Virtual Vs In-person Conference: The reality of our times

Categories: Featured and Opinion.

Author: Dr Seema Rao

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to move on to a virtual world and every organization is discovering the joys of connecting in the digital space.   As more and more events getting shifted to virtual platforms,   the question arises, which platform is better?

While virtual conferences are cost-effective and convenient, can they replace the excitement of networking and the comraderies of in-person events.  As a faculty, I missed meeting my friends, networking with them, meeting colleagues from around the world.  I missed the hustle-bustle of the conference hall, the riot of colors with everyone dressed to impress, and the aroma of food.  I missed the lively academic discussions at lunch time.  I missed the  immersive event experience that I enjoyed in the previous years. How can it replace the joys of travel and the pleasure of emotional boding?  For many of us who are used to in-person interactions and live audiences, virtual lectures are a daunting task.

While erasing the geographical boundaries, the boundaries between the personal and professional space is also obliterated in the virtual space .  While we listen with full attention during in-person conference, the virtual space is laden with distractions.  The communication disconnects and technical errors of the virtual space can be frustrating.  Zoom exhaustion and fatigue has become commonplace today.  Yet, in the current scenario the digital space has been a lifesaver.  It has allowed us to remain connected and helped us to restore some normalcy in a world otherwise gone topsy turvy.  Virtual conferences are the need of the hour, but only until such time as we are able to meet again in-person.

The IAPCON 2021 (a virtual conference, commenced on 19th March 2021), is a case in point.  Born out of necessity of the times, the idea to conduct a virtual conference was met with lot of misgivings.  Putting all apprehensions to rest the team at Patna rose up to the occasion to make it a huge success.   The conference retained the flavor of the scientific sessions, the infotainment and the quiz kept the virtual audiences engrossed, and allowed record number of participants from across the globe to be part of this scientific fest.

The hybrid format of pre-conference workshops has been a great success and probably something we can plan for the future, not only for conferences but also for training programs.  The idea to take forward is “to be stubborn about one’s goals, but to be flexible about the methods to achieve that goal.”

(The author, Dr Seema Rao is  a Senior Consultant at the Department of Palliative Medicine& Supportive Care, Kasturba Medical College and Hospital, Manipal)