Although certain aspects of large science meetings are complex even in person, the truth is that virtual meeting platforms can deliver just about any aspect of major science meetings, from poster sessions to breakout sessions to public addresses. And they can do it without requiring participants to become technology experts themselves.

Below are some of our ideas for addressing potential challenges to holding large virtual meetings.

Closed Breakout Sessions

Professional meetings need to transition from large open sessions to private breakouts. In virtual meetings, the host can move participants to the right locations without prompts or invitations (and no doubling back while puzzling over a hotel map).

Challenge: I need to host a Steering Committee (SC) breakout at a virtual conference with 50 attendees.

Solution: SC members can be moved by the meeting host into a private session, where they cannot be observed or reached by other conference participants. If the SC needs to talk with a Principal Investigator (PI) at a key moment, the PI can be pulled in mid-session and exit when done.

Challenge: My agency is running a large staff meeting with multiple divisions that need to talk privately.

Solution: Division staff can be placed by the meeting host into breakout groups and pulled back into the large meeting when breakout discussions are complete.

Integrated Webcasting

Certain government meetings must be open to public observation. A virtual meeting planner can creatively integrate technologies to develop multiple levels of access that do not require any special accounts or technological know-how.

Challenge: My Institute Director is giving an address to faculty and staff that will be open to the public.

Solution: The Director can deliver the video address, faculty and staff can ask questions in a dedicated chat, and the entire event can be webcasted to a potentially infinite general public audience.

Poster Sessions

Poster sessions are one of the most intricate and interactive parts of a science meeting, equal parts presentation, Q and A, and mixer. With some creativity, a virtual poster session can deliver the same experience.

Challenge: I have a large group of presenters who want to be able to talk face-to-face, not via chat.

Solution: Presenters can use a combination of video and virtual meetings to get most of the face-to-face features of a poster session held live.

Challenge: I have a group of presenters who need a host to manage their sessions for them.

Solution: A small group of presenters can view a curated set of posters at one common entry point that is set up and controlled by a host.

If you have a different challenge, our team would be excited to help you solve it. We know that science requires more than data; it requires bringing scientists together—in face-to-face interactions that support fully shared thinking and inquiry across large communities. With creative thinking and technical support, virtual meeting platforms can support the kinds of interactions that move science forward.