Why do we attend international conferences in such large numbers? One reason is to keep up to date in our specialty. We attend lectures, seminars, presentations, and plenary sessions, sitting in darkened rooms and listening to speakers talking to their slides, followed by a few questions. With modern technology speakers could be relayed from their home auditorium and we could just as well enjoy these sessions in darkened rooms in BMA House or in our own hospital or office. We could even ask questions if the session was in real time.
We also go to conferences to present our work to our colleagues and to obtain their feedback. Those who attend these sessions could instead join together in virtual networks, with people presenting their work by conference call or conference video or by virtual poster accessed through the internet. Sessions could be set up to link as many network participants as is desirable, with a chair to catalyse and control the discussions.
We go to conferences to meet our colleagues. Sometimes we spend time with collaborators or competitors from abroad, but often conferences are the opportunity to network with colleagues from the United Kingdom in a relaxed setting. Surely there should be ways of achieving this creatively on home territory. Collaborators from abroad could be linked by conference video while key people could arrange to meet offline occasionally.
Finally, it is argued that we go to conferences to see the sights and enlarge our horizons. But most conferences are in undistinguished conference centres, surrounded by impersonal hotels, and could be anywhere in the world. It is better to choose places to go on holiday for their own merit and stay at home for conferences.