Navigating ASCO21 as a First-Time Attendee: Making the Most of Your Online Meeting Experience

May 03, 2021

By Natalie Holloway, ASCO Education, Science, and Professional Development

The ASCO Annual Meeting will take place as a fully online experience this year, and beginning June 4, attendees will have access to hundreds of sessions featuring cutting-edge oncology science and education. This sheer amount of options is enough to make even the most seasoned attendee’s head spin. With so many presentations and sessions at their fingertips, first-time attendees may be especially overwhelmed with where to start and how to build their schedule.

Jamie H. Von Roenn, MD, FASCO, a veteran ASCO Annual Meeting attendee and vice president of ASCO Education, Science, and Professional Development, walked through how she plans to build her ASCO21 schedule and make the most of her online meeting experience. The keys to making the most of your time and not “overloading” on content are to understand your priorities and to plan ahead, she said.

What advice do you have for a member who is participating in the ASCO Annual Meeting or in an online meeting experience for the first time?

JVR: Begin by reflecting on why you want to participate and what you want to accomplish during the meeting. Is your goal to increase your knowledge about a particular disease area? Is it to answer a question about the needs of a particular patient? Is it to learn more about where the research or science is headed in a particular topic area? Is it to gather career advice and to learn more about different types of oncology careers available? Or, is it to broaden your general oncology knowledge?

Once you have your “why,” you are ready to plan your schedule. The ASCO Annual Meeting has multiple overlapping sessions, making pre-planning an essential component of an effective meeting experience.

How can attendees make the most of their online ASCO Annual Meeting experience?

JVR: After you think through your goals for attendance, prepare to maximize your learning. Review abstracts of interest in advance of the meeting. The oral presentations will be more enlightening if you have already reviewed the presented abstracts and have thought about how the new data will impact practice or future research. Listen to the poster author’s audio session in advance of attending a poster discussion session.

Prioritize sessions with a live Q&A component. While the Q&A will be part of the post-meeting recording and available to learn from, the opportunity to ask your questions happens during the live session. Take advantage of this opportunity. This is true for live panel discussions
as well.

At the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting, case-based multidisciplinary discussions will be presented live with real-time polling and Q&A. Try one of these out. Attending different types of sessions gives you a broader, richer meeting experience.

With so much content available at once, how do you plan to prioritize the sessions and pace your learning?

JVR: The first content I view is that which will help prepare me for other sessions in my schedule. I plan to listen to the poster presentations that are related to the poster discussions I want to attend. As a feature unique to the online meeting experience, poster presenters now have the opportunity to upload slides and a brief audio presentation, in addition to the poster itself.

I plan to see as many of the live broadcast sessions, primarily abstract-based sessions, during the weekend of the meeting to allow me to participate in the live Q&A. I plan to watch the oral abstract sessions before I view the corresponding highlights session of a specific track. Finally, I save non-interactive education sessions for downtime during the meeting weekend, or for later when I have more time.

Many attendees have expressed that one of their favorite aspects of the in-person ASCO Annual Meeting experience is that they are away from their normal home or work environment and can fully immerse themselves in the science and education. Do you have any tips or tricks for how to minimize distractions and create a better at-home learning environment?

JVR: Planning, planning and more planning—for the meeting and for your life. I try to plan in downtime from the meeting for family and other responsibilities. Many of the education sessions can be easily watched at odd times without losing much context. When I have to balance family and the meeting, again, I try to participate in my highest priority sessions during the live presentations to be part of the discussion and save others for evenings and later in the weeks
that follow.

What features are you most excited about at ASCO21?

JVR: The new feature I am most excited about for this year’s Annual Meeting is the ability to participate in polls in real time as part of the case-based sessions. I am looking forward to the Opening Sessions and the lectures by 2020-2021 ASCO president Dr. Lori J. Pierce and Dr. Julio Frenk. I also love the ASCO Voices session—it never fails to inspire me and touch me.

Do you have any words of wisdom for attendees as they embark on their online meeting experience?

JVR: Allow yourself enough time. One of the benefits of an online meeting is the chance to rewind a presentation and stop and think about it, to come back to it and reconsider particular points. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you are wondering about something, there’s likely someone else with the same question. The more actively you engage, the more you get from the experience.

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