The planning for this year’s Annual Session has been a challenging endeavor. The AAO Board of Trustees, the Annual Session Planning Committee, and our staff have been working diligently to create an event worthy of our members’ time and in keeping with the AAO’s long history of bringing members together for the world’s largest celebration of orthodontics. As we consider the various components that highlight AAO meetings, our single largest obligation is to our members. For that reason, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of 2021 Annual Session and to pivot to an entirely virtual event.
Click here to view a personal video message from Dr. Roberts.
As you no doubt recall, we announced in December that we would be rescheduling this meeting for June, though it had originally been planned for April of this year. We took this step for several reasons. First and foremost, the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines at the beginning of the year and the ensuing vaccinations for AAO members and their staff indicated that the pandemic could soon be entering its final swing. Subsequently, we held off canceling the in-person portion of this event over the course of the past few months, believing that additional time would lead to loosened restrictions in our host city of Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.
Currently, the COVID-19 restrictions in place in the city of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts would not allow for an AAO meeting with the usual elements that our members know and love. For instance, under the current pandemic guidelines, the AAO would likely have been forced to incorporate remote speakers projected to attendees through video, rather than live and in-person. Additionally, individual attendees would be required to remain in a singular room throughout the three-day event. And finally, the room capacity limits currently allow no more than 100 people to be in the Exhibit Hall at a given time.
Our members have flocked to AAO meetings in record numbers over the past few years. We believe that attendees find great value in their ability to listen to and speak with our outstanding speakers in a live format. We understand how important and rewarding it can be to network with your colleagues at these meetings. And we know that the Exhibit Hall has become a key component to our members’ interactions with suppliers and an avenue to explore new technology. Given the restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, these features of Annual Session would not have been feasible in the in-person format.
Rather than promote a meeting that would fall short of member expectations, the Board of Trustees and the Annual Session Planning Committee have made the prudent decision to refocus our efforts on the virtual component. We believe that we can offer world-class CE, exhibitor access and even the social components of AAO Annual Session in a virtual format, and we hope that our members will join us in record numbers, as was the case in 2020.
We know that this decision will be a disappointment to many of our members, and we understand your frustration. Rest assured that our top priority throughout this process has been the safety and success of our attendees and their experience at Annual Session. We are in the process of transferring in-person registration to virtual and refunding the excess cost. Please be on the lookout for more updates over the course of the next few weeks – our early registration deadline for Virtual Annual Session is rapidly approaching!
If you have any questions, you may contact the AAO at (314) 993-1700 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, as always, for your membership in the American Association of Orthodontists.
Christopher A. Roberts, DDS, MS
President, American Association of Orthodontists
P.S. The virtual meeting of the AAO House of Delegates will take place next week. Please take a moment to review the resolutions that will be considered, and feel free to leave comments or contact your delegate to share your thoughts.