In the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to maximize communication in the scientific and medical community. In the context of academic meetings and conferences, there is the growing need for a set of guidelines secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the growing environmental and economic challenges that large academic and medical conferences face. These Virtual Meetings Best Practices were established in response to the scant evidence and guidance on the topic.
These best practice guidelines were developed from a scoping review of peer-reviewed literature, grey literature and lay literature. MEDLINE and Embase databases were scoped for relevant, non-duplicate articles. For lay articles, Google searches were utilized. The recommendations that comprise this document are a compilation of nonexperimental descriptive studies (e.g. case studies) and expert committee reports, opinions and/or experience of respected authorities, and lay articles.
We identified four phases of the meeting cycle: Pre-planning considerations, Planning, Accomplishing conference goals through execution, gauging Response and Engaging the target audience for future cycles (PrePARE). Akin to the Plan, Do, Study, Act Cycle of quality improvement interventions, this document is meant to drive meaningful initial and subsequent interventions in the meetings of the medical and academic community. This covers actions and preparation for registration, scheduling, speakers, attendees, event type, technology, monetization/marketing, dealing with disruptions, post-event deliverables, response and engagement strategies. Enhanced access to integrated, high-quality and efficient virtual meetings will establish a new norm as an effective alternative for innovative health research, education and information dissemination in orthopaedics and beyond.
Given the uncertainty of whether large in-person gatherings will be permitted, advisable or responsible later into the summer of 2020 and beyond, these guidelines will aid events being converted and scheduled as virtual-only meetings. As we move forward in the era of increased utility and utilization of virtual conferencing, these guidelines will serve as a benchmark and standard for surgeons in the field.