|Ahead of print publication
IADVL–Delhi State Branch MID- CUTICON 2020: Setting a precedent with its semi-annual e-conference
Gulhima Arora1, Deepak Jakhar2, Sujay Khandpur3, Ishmeet Kaur2
1 Consultant Dermatologist, Mehektagul Dermaclinic, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Dermatology, North Delhi Municipal Corporation Medical College and Hindu Rao Hospital, New Delhi, India
3 Department of Dermatology, Leprology and STD, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
|Date of Submission||28-May-2020|
|Date of Decision||23-Jun-2020|
|Date of Acceptance||17-Jul-2020|
|Date of Web Publication||19-Sep-2020|
Department of Dermatology, North Delhi Municipal Corporation Medical College and Hindu Rao Hospital, New Delhi
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this URL:|
Arora G, Jakhar D, Khandpur S, Kaur I. IADVL–Delhi State Branch MID- CUTICON 2020: Setting a precedent with its semi-annual e-conference. Indian Dermatol Online J [Epub ahead of print] [cited 2020 Nov 1]. Available from: https://www.idoj.in/preprintarticle.asp?id=295459
The emergence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a pandemic has forced health authorities and organizations to cancel conferences and academic events across the world. Social distancing and stay-at-home measures as a step to minimize the spread of COVID-19 have prevented people from face-to-face interactions. Amidst this crisis, for learning to continue, organizations are now diverting from the conventional way of organizing conferences. Virtual online platforms are a new place to hold a meeting by and for the scientific community. With the advancements in technology, organizing conferences as webinars is now achievable and the learnings can be channelized to anyone. With this at hand, Indian Association of Dermatology, Venereology & Leprology, Delhi state branch (IADVL-DSB) decided to hold its summer conference, the mid-year Cuticon, as an e-conference on 17th May, 2020. The theme of the conference was ”Dermatology through Technology,” and the conference received a lot of appreciation from attendees across the nation and abroad. It was a first of its kind, path-breaking initiative by the team of the Delhi state branch. This article highlights the various aspects of holding an e-conference and how they were successfully applied to IADVL-DSB Mid Cuticon 2020.
| Format of the Conference|| |
An e-conference can have an asynchronous (pre-recorded videos), a synchronous (stream live presentations), or a mixed approach. For our conference, we chose the synchronous approach where speakers presented live. The program of the event was designed in a similar fashion as that of a conventional conference [Figure 1]a and [Figure 1]b. We wanted that the audience should be able to relate this online event with their previous experiences in physical conferences. The program was divided into various sessions. Each session had either short lectures, debates, or panel discussions. A tea break and a lunch break were given at appropriate intervals, to keep the interest of the audience alive.
|Figure 1: The conference theme (a) and conference program (b) for IADVL-Delhi State Branch MID-CUTICON 2020|
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We had one or two chairpersons moderating each session, and a master of ceremonies who conducted the proceedings of the conference. It was a 7-h conference, which began with an introduction, the welcome address by the president of the association, an invocation to the goddess of knowledge, Goddess Saraswati, and the virtual release of a newsletter. This was followed by the scientific programme. A vote of thanks was delivered at the end.
| Registration for the Event|| |
The event and scientific program were disseminated through various social media platforms, emails, and digital dermatologist groups as well as in the various IADVL groups. The conference was open to delegates who were provisional, associate or life members of IADVL. No registration amount was charged from the delegates, but registration was mandatory to attend the conference. A registration link was provided, which took the delegates to the registration page. Registration could be done by providing the name and contact details along with the IADVL membership number [Figure 2]. It could be done prior to the start or anytime during the conference. We had over 3,100 logins, which well surpassed the numbers in a physical conference.
| Platform for Hosting the Event|| |
Our information technology (IT) team enlisted various online platforms suitable for holding the event. After discussing with the team, we decided on a twin ZOOM platform, with a separate interface for the speakers and delegates. This ensured a better bandwidth at the speaker interface and no interference from the delegate interface. We wanted a platform with which the speakers and delegates were familiar with. In addition, ZOOM allows a smooth interface with multiple speakers from many locations to be accommodated at the same time and facilitates a connection with a large number of participants [Figure 3]. The delegates can engage with the speaker by texting their questions in the ”chat box.” The audio and video inputs of all the faculty and delegates could be controlled from host-end, ensuring a smooth conduct of the proceedings. The presentations were planned to be projected through screen sharing.
|Figure 3: Delegate interface/screen showing presentation and faculty members|
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Test run two days before the conference
For a smooth coordination and to familiarize the speakers and chairpersons with the flow of the conference, a test run was planned 2 days prior to it, to simulate the event. During the test run, the support and technical teams were also present. Any improvements, modifications or technical difficulties were discussed then and there. It was very important to check the quality of the audio-visual, brief the presenters about the software and to try and minimize IT issues during the conference.
| Presentations and Panel Discussions|| |
There were 10 sessions in total, with six didactic lectures and four illustrious panel discussions. The topics included those from clinical dermatology as well as aesthetics and LASERS. There were 42 faculty members including speakers and chairpersons. Two separate interfaces were created: one for the delegates, where they could view the presentation as well as the speakers and put up their queries in chat-box; and second for the interaction of the faculty, organizing team and technical team, for smooth coordination.
The delegates were encouraged to put up their written questions during the sessions. Each question was then put forward to the speaker or panelist by the master of ceremonies, to whom they were routed.
An educational grant toward expenses for the conference was sought from 15 pharmaceutical companies. Their presence and contributions were highlighted in the form of filler slides with their company logos and product brands in between sessions and during the breaks. Each of the companies was mailed an e-certificate for their participation in the first of its kind e-conference.
| Appreciation for the Faculty|| |
Both the speakers as well as the chairpersons were given e-certificates for their contribution, and a gift voucher was mailed to them as a token of appreciation.
| Challenges|| |
An overwhelming positive response was received after the conference from dermatologists across the country. It was a new experience for all members of the team, exciting yet challenging. Our internal analysis (during and after the conference) brought out several key issues. Most important was the internet connectivity. For an adequate video and audio experience, the speaker and the delegate should have an adequate internet connectivity, broadband width, and speed at their respective ends. A poor connectivity can cause a loss of interest among the delegates. In our test run, we ensured that each of our faculty had a good connectivity for the smooth conduction of the conference and those who had problems were suggested solutions. The professional one-to-one interaction between the faculty and delegates was not possible through this medium. Parallel sessions could not be planned, as it shall require more sophisticated technology. CME credit points could not be sought, as there was no such provision with the state council for an e-conference. The delegates who registered during the conference could not be verified during the proceedings, and the link needs to be more robust to ensure a targeted audience.
| Future Recommendations|| |
Virtual medical conferences on a large scale is a newer concept and it is always better to keep a checklist at hand before organizing one [Table 1]. An effective pre-planning and coordination between the organizing team and IT team is vital. The platform for holding such events should have a dynamic interface, support cross-device access, providing adequate opportunity to speakers and delegates to engage in a lively discussion. Investment in good internet speed with adequate bandwidth is most essential, as they decide an uninterrupted delivery of the efforts of speakers and organizing team. These can be assured with a rehearsal between the organizers 2–3 days prior to the actual date. Lastly, scientific content will decide the success of such an event. More interactive sessions rather than didactic lectures are expected to be better at keeping the interest of delegates alive.
| Conclusion|| |
Advanced online communication technologies have given us an opportunity to continue learning through online platforms, which was not possible a decade ago. Given the clear benefits, the scientific community should embrace it with open arms. The elimination of travel cost, conference cost, and access to knowledge from anywhere in the world, from the comfort of one's home, are some of the distinct advantages offered by virtual conferences. They may not replace physical conferences completely (socializing and networking one-to-one), but they would definitely play an adjunctive role in spreading knowledge. Recognition by various medical councils by way of providing CME credit points for these digital conferences shall help ensure wider participation and their recognition as a medium of formal medical education.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]