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10 Reasons to Attend Live Medical Conferences

More than two years have passed since COVID-19 arrived and disrupted live medical conferences. Virtual conferences became the norm, and here we are with COVID-19 infections on a significant decline. Is this the time to return to live conferences?

Virtual conferences will certainly be part of our future for a number of reasons including convenience and saving time and expense on travel. However, I want to remind us why live medical conferences are still superior. From their unique educational benefits to their networking advantages, here are 10 reasons why you should consider live conferences:

1. It’s an opportunity to meet colleagues and to develop new friendships.

This applies to audience members as well as speakers. Live conferences are not only a social opportunity, but an opportunity to compare notes regarding difficult diagnoses and emerging therapies. Medical care varies from region to region in the U.S.; let’s learn from each other and break those regional barriers!

2. You and your family deserve a break from the strain of the past two years.

When was the last time you traveled? Many live conferences take place in scenic, family-friendly locations throughout the U.S., so why not combine a few hours of education into your plans and enjoy the rest of the day with your family?

3. Audiences prefer interactive sessions.

Staying engaged and invested in the program is much easier at a live conference rather than in a virtual environment. Virtual environments have the significant challenge of keeping their audience engaged, and if a speaker isn’t practiced in these techniques, they can quickly lose a virtual audience.

4. Questions in live environments can naturally lead to related questions.

Oftentimes, I have seen one audience member’s question lead to another audience member opening up about personal relevant clinical experiences. When audience members reveal these personal experiences, and when carefully curated by the speaker, these unique scenarios offer long lasting memories for the audience and provide value that’s rarely seen in virtual environments.

5. Live conferences make you think on your feet.

In a live conference, there’s a rush of adrenaline when a question is asked and you are physically there, facing the speaker and trying to answer the question. This is a feature of live education that’s lost in a virtual setting, as the audience can easily tune out.

6. Live conferences offer the opportunity for follow up.

Live conference discussions often lead to additional questions that audience members feel more comfortable discussing with the speaker privately. In a live conference environment, the audience can easily follow up with these questions following the presentation, but this becomes difficult when it comes to virtual conferences.

7. Audience feedback is scarce in virtual conferences.

Most of the time, a live speaker and their audience have never previously met. I’ve often found that depending on the level of responses, that my lecture may either be sped up or slowed down. This can be seen in not only the responses, but the faces of the audience. Oftentimes, if there are blank stares, I’ll add additional questions to gauge understanding of the topic.

Adjusting lecture speed becomes much more problematic in virtual conferences.

I also want to engage as many audience members as possible, but sometimes only a few members answer all the questions. Seeing this unfold, I will often say, ‘let’s give the rest of the audience members a chance to respond,’ and others will speak up and get involved with the discussion.

8. Live conferences are more fun!

Which is more fun, a live or virtual conference? You guessed it, the relaxation and enjoyment at live conferences increases retention and engagement. Plus, jokes are much better received live than they are virtually—when was the last time there were a bunch of belly laughs at a virtual event?<

9. Audiences feel more comfortable speaking up at live conferences.

I always start my lectures with a hearty and memorable introduction. The next thing I say is that if there are any questions, the audience can stop me right there and ask the question. It is likely that others in the audience have the exact same question, but are afraid to ask. In my experience, this is much easier to accomplish in a live conference where there is a face-to-face community, instead of small images on a screen.

10. Speakers hone their skills at conferences.

Responding to questions in real time provides important feedback to speakers regarding audience comprehension. This helps them adjust their materials as they go, but these cues such as yawns, newspapers, and cell phone use may never be noted in virtual conferences. In live conferences, this has occasionally happened to me and when it does, it lets me know my presentation is due for a major rewrite.

What’s the take home message? Virtual conferences can be good, but live conferences are great! For maximum educational benefit, knowledge retention, and fun, there’s little question that live medical conferences stand out.

Dr. Peter Buch is a clinical gastroenterologist with over 35 years of teaching experience. He is an Associate Professor (Community Based) at: University of Connecticut School of Medicine, University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, and the Frank H Netter, MD School of Medicine. Dr. Buch is a well-regarded national speaker who has presented hundreds of conferences. His style is case based, practical, very interactive and fun. Most importantly, he ALWAYS learns from his audience. You can find Dr. Buch online at, or listen to his medical podcast on ReachMD.

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