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Q&A with Bill Reed of the American Society of Hematology (ASH)

Bill Reed serves as senior director of meetings and community engagement for American Society of Hematology (ASH), the world's largest professional organization for clinicians and scientists working to conquer blood diseases. Here, he discusses the ASH annual meeting, its diverse audience community, and how incorporating second screen technology enhances education to create a more valuable experience for speakers and audiences.

Q. Tell us about ASH and the work you do.

BR: ASH is an umbrella organization, which means we serve various communities across a broad spectrum of blood diseases and disorders, everything from pediatric leukemia and multiple myeloma to lymphoma, anemia, and sickle cell. So when it comes to our annual meeting, we must consider the experience and how we connect all those people to the bigger picture, but also address specific needs of their individual communities.

Q. In this context, what is that bigger picture?

BR: It’s the connection between the work and the patients; that’s also the most rewarding part. Our intention is to enable hematologists to do their work even more effectively, so they can make a patient with a blood disorder more comfortable, extend their life, or find a cure. 

An attendee could be thinking of a particular person they’re treating and how the new approaches they’re learning about at ASH might benefit that patient. That’s really what it’s all about and that’s why we exist — to improve the lives of those who are struggling with a blood disorder.

Q: Describe the types of attendees attending ASH and what they have in common.

BR: We see everyone from key opinion leaders to trainees who are just entering the field after completing medical school. ASH has identified three categories of current attendees: the loyalists, the occasionals, and the first-time attendees.

With such a broad range, they’re all at different places in their careers. But the common thread is passion around hematology and pride in their work — it’s a special circle that bonds them. And that translates to a strong culture of mentorship. These loyalists are preparing the next generation to take the baton and carry it forward.  

Q: What do ASH attendees like most about the experience and what do they hope to gain?

BR: They come here to get reenergized, reconnect with their colleagues, and be inspired by the work that’s being done so they can apply to it their research and their patients. They love belonging to this hematology-focused community. At home, they work with various specialists. But when they come to ASH, it’s truly all about their field.

Surrounding yourself with over 25,000 like-minded people dedicated to hematology feels great. It’s exciting to see how attendees use and build on the information their colleagues bring here; that means everyone goes home with more information than they came with because ASH helped design the right environments for education and collaboration to happen.

Attendee vs. Participant: Using Digital to Enhance the Experience

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Attendee vs. Participant: Using Digital to Enhance the Experience

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Q: What would you say sets ASH apart?

BR: The foundation of this meeting is education and bringing forward the best science possible; novel science will not do. If it’s been presented or published somewhere else, you won’t find it at ASH. The education we present is new. We showcase cutting-edge therapies and the latest research directly from the lab. The speakers and attendees build on that new information to accelerate the path forward.

Q: How is delivering that information changing?

BR: At colleges and medical schools around the world they’re shifting away from didactic speakers to more interactivity, which improves learning and applying the material. We see professors creating learning environments that play to adult learning principles with more interaction and engagement rather than simply sitting in a room listening to an expert.

For ASH, technology helps us achieve something greater. It’s not about what new thing would be cool or sizzling because it’s never been seen before — that’s not our style. Instead, we focus on strategic technology that offers a means to an end, not just for the novelty of the mean itself. So we ask challenging questions like what problem are we trying to solve? For ASH, it’s looking for innovative ways that elevate the exchange of ideas and help attendees learn more effectively. So, we invest in technological resources that amplify the impact of education.

Q: Explain how ASH incorporates new technology into the annual meeting.

BR: This year we’re using second screen technology, which brings some great advantages that help both presenters and attendees have a better experience.

In large session rooms, this technology brings the presenters’ slides directly to attendees’ personal devices, which makes it easier to see the information up close no matter where they’re seated. It also helps manage questions and the interaction between speaker and attendee. Instead of forming lines behind a microphone, attendees submit questions electronically allowing the presenter to choose the most provocative questions. That helps the audience leave with something more impactful.

We also recognize the community impact of being able to message other attendees in the same session. Through this technology, attendees can find others who share their interests. Sharing and connecting through this experience is really important. 

Q: How does second screen technology impact ASH as an organization?

BR: It gives us insight on engagement levels during the course. It can shed light on the quality of the speaker, the delivery, and the presentation itself by gauging what it offers the audience.

Additionally, the functionality to review the questions submitted provides a treasure trove of information. After the event, we can mine that information to understand what topics interest attendees and what they want to learn more about. It presents opportunities for webinars and other new ideas we hadn’t yet considered. It allows us to see new trends emerge so we can place our thumb on the pulse of that trend.  

Q: What do attendees take away from ASH?

BR: Attendees come to ASH because there’s something remarkable about the results achieved and the exchange of information in this environment. When a hematologist leaves this meeting, she walks away with results on other people’s clinical research, trials, and new insight about what others are trying with their patients. So when she returns home, she’s able to put that learning into practice immediately.

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