COVID-19 has changed many things in otolaryngology, including the way physicians and their colleagues meet. Virtual meetings through platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and GoTo Meeting have increased exponentially—Microsoft Teams reported a new daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in one day on March 31, a 200% increase from the 900 million minutes recorded on March 16.
Explore This IssueJuly 2020
“It has become a necessity to move to virtual meetings to keep communications going,” said Mark Gerber, MD, division chief of otolaryngology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona. “Virtual meetings aren’t a replacement for in-person meetings, because there’s something about a face-to-face meeting we as humans like. But getting together over the internet is useful when we’re left with limited options.”
During a time in which public health conditions in cities, counties, and states and medical knowledge are changing dramatically and quickly, making sure everyone is on the same page is an important function. “In my institution, the meetings have almost all gone virtual, both one-to-one meetings and those with several people,” said Dr. Gerber. “It’s more comfortable for everyone if we’re in our own offices because we can do away with masks.”
He points to increased productivity as another selling point. Participants can work right up to meeting time instead of wrapping things up early for a 20- or 30-minute walk across the hospital.
Keeping those virtual meetings productive, however, requires careful planning and execution on the part of both hosts and attendees.
Planning for Productivity
As with face-to-face meetings, preplanning is an important factor for success in virtual meetings. The agenda should be sent well ahead of time, along with any files that will be needed for review. Send log-in information (access codes, URLs, and call-in numbers) at least one day in advance so that participants can test for software downloads and system requirements.
Make sure the meeting application is working at your end. Test your microphone ahead of time, especially if using the one from your computer or mobile device, and check any program components, such as screen sharing, that are being used for slide presentations. Make sure you’re in a quiet space. If at home, limit access by family members and pets, and switch phones and smart watches to silent mode. Dress appropriately—striped shirts and large, shiny jewelry don’t transmit well on camera.
It has become a necessity to move to virtual meetings to keep communications going. —Mark Gerber, MD
If you expect that you or others in your meeting will use certain features of virtual meeting software, such as Zoom’s whiteboard screen-sharing capability, make sure you test it thoroughly before the meeting starts. Otherwise, you’ll waste a significant amount of meeting time explaining the process and testing it while others wait.
“Preplanning for virtual meetings is a little bit different,” said Martin J. Citardi, MD, chair of the department of otorhinolaryngology–head and neck surgery and vice dean of clinical technology at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. “You have to consider the size of the screen your attendees may be using. Some may use a desk computer, others a laptop, and some [will be] on mobile devices with small screens. Instead of putting visual elements on a regular-size slide for projection on a large screen in an auditorium, you’ll need fewer words projected across multiple screens.”