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As Digital Posters Take Over, Traditionalists Push Back

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Digital posters have become popular at medical meetings in the form of kiosks, oral presentations, and moderated sessions, but some meeting attendees are concerned about the loss of traditional poster boards, which could be the key to networking.

Electronic poster session at ACC 2022.

Electronic posters or e-posters are not new; The American Society of Cardiology (ACC) began integrating moderated e-poster sessions into its poster mix in 2014, as did the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) years before the pandemic.

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“Due to COVID, everyone has had to get used to existing technology,” said Richard Rettenbacher, Ph.D., COO of CTI Meeting Technology, which organizes meetings mainly for medical and scientific associations.

It is now widely believed that digital programming and hybrid meetings are here to stay. The dozen or so stations typically set up for moderated digital poster sessions at the ACC allow “wide exposure to a range of [researchers]…and it can be easily converted into a virtual format,” said Douglas Drachman, MD, chair of the 2023 and 2024 annual scientific sessions.

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Blank posters on the last day of the meeting.

The use of electronic posters means that presenters can upload files—often with commentary—and don’t have to carry poster tubes with them when traveling, eliminating the so-called poster mule role often relegated to junior lecturers. Other reasons why digital versions are preferred, according to meeting organizers, is that they don’t require as much labor, materials, or space in convention centers. Paper is not wasted. Electronic posters are not static, which they say is good for both presenters and students.

The Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) has switched to electronic posters for their 2021 and 2022 annual meetings, to the consternation of some attendees. What is lost in most e-poster formats is the ability for meeting attendees to “walk the posters”, quickly find parties of interest to them, and have one-on-one discussions with speakers or “side discussions” with small groups that may meet. say cardiologists.

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“I could walk 20 at a time, find two or three that were of interest to me, and talk to people,” said Edward J. Schloss, MD, medical director of the heart rate device program at Cincinnati’s Christ’s Hospital.

“Some of these humble posters really lead to important things — new ideas, documents, relationships,” he said. According to Schloss, discussion of a poster about one center’s experience with Tendril electrode failures led to a professional collaboration with Robert G. Hauser, MD, “a seminal figure in device failure research,” who was on the show floor at the time. . They discussed the poster, started collaborating, and have since written an article and started working on a muticenter registry.

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Sunit Mittal, MD, director of electrophysiology and director of cardiac research at Valley Health System in Richwood, New Jersey, said he didn’t feel “the same level of connection” as a host or viewer of electronic posters, and he dislikes the “classroom format” he has encountered so far at HRS and other meetings.

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Following the HRS meeting, Schloss hosted a week-long Twitter discussion where members mourned the loss of traditional paper posters.

HRS took note. When HRS introduced electronic posters, “we thought it was a way to give the poster a little more life,” said Germaine Schaefer, vice vice president of meetings and events at HRS. In 2021, researchers consistently presented more than a dozen “modules” in the conference room, leaving time for questions after each presentation.

Noise was a problem, so in 2022 HRS used “silent theater technology,” Schaefer said. Speakers spoke into microphones, while participants scanned QR codes using a mobile app and listened to presentations through headphones. While the hosts were very pleased, “those in attendance like the old way more,” she said. “At the end of the day, they just want paper posters.”

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HRS will return to traditional flatboard posters for its 2023 meeting, but will retain some poster blocks and continue to customize the electronic format, Schaefer said.

ACC will retain its mix of digital and traditional flat-panel posters for now, Drachman said, because each has its own benefits. Flatboard posters come at an additional cost, but the ACC has found attendees enjoy interacting with speakers and networking opportunities, he explained. Approximately 540 moderated posters and 2,900 flatboard posters were featured at the 2022 ACC meeting in April.

Host and contestant discuss poster at ACC 2022.

At its upcoming meeting, the ESC decided to moderate all electronic posters, in part to optimally support scientific exchange, in particular for young researchers, “after 2 years of limited in-person scientific exchange,” said Professor Stephen Windecker, Chair of the ESC Program Committee. Congress, via email.

Although digital posters adhere to the “traditional scientific format”, there is “opportunity for further development”. [them] by adding videos, comments, etc., he said. “We look forward to seeing new and emerging features that take advantage of the digital format, as well as special effects that enhance the educational experience.”

Like other meeting components, e-poster sessions “provide persistent content because [they] can be recorded and delivered around the world, as well as captured for asynchronous viewing,” said Drachman.

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This could mean wider distribution and a larger audience. CTI Meeting Technology recently collected data from over 100 virtual and hybrid meetings and found that groups who left electronic posters and other content online for at least 30 days after their meetings consumed “50% more content” than those who who did not leave content. online for that period, according to Rettenbacher.

Improvement of the electronic poster

Cardiac associations and vendors such as CTI Meeting Technology continue to improve the electronic poster experience. But as HRS’ Schaefer noted, the questions of “how to replicate the randomness of something that catches the eye” and encourage intimate conversations on the poster’s side are tricky.

At one small internal research conference at Brigham and Women’s Hospital earlier this year, posters were displayed on monitors with researchers standing by in a traditional poster room.

In an effort to mimic the chance encounter common with traditional poster boards, ESC sets up “detection screens” that will display all of the electronic posters in turn. And because “it’s kind of a culture change,” Windecker said, “we’ll be sure to take a close look at the experience and feedback at this year’s convention.”

Time will tell if the cool audience of electronic posters will be completely won over. William Sauer, MD, chief of cardiac arrhythmias at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said he was somewhat optimistic. “I don’t think it’s the right decision to print a paper poster that was hung up for 4 hours and then thrown away. It makes sense to have a digital poster…and all formats are good,” especially for young researchers, he said.

“There has to be a solution where we keep this social aspect and informal banter,” he said. “We’re only on version 1.0 – we’ll get to it.”

Kristin Kilgore is a medical journalist based in Falls Church, Virginia whose work has been featured in Internal Medicine News, Ob.Gyn Times, Oncology Times, and the Washington Post.

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