Let’s Meet!

photo of Nivedita Agarwal
Nivedita Agarwal, M.D., 2023 Program Chair

Let’s meet!

Yes, this is the blog for which you are all waiting. The decision took some time because it is not an easy one.

The pandemic has made it very clear that we are not going back to pre-COVID times and what would otherwise be Plan B, now needs to become our new Plan A!

We all now expect meetings to have an online component whereby registrants can participate online and can also interact with the onsite attendees, speakers and authors. Clearly, there is a growing urgency to create sustainable meetings, one of the priorities on our President’s agenda!

In the last three years, we have had to convert from a total onsite meeting to a total online meeting, then we tested our first hybrid meeting in London. Both formats were very well attended which shows that we love our ISMRM Annual Meetings and will attend them no matter what! But it is not sufficient to attend a meeting, it is more important to have a fulfilling experience.

So, what’s best for our Society going forward? Instead of going with MY preference, we asked you, the members of the Society. In early June we sent out a survey with a number of questions. Below, I share some of the salient responses regarding meeting format preferences, here (by the way, 75% of the respondents are in the millennial age group!).

  • 75% of the respondents participated onsite in London and were extremely satisfied. The primary reason for attending onsite for trainees was to present their work and to discuss science “face to face” whereas for full members it was to meet their colleagues and to discuss work in person.
  • The primary reason for attending online was due to ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions.
  • With regards to Toronto meeting, 81% of the respondents are likely to attend the meeting onsite. Importantly, less than 5% plan to attend the meeting online only.

Raw survey results regarding the annual meeting can be found on the Member Announcements page. Your member log-in is required.

The preferences are quite clear but also require that we introduce several changes. We also need clear definitions of words such as “hybrid”, “interactive” and “meeting” as these can be very different for several people. We have started to institute them, but these cannot be done overnight. We have decided to make small changes during each Annual Meeting to come up with the best format that will make all of us happy.

But, this is my take. A meeting is a “meeting”, right? When you are at the conference you bump into people, you search for legends in your field, you stop for a coffee and discuss projects, you are inspired by stories, you meet with industry, you build collaborations, you visit new places, and you are focused, dedicated to your research and clinical practice. You party with everyone and feel the extraordinary energy of the 6000 + international members who do similar science. This is the strength of an in-person meeting.

Next year in Toronto we have decided to build an onsite event, but with comprehensive live streaming of all talks. We will meet to listen and interact with our carefully hand-picked speakers in over 90 educational sessions. Speakers want to meet us, too, and so all scientific presentations will be presented onsite. We are building in more discussion time with our authors so you can meet them in person. Importantly, all scientific presentations (with the exception of posters) and educational talks will be broadcast live. And, if you are worried about the carbon footprint, watch for the President’s initiatives for next year on how ISMRM is determined to pave the path for more sustainable meetings.

An important benefit of the meeting redesign is that it will dramatically reduce registration fees for on-line attendees. Combined onsite and fully interactive online meetings, including remote presenters, are not cost-effective because we essentially build two parallel meetings, effectively doubling the cost. By broadcasting all material live, remote participants will have full access to all of the amazing scientific and educational material presented in Toronto. Online attendees will be able to use the “chat” function on the online platform so they may interact with all of the speakers.

All attendees, including in person and online participants, as always, will have full access to all materials that are recorded and archived on the ISMRM website.

We are still working out all the details, so again don’t grumble yet! Your suggestions are needed, so please write to me at nivismrm@gmail.com.

Have a good day y’all!

Nivedita (Niv)
Program Chair 2023