Respondent demographic information and attendance format
A total of 279 delegates completed and returned the questionnaires, representing an 18.8% response rate. Table 1 shows respondent demographic and background characteristics. Participants varied in gender, ages, professions, and work locations. The participants also varied in the number of annual KSN meetings that they had attended previously. In terms of participants’ experiences with virtual conferences, approximately 70% of participants had prior experience, while 30% had no experience with them.
Approximately half of the respondents (n = 143, 51.3%) attended the conference as a non-presenter, while 136 (48.7%) were presenters for plenaries, oral abstracts, and posters. In the multiple response questions, 53.8% of the responders answered that they used a personal computer (n = 150), which were followed by smartphones (n = 116, 41.6%), laptops (n = 93, 33.3%), and tablets (n = 33, 11.8%) for attendance. Approximately two-thirds (n = 186) of the respondents attended the conference from their workplace, 63.8% (n = 176) attended from home, others attended while on a ride (67), and 2 attended from other places (coffee shop and hotel). Over the 3 day duration of the conference, 112 respondents (40.1%) attended 50-79% of the all sessions, 89 (31.9%) did more than 80%, 53 (19%) of 20 – 49%, and 25 (9%) of less than 20%.
Respondent perceptions of virtual conference
Table 2 summarizes the descriptive statistics for respondent perceptions of the virtual conference. Respondents showed positive perceptions of the convenience and accessibility of the virtual conference (Med = 3.0 (2.75:3.25)), and they were positive about the quality of planning and organization of the conference (Med = 3.0 (2.83:3.33)). Participants slightly agreed that there were sufficient opportunities for social exchanges among participants (Med = 2.67 (2.67:3.0)). Participant attitude toward the use of technology, including difficulties in using information technology, the Internet connection, and proper technical assistance, was also favorable (Med = 2.67 (2.67:3.0)), although this is a limited finding due to insufficient scale reliability (Cronbach’s α = 0.61). Participants were generally satisfied with the virtual conference (Med = 3.0 (3.0:4.0)), with excellent internal consistency of items (Cronbach’s α = 0.94).
Participants showed differences in their overall perceptions of the virtual conference across their backgrounds. Younger participants had more positive perceptions of the virtual conference than their older counterparts (H = 13.89, p < .01), and the longer they had attended the annual meetings, the less positive perceptions they had of the virtual conference (H = 30.67, p < .01). In more detail, the younger participants showed more positive perceptions in the convenience and accessibility, planning and organization, social exchange, and technology use scales (p < .05), but they did not show any difference in the overall satisfaction scale (p = .19). Furthermore, those who had prior experience with a virtual conference perceived it more positively (Z = 2.48, p < .05). Participant perceptions of the virtual conference also differed across professions; residents, fellows, and practicing doctors showed more positive overall perceptions than those of medical faculty (H = 22.63, p < .001). More specifically, participants differed in their perceptions across professions in the convenience and accessibility, planning and organization, social exchange, and overall satisfaction scales (p < .05), but did not differ in the technology use scale (p = .09). Still, there were no differences in participants’ overall perceptions across genders (Z = 1.88. p = .06).
Figure 1 represents participant preferences of the conference format. Approximately half of the participants (n = 139) preferred the virtual format, while 33% (n = 92) preferred the conventional format. Participant preferences for the virtual conference format were somewhat evenly distributed between asynchronous (n = 92, 32.9%) and synchronous (n = 81, 29.1%) modes, while 38% (n = 106) did not express any mode preference. Moreover, participant preferences for the virtual conference format differed slightly according to presentation type. For the delivery of plenaries, participants preferred the synchronous format (125, 44.8%) over the asynchronous mode (n = 77, 27.6%). For oral or poster presentations, 33% (n = 92) of the participants preferred the asynchronous format, and 29% (n = 81) favored the synchronous mode.
Participant preferences of the conference format differed across professions, where residents, fellows, and practicing doctors preferred the virtual format over the conventional one more than medical faculty participants did (H = 48.60, p < .001). Still, participants did not differ across professions in their preferences of the format of the virtual conference (i.e., asynchronous or synchronous modes) regardless of presentation type (H = 3.98, p = .70 for plenaries, and H = 9.65, p = .14 for oral abstracts or posters). Participant preferences of the conference format did not differ across age groups (H = .19, p = 1.00) or genders (Z = 1.31, p = .95). Nor did they differ in their preferences of the conference format between the group who had prior experience with a virtual conference and the group without such an experience (Z = .93, p = .36).
Respondents’ future projections of virtual conferences
Table 3 shows respondent projections for the future of virtual conferences. Respondents predicted that virtual conferences would become more popular (Med = 3.0 (3.0:4.0)). More than half of them (n = 165, 59.2%) disagreed with the statement that the need for a virtual conference would decrease after COVID-19 (Med = 2.0 (2.0:3.0)). They agreed that the virtual conference format would lead to more convenience and accessibility and help the meetings become more active and cost-effective (all Med = 3.0 (3.0:4.0)). A striking majority of the respondents (n = 272, 97.5%) agreed with the importance of technology for the successful implementation of virtual conferences (Med = 4.0 (3.0:4.0)). Meanwhile, over half of respondents (n = 148, 53%) agreed that there are still technical barriers to the successful delivery of a virtual conference (Med = 3.0 (2.0:3.0)).
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