Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the usual spring meeting season for medical societies never got started. In San Francisco, all events hosting more than 1000 people were prohibited. As a result, the 2020 annual ASRA regional anesthesiology and acute pain medicine meeting was cancelled.
However, there were nearly 400 scientific abstract posters submitted to the meeting and posted online. For so many registered attendees, the ASRA meeting was an opportunity to share their latest research and medically challenging cases with their colleagues and solicit feedback.
There was no way to preserve the complex structure of an ASRA meeting (e.g., workshops, plenary lectures, problem-based learning discussion, networking sessions), but a moderated poster session was feasible using common videoconferencing applications. The Chair of the 2019 ASRA spring meeting, Dr. Raj Gupta, took it to the next level by using StreamYard to simultaneously broadcast the video feed to multiple social media platforms (e.g., Twitter/Periscope, Facebook, YouTube). In addition to accessing the livestream for free, participants could make comments and pose questions to the speakers and moderator through their social media applications.
Dr. Gupta hosted 6 sessions, and these were archived on YouTube for later viewing. As an example, here is one session focused on regional anesthesia abstracts in which I participated:
Although it was disappointing to not have an ASRA spring meeting this year, something good came out of it. The livestreamed poster discussions were an innovative way to showcase the science and educational cases as well as leverage social media to attract a global audience. Since medical conferences may never completely return to pre-COVID normal, embracing technology and incorporating online sessions should be considered by continuing medical education planners going forward.
Live tweeting during a scientific conference offers many benefits. For attendees at the meeting, it allows sharing of learning points from multiple concurrent sessions. This also decreases the incidence of “FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)” since you can only be in one session at any given time but can learn vicariously through others. For your Twitter community outside the meeting venue, your live tweeting can help to disseminate the key messages from the conference to a broader audience and ultimately may facilitate changes in clinical practice.
Here are a couple of my own general rules to tweet by:
Register your scientific conference hashtag on Symplur. This gives you access to free analytics and transcript services for a limited time.
Be sure to use the correct conference hashtag and include it in all your tweets related to the conference. This is probably included in your conference materials or emails from the organizer. The hashtag allows others to easily find your tweets related to the conference and include your tweets in transcript summaries after the conference is over.
Go for quality and not quantity. It is too difficult (and unnecessary) to give a phrase-by-phrase reproduction of a speaker’s entire lecture. Remember that you are primarily in attendance to learn, so make sure you spend most of your time listening and not tweeting. Consider summarizing two or three salient points into one tweet or tweeting photos of slides with a short commentary to provide context to your Twitter community.
Give credit where credit is due. Do a little homework before tweeting. If a speaker has a Twitter handle, include it in your tweet. If the speaker references a relevant article, find the link and include it in your tweet. These elements make your tweet more informative to the reader and may increase the likelihood of its being retweeted or generating further conversation on Twitter.
Don’t say anything in a tweet that you wouldn’t say to someone in public. Healthy debate is one of the best parts of scientific conferences, but keep the discussion on Twitter clean and professional and of course protect patient privacy and confidentiality.
Edward R. Mariano, MD, MAS, FASA is a physician specializing in anesthesiology, professor, husband, and father working to improve pain control, outcomes, and the overall experience for patients having surgery