The KURe Multidisciplinary Benign Urology Research Day had traditionally been a live event on Duke’s campus. This year, it was scheduled for April 24, 2020, and with scientific meetings either canceling or postponing around the country, the dedicated planning team chose to virtualize their event. With only one month to pivot, they successfully transformed this day long meeting into a virtual educational experience on Zoom.

As always, keynote presentations and panel discussions featuring nationally recognized researchers were offered. Other popular and beneficial aspects of the live conference are the networking and discussions with experts during conference breaks and the traditional Lunch with Experts.  To maintain this tradition at the virtual conference, the trainees were surveyed about the experts they would like to meet, and they were then pre-assigned to virtual breakout rooms with selected experts during the conference lunch break.

While still allowing Duke and national trainees the opportunity to highlight their research, the poster sessions also underwent a major transformation.  They were redesigned into Flash Talks, composed of a 2-minute pre-recorded PowerPoint presentation followed by a 1-minute live virtual Q&A. The Flash Talks were grouped together into morning and afternoon Zoom sessions with back-to-back talks presented to all attendees. The format proved to be an efficient mechanism to present, while the Q & A time afterwards facilitated excellent interaction between the presenters and audience.  Outstanding Flash Talks were recognized in the areas of basic science, clinical studies and translational medicine.  Judges evaluated the presentations using standardized score sheets, and winners were announced at the end of the day.

What were the event goals? How did going virtual impact these goals?

By focusing on the goals of networking and education as the event was redesigned, we were able to deliver effective education and provide unique opportunities for interaction. The virtual format resulted in more than double the usual number of abstracts submitted by post docs, fellows, residents, and medical students from 23 academic institutions.  Quarantine and travel restrictions, along with the virtual format, also resulted in greater conference attendance.  The day-long meeting attracted more than 100 participants from a variety of scientific subspecialties across the country.

What resources, skills and partners were used in creating this virtual event?

Being one of the first virtual conferences, this team had to learn a lot in a short amount of time and they did a fantastic job!  We had no technical issues because of their planning, preparations and practice. Of course, when presenting a virtual conference there are things that can happen that you cannot control.   I believe having a team and dividing responsibilities is important.  Behind the scenes, we needed support staff to manage the playback of the recordings, ensure efficient transitions from one presenter to the next, and move attendees into breakouts. Even when speakers are familiar with the format, sending them detailed instructions prior to the event and having backup moderators proved to be helpful.  And practice, practice, PRACTICE!

What is our next virtual event challenge?

We are now working on a Visiting Professor conference, as well as Regional and National CME conferences.

Special thanks to Program Director, Dr. Cindy Amundsen and her organizing team; Friederike Jayes, PhD, Rebecca Kameny, PhD and IT analyst Paul Gibilisco, for all their work to make this event a success.


Virtually yours,

Robin Phillips

CME Program Coordinator

Duke Section of Surgical Disciplines

Office of Continuing Medical Education


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Kathy Wright and Kaitlin Briggs, Editors