Scottsdale, Ariz. — In February, the Arizona Dental Association was fully prepared to host the Western Regional Dental Experience April 2-4 at the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel and Spa.
Later in March, the COVID-19 epidemic and resulting circumstances beyond AzDA’s control made it evident that the conference could not be held in-person. That is when Sean Murphy, Arizona Dental Association executive director, pitched the idea of holding the conference virtually. With the support of AzDA’s leadership and help from the AzDA team - particularly Shana Abrahams, Corbin McKim and Jeremy Tuber - AzDA was able to still have a successful meeting.
The virtual conference had over 3,130 attendees, 27 speakers and 34 courses. With more than 84 hours of continuing education offered, the conference being virtual did not mean a lighter schedule. Classes went from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Topics covered by speakers included infection control, health and wellness, medical emergencies and composite restorations.
“My husband and I are both dentists and we weren’t sure what it was going to look like, but we really enjoyed it,” said Dr. Jennifer Enos, president of the Arizona Dental Association. “It was nice to sit on your couch and watch a six-hour lecture.”
Dr. Enos was surprised at how much easier it was to ask a question in this format. Instead of having to talk over someone, she could write a question into Zoom’s chat function and the instructor would see it. Another added perk of using Zoom was that classes no longer had attendance limits the way they would in-person. A Zoom Enterprise Plus subscription allows meetings to have up to 1,000 participants. The largest room at the planned in-person site could only hold 800.
The shortcoming of the virtual conference was the lack of attendance and interaction with vendors. “We still had 35 exhibitors, but not as many,” said Mr. Murphy.
“Most times at the state meeting, we buy supplies or products because they usually have a discount,” said Dr. Enos. “As dentists, we like to check things out in person, feel them with our hands, pick them up. This format didn’t let us interact with our vendors as we typically have done, but lately everyone is adjusting.”
According to Dr. Enos, several dentists have praised the meeting and how easy it was to get connected.
“All of the credit in the world to Sean for coming up with the idea and him and the team for making it work.”