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Do You Really Want Virtual Meetings?

Since 2020, there has been an increasing demand for presentation and attendance opportunities in a virtual format. Members wishing to engage with ASIS&T but unable or unwilling to travel have let us know that they would participate and engage with ASIS&T virtually if we created opportunities to do so. For this reason, we have made every effort to create various virtual presentation and attendance opportunities. From the ASIS&T webinars to the 24-Hour Global Conference to virtual posters and workshops at the 2022 Annual Meeting, there have been numerous ways for members to participate with ASIS&T education from the comfort of their home or office without having to travel or address any safety concerns related to attending a face-to-face meeting.

However, we have found that the level of engagement in these virtual opportunities is considerably less than what we were led to believe it would be based on the demand for them. The 24-Hour Global Conference never had more than 40 people online at one time. The virtual posters were only attended by nine people who were not presenting posters. Virtual workshops were better attended but still less attended than what we saw in 2020 or 2021.

These trends seem to suggest that while the idea of a virtual meeting is appealing to those that are unable to attend face-to-face functions, the reality of actually attending the event is less appealing due to competing priorities in the office or at home. There also seems to be a perception that online educational offerings should be free because they “cost nothing to produce.” This could not be farther from the truth. Online events require more staff time than face-to-face meetings. They require an investment in software and, occasionally, hardware to ensure the delivery of the content. They require editing of recordings and consulting support to ensure a good participant experience. While the per-attendee cost may be less than a face-to-face meeting where we have food and beverage costs, virtual meetings certainly cost the association a considerable amount to produce. They cannot be offered for free, nor should they be. The content has value.

For those of you who have strongly requested virtual options related to the annual meeting, we have developed the Mid-Year Conference as a means for you to present your research and learn from others in a fully virtual format. This meeting, which will take place April 11 through 13, 2023, is intended to be a virtual alternative to the face-to-face Annual Meeting which takes place in late October and early November. The submission deadline for the 2023 Mid-Year Conference is December 13.

Once the submissions are received and before they are reviewed, the Board will make a final decision as to whether or not to hold the conference. If there are insufficient submissions to ensure a rigorous academic conference, we may be forced to decide to not make further investment in this virtual meeting.

The purpose of this article is to remind ASIS&T members that we cannot produce a high quality meeting without high quality submissions in ample number to allow for a rigorous review. And the value of the meeting itself depends largely on the people who attend it. If the membership wants virtual presentation and attendance opportunities, then it is incumbent upon the members to submit content for the meeting and to attend the meeting when it takes place. Without sufficient submissions or attendance, it is impossible to justify continuing to offer virtual meetings for a small fraction of our membership. So again, the deadline for the Mid-Year Conference is December 13. The call for proposals is available here. Please submit and please attend so that we can continue to offer this and similar events in the future.