I was part of the organising team for the recent National GP ACF Conference (2020) in Bristol. I took on the role of finding, purchasing, configuring, deploying, and supporting a software package to use at the conference. There are a lot of potential tools on the market, ranging in price from free to many £thousands. I settled in the end on a tool by a company called “Whova”.
Our core goal initially was to remove the need for a paper programme (in keeping with the overall aim to make the conference more environmentally sustainable). It quickly became apparent that there were many other potential benefits in using a digital tool at the conference including: live polls and announcements, uploading and storage of posters and talk slides, and opportunities for attendees to communicate with each other
The live polls (shown on the big screen) added a sense of drama to the debate in a way that trying to count hands wouldn’t have done. The rating tool was also used heavily by attendees to score the speaker presentations which allowed the committee to choose the prize-winning talks easily and hopefully with less bias. Announcements enabled us to immediately update attendees of room and time changes and got lost property back to its owners. I was also pleasantly surprised at how often the app was used by attendees to communicate with each other and how even the less technically aware were able to use it fairly easily.
After the event, I received a downloadable report which, among a lot of statistical facts, showed that 80% of people who were registered as attendees at the event downloaded the app. This number, while reassuringly high, also highlights a few issues; firstly, the tickets weren’t purchased through the app and the translation between the ticket software and the app, while fairly seamless, resulted in a few ‘ghost’ attendees and a few people being missed off. Secondly, while the app was fairly intuitive, there will still be a proportion of people who will be disadvantaged by their dislike, disdain or fear of “tech”. Our robust debate on AI in medicine also highlighted this:
When is the right time to embrace (tech) solutions that work well for the vast majority of people but exclude a small minority – especially when that minority might have the greatest need?