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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

New Options for Attending Professional Meetings

Published May 10, 2010 4:52 PM by Glen McDaniel

Over the years I have gone all over the country speaking at national, state and other meetings both for clinical laboratory scientists and others. In fact I just returned from presenting at the CLMA ThinkLab2010 meeting in Las Vegas.

As employers offer less in terms of allowances for education and travel, laboratorians have cut back attendance at national meetings because they have to pay a substantial part of their own expenses, and very often use their own valuable vacation time- in contrast to the old "professional leave" or "seminar attendance" that used to be commonplace years ago.

Presenters and organizers have also started doing business differently. No longer do attendees receive reams of handouts courtesy of presenters or organizers.More common is making presentations available on a website ahead of time and attendees can choose to print out (or follow along on their laptops) those sessions in which they are interested. Some meetings make DVDs and mp3 recordings of presentations available after the fact (sometimes for an additional fee).

Presenters used to tote around presentations on CDs  In the early days, I used to take 2 CDs in case on failed!. Now most of us use zip drives or simply access presentations directly from the Internet. Tools like Web 2.0 and Google Docs  are common place.

These are not just cost saving measures, but offer many advantages for all stakeholders as well.

There are many advantages to conducting virtual meetings and conferences over the Internet over face-to-face meetings.  These include the following:

Reduced travel time and costs. The cost of airfare, hotels, restaurant meals, travel time and incidentals can be eliminated. One meeting in Chicago a few years ago cost me $2100 on a fairly strict budget. 

Increased meeting participation. Geographic location does not restrict who can attend meetings.  Participation in an online conference, education session or impromptu web meeting can be based on a member's schedule, not their pocket book. For example, an individual may watch a session on their lunch hour and go straight back to work, rather than having to fly all the way across the country and taking several days off from work.

This option might even  increase the number of individuals "attending" professional meetings in the future.

Recordings of meetings more widely available.Web conferencing software allows web meetings to be recorded.  People who are unable to attend a meeting, conference or presentation can watch the recording at a later time or date.  Electronic media memorializes presentations in a more permanent and versatile format than paper handouts.

Taking advantage of web conferencing software. Online conferencing software provides the ability for multiple people to share application software and collaborate in the creation and manipulation of diagrams, text documents and so on.  In the future  a speaker (or multiple speakers) may not need to attend a meeting physically, but will be beamed in via big screen to attendees who can follow the presentation, ask questions and interact in almost the same way as if the presenter was standing at the front of the room.

Responds to the new economy. Web conferencing technology aligns with the economic trends that include the growth of domestic and international outsourcing, online integration via the Internet and globalization.

Improved quality of life. Because of other commitments, time constraints or lack of financing, many people prefer working from home and avoiding the hassles of out of town travel. Increasingly they will not have to choose between attending a conference and meeting other obligations at home and work. They can do both.

What do you think of this new trend in meetings?

3 comments

Years ago we used to get paid to go to conferences. We were encouraged to go. I remember years ago a lady in my lab even got a poor evaluation because she would not go to any conferences. We would go, come back and present an inservice for the lab. So the whole lab would benefit. Most of our expenses were paid. Then they paid less and less over the years. They tell us there is no education budget anymore. Now we have to pay our own way plus use up our vacation time.

Any suggestion to get the information to us is welcome. The problem is that online courses dont give the same networking. But I would rather do something over do nothing. I might be old school but I think it is important to keep up to date in the field. Too many of the younger folks dont even think that is important.

Jason L. MT(ASCP) May 28, 2010 12:29 PM
Atlanta GA

Alisa: Thanks for your comments. I think that as an educator you have a great opportunity to use cyber-presentations. As universities cut CLS programs, program directors can expand their student base by offering more programs through distance learning using current technology.

Students can access lectures at various times of the day based on their individual schedule. They can take advantage of learning delivered halfwway across the country-or even around the world. Educators can find new sources of revenue by reaching thousands of students they would not otherwise be able to reach in their physical classroom.  Anything from formal classes to seminars to national certification review/prep classes can be delivered this way.

I have my own biases that this might not be the best format to use to offer basic initial certfication learning; but that's open to debate. However, I am convinced that additional training ( e.g. MLT to MT/CLS bridge programs, MS, PhD, DCLS programs, SBB) can be delivered very suvvessfully  and more cost effectively by cyber learning- benefiting both the learner and the institution.

I am very optimistic that meeting planners will also see the wisdom of  incorporating cyber presentations into their meetings in the near future.

Glen McDaniel May 15, 2010 3:12 PM

I am attending a professional development seminar this week on using Web 2.0 in our classroom and delivery of our online MLT program. Using Web 2.0 tools provides a whole new level of possibilities for presentation and collaboration of laboratory professionals. I look forward to following your blog to see how you incorporate Web 2.0 tools into your delivery options. I agree that funds for professional development are at a premium.  I have attended the Clinical Laboratory Educator's Conference (CLEC) over the years but due to budget cuts I have not been able to attend now for two years. I have missed the opportunity to visit and collaborate with collegues but I do believe we will have to explore more ways to collaborate virtually as budgets continue to shrink.

Alisa, Medical Laboratory Technician - Instructor, McLennan Community College May 12, 2010 12:11 AM
Waco TX

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