2020 has been, and continues to be, a challenging year. As the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S. this past spring, the CSC made the dauntless decision to hold ACR 2020 virtually, rather than cancelling it altogether.
The ACR is a representative membership organization, and our annual meeting is first and foremost a business meeting — with specific activities stipulated in our bylaws. With only six weeks to plan the shift to a virtual format, we chose an approach that focused on the governance activities necessary to ensure the continuity of our organization’s leadership and policy development. We condensed the meeting program to prioritize the ACR elections and the consideration of policy resolutions, bylaws amendments, and Practice Parameters and Technical Standards.
In transitioning to the virtual meeting format, we expected it might be difficult for attendees to remain attentive and engaged in front of a screen for an extended length of time. For this reason, programming that had previously been included as part of our annual meeting — such as the always-popular Economics Forum, the Open Microphone session, the Moreton lecture, RFS and YPS programs, CME content, and the Chapter Leaders’ Workshop — were all deferred. We are considering alternative ways to offer this content throughout the year and we will notify you as soon as decisions are made.
With several potentially contentious policy resolutions and a few late ones on our slate this year, we extended time for critical issues like voting and the Reference Committee open hearings, which took place over two days instead of the usual single morning. In planning these sessions, we tried to keep things as simple as possible. For example, we allowed election candidates to pre-record their speeches so that we did not need to choreograph numerous handoffs of the virtual microphone with all the possible complications that live speeches can generate (e.g., “Sorry, I was on mute!”). To ensure fairness in the process, all candidates were provided with instructions for recording the videos without using professional resources, using a standard format, and adhering to the usual two-minute limit. We also made the speeches available one week ahead of the meeting so that everyone could watch them in advance and be prepared to vote as soon as the polls opened. The same process was followed for the RFS and YPS elections.
Planning this first-ever virtual annual meeting was a team effort. We appreciated everyone’s patience with myriad technical glitches, both major and minor. We are grateful to our ACR governance and IT staff teams, as well as staff from across the organization, who came together, often on a daily basis, to ensure the success of our meeting. We are also grateful to our councilors, alternate councilors, chapter leaders, and attendees for their patience and enthusiastic participation in making this meeting a success.
This is not to say we didn’t miss being with you all in-person to enjoy the networking opportunities that live meetings afford us. We hope that circumstances in the world will shift and allow for an in-person meeting in Washington, D.C., in 2021. At the same time, we recognize that several aspects of the virtual meeting could be carried forward. We have received feedback that approximately 12% of this year’s attendees were able to participate only because of the virtual format. The virtual format also provided a unique opportunity for new voices to participate in caucuses and open hearings. The Convocation could potentially be live-streamed every year to allow family members who cannot travel to celebrate with new fellows remotely. Perhaps it is time to move forward with pre-recording of candidate speeches to preserve time during the meeting. As we imagine a future hybrid approach, the possibilities are truly endless.