FASEB Successfully Hosts Its First Virtual Conference 


When FASEB asked co-organizers Tom Lane, PhD, and Ben Segal, MD, to redesign their Translational Neuroimmunology Conference as a virtual meeting, they weren’t sure how it would work. But now, with the books closed on the conference, the news is good, including registration numbers that more than doubled those of their previous in-person conference.

“It was great. It was so much easier than I had originally anticipated, and that’s because of the support we received from FASEB,” says Lane, Professor, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at UC Irvine, about the two-day meeting that took place June 29-30.

Lane said the two organizers were also pleased with the work of the technology company that supported the conference participants behind the scenes. “They were very easy to work with and very clear in their instructions,” says Lane, noting that the biggest challenge they had was scheduling speakers across time zones.

And the reactions of student participants, who made up 40 percent of the 178 virtual attendees, reflected their satisfaction. “I think the postdocs and the graduate students enjoyed the talks and the Q&A channels,” says Segal, Chair, Department of Neurology, Director, Neurological Research Institute, and the Gilbert and Kathryn Mitchell Professor of Neurology at The Ohio State University. “The poster session went pretty well. I think they also enjoyed the way people were being informal and real in their conversations.”

An early sign of the success of the conference was Lane’s email inbox, which was full of positive comments from speakers and participants. “The responses that Ben and I received from the invited speakers and students were overwhelmingly positive,” he says.

In the end, both organizers feel that the virtual setting accomplished a lot of what the in-person meetings do, certainly more than they had anticipated. “To have a successful conference,” says Segal, “you need to know what good science is. You want to be focused and have an intense relay of information and new voices. Overall, I think we did that.”