meeting.
DIANE KOVATS: So we, for the last 10 years, have been doing content capture for that meeting. And for the first time last year, we did our very first experiment where we tested some livestream of just the distinguished speakers, just to see what the pickup would be, and also to advance our mission as a society to deliver science worldwide. So my first thoughts for the contingency plan were, OK, it's in July, right?
DIANE KOVATS: There's still some time. And there's still a lot of uncertainties out there. What does this mean for registration? And how can I create a hybrid solution for the conference that would allow those who may be able to participate in person to still come and participate and have those excellent networking opportunities in our traditional format? But how can I also create the virtual environment for those who may have travel restrictions or funding restrictions or come from countries that have been completely closed off to any type of travel?
DIANE KOVATS: So that contingency plan really developed around creating what that conference environment would be, both physical and virtually. So we do nine concurrent session rooms over 600 total oral presentations over the course of four days, more than 1,000 posters with 1,000 poster presentations. So I immediately reached out to our content capture group. And I said, OK, gentlemen, here's my vision.
DIANE KOVATS: Do you think you can handle this? And I think that Mona and the rest of the group is actually going to share some of the resources, our prototype for what this would have looked like, after this session. Or if someone's in the chat, you can share it now. It's a link. So basically, what we had created was both an in-person and online solution where you would be able to navigate all of the sessions live just as if you were in the conference-- so engaging in the chat room as you're doing now, asking questions to the speakers throughout the entire event.
DIANE KOVATS: And we really hadn't settled on what that poster presentation would look like. But as I was talking with the service provider, we had thought that, OK, if we have everyone kind of queue up and record their posters throughout the duration of the conference, we could put them into a repository and kind of have like a virtual poster presentation time. So fast-forward two weeks.
DIANE KOVATS: In an executive committee meeting, we're discussing all the cancellation fees. We're discussing what this hybrid solution looks like. And they had asked me then to assess, can we do this 100% virtually? So we still haven't made a final decision on what that outcome is going to be for the July meeting. But what we have put together is a 100% virtual option. That comes down to every single talk either being live or as live, all of the posters being presented as as-live performances-- because obviously you can't do 1,000 presenters in a time period to do their poster presentations.
DIANE KOVATS: But also taking into consideration, some of these students who are presenting, it's very, very important for them to get that certificate of presentation. So how can we ensure that those are posted and we have at least a view or a quote unquote "walk by" of their poster so that we can feel comfortable issuing that certificate of presentation? So right now, I'm still working out some final details on someone had asked, what is the best timing international?
DIANE KOVATS: And ISCB is very international. We have members and participants for more than 58 countries around the world. And I can tell you, my initial assessment-- which is not a fair assessment to all places around the world-- but the recommendation will be to livestream our distinguished speakers at 10 AM in the Eastern time zone, because at least that gives you the majority of someone being awake.
DIANE KOVATS: Yes, it is still 11pm in Japan,
DIANE KOVATS: and it's midnight in Australia in the month of July. But the solution from for those time groups-- so we will do a rebroadcast at 8:00 PM Eastern time, which is then their mid-morning, asking the speakers to come back in and join us in the chat room and in the question and answer function. So still a few more visions that I haven't exactly shared with [INAUDIBLE]. But I'm sure they will be great and they'll be able to execute them, because they've just been such a lovely partner through this whole thing.
DIANE KOVATS: How can we create the exhibit hall? And what do we do about the career fair? And how do we now integrate our birds of a feather sessions, which were small-group gatherings, kind of informal conversations into this experience? And then importantly, from a societal business standpoint, how do we execute the town hall? What is that going to look like, and how do we freeze all of the programming to allow us to do this?
DIANE KOVATS: So I would strongly encourage, as you're looking at your virtual options as well as your hybrid solutions, talk to your service provider about a on-demand feature. So once something is broadcasted or aired within your schedule, that it can be moved into an on-demand repository so you are servicing all of those time zones across the world, as well as those interests of your members for folks who may be dabbling in research in different areas and they want to see every talk.
DIANE KOVATS: So we will have an on-demand feature as part of this conference. Once it's scheduled and aired, then anything from there will be on demand. We were very fortunate that we were able to work out some programming on the platform that would even allow for the question and answer feature to still be activated throughout the entire course of our virtual program.
DIANE KOVATS: So we plan on having it for at least a week, maybe even longer, where anyone who has questions of the speaker, they can put it into chat, their question and answer function. It will immediately email the speaker, and then the speaker can email them back to continue the conversation for a little bit longer, because you don't have that opportunity as you would in person it to stay after and queue up in a line to ask the speakers.
DIANE KOVATS: So just some kind of very fast spoken thoughts. And when the next person goes, I'll try to add at least our mocked platform that we have kind of planned. It is our 2019 content that's part of the mock platform, but it'll at least give you a sense of how you would navigate the virtual interactions.
MONA HIDAYET: Great. Alexa, as the president of SIPS, what are the factors that you and the SIPS leadership are weighing as you consider the cancellation of the SIPS conference?
ALEXA TULLET: Thanks, Mona. So it was really interesting to hear Diane's description of the contingency plans that they have. So we have a meeting that is scheduled for the end of June, and we have not made an official statement about cancellation thus far. And I just wanted to sort of use this as an opportunity to discuss my thought process as we've gone through the last few weeks, and also the thought process of the other members of our executive committee, and how I've sort of adjusted to weigh different factors differently as we've gone through this process.
ALEXA TULLET: So I would say, as Diane mentioned, I mean, if you had asked me this kind of question two weeks ago, probably my answer would have been very different. And it's sort of interesting to be at this conference now given the of change of topic, because originally what I'd planned to discuss was the uniquely social nature of SIPS conferences. So like I mentioned, our conferences tend to be quite small.
ALEXA TULLET: So we usually have 300 to 500 attendees, and they're not primarily presentation-based. So we do have workshop sessions, which are mainly a presentation. One expert will explain some kind of technique or skill to people who are there listening. Usually it involves people having their laptops and learning some kind of technology or software or something like that.
ALEXA TULLET: But we also have hackathon sessions where people are interacting to solve a specific problem that's the goal of the sessions. So say, coming up with a new syllabus for Intro Psych that takes the replicability of findings into account. And these are very interactive sessions, so perhaps a little bit trickier to accomplish on an online platform.
ALEXA TULLET: And then another thing that's unique about the SIPS conference is that a lot of the programming occurs at the conference itself. So we have sessions that are programmed in advance, but then we have open slots for sessions that develop as the conference develops. So as people go to hackathons and workshops, the idea is that they interact with other people at the conference and they come up with new ideas or new questions and they then propose their own sessions that get added to the schedule as things go on.
ALEXA TULLET: So this, of course, would be a tricky thing for us to manage in a virtual way, but I don't think impossible. And so me and the executive committee, I think a few weeks ago, tackled this question of cancellation and contingency planning from-- well, I'll speak for myself. I came at this question from a sort of pragmatic perspective, where I was trying to balance or weigh the pros and cons of cancellation.
ALEXA TULLET: And my initial approach was to delay cancellation as long as possible while still trying to mitigate the costs of delaying, right? So of course, delaying introduces costs to attendees in terms of the uncertainty of whether they're going to be coming, uncertainty about their travel plans and their expenses, and then also of course, delaying can introduce costs for our society in terms of unrefundable costs.
ALEXA TULLET: But over the last-- yes, I would say a couple of weeks-- I've started to think about these things differently. So it's hard to sort of respond to all of the signaling that's going on. And sometimes you get conflicting signals about things like when travel bans will be lifted and when social isolation regulations will become less strict.
ALEXA TULLET: And this is maybe connected to the previous session on advocacy, but I've started to think of the society also having a role in creating that signaling. So by canceling the conference, we send a signal that is more than just responding to the rules governing travel and the rules governing social distancing, but also sort of, I guess we have an opportunity to send a message rather than just responding to the messages that we're getting, which are not always consistent.
ALEXA TULLET: So without drawing many conclusions, I wanted to throw that thought process out there. And I'm hoping that maybe people have comments or questions along these lines or the speakers have thoughts about how to weigh these different responsibilities and different factors.
MONA HIDAYET: We had a great question come in from the audience about addressing the different ways that you could do a virtual presentation that goes just beyond reading a paper. So Paco, can you chime in and let us know about some simple ways to coach those who are not familiar with presenting online and how to make it more effective?
PACO NATHAN: Certainly. Thank you. Yes, there are some really good ways to get that two-way street, that kind of feedback and interaction between the presenter or tutorial instructor and the audience. One of the simplest ways-- and actually, we did this a lot at Databricks when we were working at conferences-- is just to have a very simple poll, maybe a one question or two question, and have the speaker show interactive results on the screen.
PACO NATHAN: And what we used to do is we would wait until 75% of the audience had responded. And so it was kind of a peer pressure thing to get people to interact. But it's interesting, because it helps measure ideas, opinions, attitudes amongst the audience. And it also can reflect back to the members of the audience, what the group itself seems to think for consensus.
PACO NATHAN: One of the best tools that I've seen about this is from Colin Megill. It's called pol.is, P-O-L dot I-S. And that's actually been used at the national level in Taiwan for some of their electoral decisions. And also, I think that you really have to take into account how you handle moderation of comments, because so much of the audience part of the interaction is going to come through chat.
PACO NATHAN: It's super important to have people who are familiar with digital, with online collaboration, working with chat to be helping to moderate. And the kind of numbers that we've seen in previous work is actually not all that different than, say, teaching a university course. As a professor, you kind of learn that only about 15% of the people are going to raise their hand throughout a given class session.
PACO NATHAN: And online, we've seen very similar kinds of numbers. So a rule of thumb there is that for every 50 people attending, you need to have one person who is helping to do kind of a concierge mode. And so if you can get people who are part of the staff-- TAs, if you will, or concierge-- to go into the chat and help guide some discussions and build questions or consensus, much like we're doing here, that helps so much for the community-- with the added caveat that once you go online, you have online chat, it becomes much more subject to squeaky wheels, outliers, heckling, things like that.
PACO NATHAN: So the moderation becomes really important.
MONA HIDAYET: --a question for the audience, very good question-- interested in the financial implications of virtual events. Should they be free? And what are the implications of this? So Violaine, can you start by chiming in, giving us your opinion?
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: [INAUDIBLE], mostly thanks to the sponsors. So the idea was, OK, let's bring this to the community, because we really want to do this. But at the same time, the sponsors decided to go along with it and to give this to the community. I do think that sponsors can get value out of virtual events. It just may be something different than what they would have signed up for at a physical event.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So one thing that they're going to get-- one thing that you can offer sponsors is better statistics, for example. So they can see exactly who's attended which session and who was exposed to which type of promotional material on a website, and you can be more creative. You can give them the option to host videos on your website, and to create scheduling options so that attendees can interact with exhibitors the same way that they would at a conference.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: But I think overall-- and this crisis is probably going to change the way that sponsors are going to accept to really roll with this idea of sponsoring virtual events, which makes a lot of things possible when it comes to making the events free for attendees. That being said, that is not at all what is going to be done by everybody. And some conferences are very careful to say that they're not canceling their events but that they're making them virtual.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So the implication is that there's still going to be a registration fee, which is going to be either the same or a bit lower than it would have been to attend the physical event. But there is absolutely going to be a fee. And the event in that case is going to be recruited almost entirely. There is one other option that we have just learned about, which is the option to buy a package with all of the content, the presentations on-demand, in exchange for the registration fee.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So if the conference was canceled, there is a package that's being put together with recordings of all the presentations. You can either get a refund for your registration fee or you get access to that package. So that was a bit of a creative option, and it's optional. And it seems to be, apparently, getting a lot of take-up. That works really for medical societies who may have CME credits attached to those on-demand packages, because there's going to be a lot of appetite for getting those.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: I'm just going to take this as an opportunity to talk about the work that we have been doing before this crisis, which is talking to societies about how they were leveraging all this content. So that's what I want to say right now, is that conference content generally is really untapped. You have registration fees and sponsorship money that comes in for an event, but then you also get a lot of content out of that.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: And this is where the publishing folks within societies can help create pet products and packages with this content that is going to help monetize it. So for medical societies, it's going to be content that's used in education and CME. But in other cases, it could be content that is packaged up with proceedings or with other products that can be either sold into academic institutions or into hospitals, for example, for medical.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So there's quite a few ways to monetize the content that you're going to get after the fact. So that's also one thing to consider when you're trying to see whether your conference should be free or not now that it's virtual.
MONA HIDAYET: --effective. Diane, or Paco or Alexa, do you have any [INAUDIBLE] to add to what Violaine was saying about the financial implications?
DIANE KOVATS: Yeah, I think it's going to be very specific to your own organization. I mean, there are things that you have to take into consideration when you're looking at just the operational cash flow that is behind the organization, also the behavior of your members to decide if something's going to be free or need to have some type of a registration fee behind it. These are very challenging times, unprecedented times that we're facing.
DIANE KOVATS: And you can't expect 100% liability just gone. I mean, if you have the right clauses in place and you have event cancelation, bravo to you. You're going to come out of this a lot better than most. But I think we all have a duty to our organizations to make sure that we're doing our best to try to recover some of those financial losses without putting too much burden on the member. I was just in the chat earlier and I was like, the philosophy that I used as I was approaching this is you are going to pay, as the registrant, to come and present at the conference.
DIANE KOVATS: So why not still pay to present virtually? Your content is still being delivered. Your presentation is still being broadcasted. And Paco made a really good point, or maybe it was Violaine, about now we have a lot more data. So that headcount that's in that room, we can go back and say to any presenter, you had 50 people that watched your session, and then even watched it thereafter.
DIANE KOVATS: So I do think that assessment for the financial impact and what you should be doing has to be a much higher-level strategic discussion, as it affects the organization's operations. ISCB, we're very, very pro science, very, very open access science-- sometimes to our own detriment, that we give too much away for free and we don't really capture some of that potential revenues that could come with content.
DIANE KOVATS: But it's also part of our mission as an organization to have this science worldwide and open access and available to all. So our plan is still to charge for whatever this may look like, because we are still assessing all possibilities for this July meeting. But moving forward, I think it's giving us an excellent springboard of what we can do differently for other conferences.
DIANE KOVATS: Can there be a hybrid solution where you can come and watch the talks and not present, and it's potentially free if you're a member, or very, very low-fee? Will there be embargo periods for content that was captured before we release it free to our ISCB TV channel? Possibly. I think it's just a matter for us going through the steps and taking our time to kind of run the experiment, if you will, to see how the response is going to be from our members.
PACO NATHAN: I can add briefly, just-- and I'm actually a sponsor co-chair for [INAUDIBLE] going through a lot of these decisions right now. From the sponsor perspective, they have budgets. And they typically need to get some marketing message out. And they've scheduled, over the course of a year, how much they're going to spend on conferences. And so now, that's all thrown into turmoil. So there's definitely pressure on the sponsor side that they still want to contact people.
PACO NATHAN: Although most sponsorship-- I think it was already said, but most sponsorship is about in-person needs-- food and beverage, and venue and things like that, child care, et cetera. And so now the priorities really shift to, what kind of assets come out of the community during a meeting? The video, the transcripts of the video, annotations on the transcripts of the video. And also yeah, the data and the stats out of community, and the feedback from the community.
PACO NATHAN: These are all great assets. So however-- I find that in a lot of conferences, even really advanced technical ones that have the know-how, oftentimes video was just an afterthought. And I think to be effective online, you need to make video post-editing, making sure the audio quality is really good, making sure the transcripts take into account different accents and different domain vocabulary.
PACO NATHAN: These were all things that become much more pronounced now. And so this is where sponsors can come in and make that more of a premium. And kind of a footnote on this is what that means is the online conferences are also kind of starting to eat into a lot of the online training. We'll see more and more convergence there.
PACO NATHAN: So maybe think about the subsequent value of your conference material. How can it be pointed toward ongoing training?
MONA HIDAYET: Two limitations that come to mind are older members who may not be as tech-savvy as some of the younger members, and simply the ability to have an attention span to last as long as a physical conference would when you're doing it virtually. This is a question for everybody. But I'll start by asking you, Alexa, to chime in on those points.
ALEXA TULLET: --especially for a conference that has the format that [INAUDIBLE] has. So I think that when people are turning into a conference or any kind of meeting virtually, there isn't the same kind of social pressure to pay attention and to be involved. Maybe there are different barriers to people speaking up. So maybe different people speak up in-person than would online.
ALEXA TULLET: And then as you say, it also creates limitations in terms of who has the easiest access to the sessions. So people who have less experience with technology or less access to technology are then sort of excluded. So I mean, I don't have good answers to these questions. I think that in some ways-- so SIPS has quite a young membership.
ALEXA TULLET: And so in a way, at least-- this probably isn't a very generalizable solution. But part of what SIPS does is teaches, especially earlier career researchers, new skills that often do involve technology. So maybe for us-- and this might extend to other societies as well-- that part of the function of the conference can also be training on these types of platforms.
ALEXA TULLET: And that seems especially useful now. But also, I think that it's not clear how permanent some of these changes will be to the way that we conduct conferences and professional activities generally. So this kind of training, if it can be rolled into the conference format or included in some way-- maybe in some kind of introductory way-- could be useful not just as a sort of stopgap, but also as training that could carry forward to situations that probably we'll be in more and more often in the future.
MONA HIDAYET: Violaine, in your discussions with the societies you're working with, have the mitigation factors for attention span and older members and their ability to be tech-savvy, has that come up?
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: Not really in terms of older members, because I mean, that's kind of a blanket statement, to say that they're going to be less tech-savvy. I would say in terms of attention span, what matters-- we just wrote a piece on our website about this. It's important to remember that online is not going to be the same as when you're there physically. So trying to cram a three-day conference into a similar online conference seems like, counterproductive, because the internet does offer something beautiful, which is the ability to give asynchronous content.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So some somebody this morning, for example, was saying, is this going to be available online afterwards, because I missed the first half hour because I was in a conference call, or I had to help my kid with math or whatever it was? So you know that people are not in an environment where they're going to be captive and they're going to come in and out. But at the same time, that also means that they can consume the content on their own schedule.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So remembering that people, especially now, are having to juggle sometimes full-time homeschooling with a full-time job, and that everybody is just juggling with schedules. So almost nobody is going to sit at their computer for the entire day, or at least not three days. So having a mix of live content where discussions are possible-- so using chat rooms. I'm loving the chat room today.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: I'm thinking, like, this is great. I've never interacted so much with the attendees during the session. So I think that this is great, and having discussions and Q&As, et cetera. That's great. But then a long lecture, does that really need to be given live? Maybe there are opportunities to make that available on-demand so that you can give access to it to more people.
VIOLAINE IGLESIAS: So that's what I would say about attention span, is just give people more flexibility to watch whenever they want.
MONA HIDAYET: --concept that Diane was touching on. One question we have from the audience is that many societies and conferences are using their conferences to drive membership. How are your organizations or organizations you're working with planning to mitigate for this? Diane, do you want to start?
DIANE KOVATS: --that this is probably the one thing that is still keeping me up and giving me a lot of heartburn. I went back and I did the analysis of the flagship meeting and how many of those individuals during the registration process either renewed their membership or became members of the society. And it was about 30% of the attendance. So I am hopeful that most of our members have felt that ISCB is indeed their home community and they're going to have a spirit of giving in these times, and understanding that what we do is really important for the community and for the science, and they are going to renew their membership.
DIANE KOVATS: I try to put out a little thank you notes any time a new membership comes in over the course of the day. But we are also looking at launching, in succession with these hybrid and virtual meeting solutions, some other very purely tangible member benefits that we didn't have before. Our ISCB Academy webinar program are very focused talks that are a bit more engaging like this with our chat room that we're going to have at least two a month-- possibly 22 a month, because those are managed by our communities of special interest, and we have 22 of those now.
DIANE KOVATS: We are also putting together a training series very similar to what Alexa has that's focused on skill development for our postdoctoral trainees, our graduate students, those who may not have access to excellent training within their organization from around the world that will be available both live and as-live content, where individuals will actually be quizzed on some of the concepts that are coming out of that so that we can feel comfortable that they indeed are capturing and understanding that knowledge base that we're trying to provide.
DIANE KOVATS: And really, just focusing on other ways to engage members outside of the conference experience. I'm very hopeful and optimistic that when we come out of this, everyone is just going to thrive for human connection, and sitting down and finding that one tiny corner in the convention center, so all of our events are going to just be exploding and we'll be able to recover quickly. So I just keep holding onto that every single day, just knowing that when we do come out of this, we're just going to be better and stronger.
MONA HIDAYET: What are you doing to mitigate the fact that a lot of the membership is through conferences?
DIANE KOVATS: Mona, it wasn't clear who this was for. I'm kind of assuming Alexa.
MONA HIDAYET: Sorry, it must have cut off.
DIANE KOVATS: Who is this for, Mona?
MONA HIDAYET: This is for Alexa. I'm asking Alexa, yes, about the mitigation factors that come into place for membership.
ALEXA TULLET: Yeah, I mean, I think that my answer would be similar to Diane's. I think that this is something that we wouldn't be able to sustain for a long period of time. So the hope is that you can sort of create enough of a buffer to sustain a hit to things like membership and conference attendance once, maybe twice.
ALEXA TULLET: But continually moving forward, we would have to sort of rethink our business model if we had to accommodate things like this continually. And yeah, like Diane says, I think that as we move forward and in-person meetings are again possible, I'm hopeful that people will be craving that kind of in-person contact and connection.
ALEXA TULLET: And I think-- I mean, while I am amazed at what people are accomplishing on online platforms-- like, things that I never thought were possible are possible, and people are coming up with solutions to problems that I thought were unsolvable left and right. But then of course, I also do think that there's something valuable about being in the same place with people that we might not will always be the case.
MONA HIDAYET: Great. We only have a little under-- a little more than two minutes left. I'm going to direct this to Paco. It's the concept of a slow rollout for conference content, and spreading out everything over the course of a year, the sessions out over the course of the year. Can you speak to that, Paco, in a little less than two minutes we have left?
PACO NATHAN: Certainly. Real quick, so one practice that I've seen used really well by a number of different organizations-- again, mostly more technology sector-- is where they have a very deliberate combination of how they handle meetups on one hand and conferences on the other. And meetups tend to be smaller and more regional, and they can build up support toward a larger event. So you get your calendar out and do your planning, and you schedule a lot of meetups to sort of drive attention and buzz, and maybe try out some of the better talks in advance in smaller venues leading into a larger venue.
PACO NATHAN: And a lot of organizations that I'm aware of out of this conference space, I've seen them pivot very rapidly toward looking at that as a portfolio. So how can they boost their activity with meetups, now virtual meetups, and use that as kind of this slow rollout to lead to more of a centralized online conference at a later date? I think it's a really good way to look at it.
PACO NATHAN: If you are involved with meetups, you know that there's a lot of activity, a lot of interest. It's a great way to build up sort of long-tail topics and gauge where interest is. And as the meetups are typically a little bit more nimble, if you will, as far as being able to adjust to this online format, I definitely look toward that.
MONA HIDAYET: Great. Well, we have 20 seconds left. I'd like to take this time to thank you, Paco, Alexa, Violaine, and Diane for your time on this discussion. I found it very informative myself and look forward to our last session.