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Online Clinical Negligence Conferences - Dr Mark Burgin

10/03/21. Dr. Mark Burgin BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP reviews the limits and advantages of Online Clinical Negligence Conferences and makes predictions of the future.

In the middle of an outbreak of an infectious disease it is tempting to offer training online including the excellent work by the Legal Training Consultancy, Bond Solon and APIL. There is a risk on the one hand to provide a series of highly qualified lectures with minimal feedback and on the other to have small groups of fellow learners. The first could be better provided by high production videos and the latter is not likely to be financially viable.

The importance of good quality video and sound has largely become a solved problem with high quality video platforms by commercial providers. This does not absolve the provider of the need to ensure that any videos provided do not have the sounds of breathing, the reverb and other technical issues. This means that high quality editing e.g. using ‘small screen’ with background information when the image is degraded.

It is likely that the speakers will require significant assistance to ensure that they are presented well on the screen and their voice does not grate on the listener. The ability to type comments whilst listening to the presentation is useful as interesting comments can be selected. The discussion of those comments can be challenging unless there is a facility to go to the contributor and ask for clarification. Having several small group discussions at the end may be an alternative.

The business model of asking a few hundred individuals to pay a few hundred pounds and travel to the conference may never recover. The advantage of meeting and effectively being able to advertise one’s services is lost. The virtual conference has no way of creating opportunities for individual participants to meet the speakers. Where something novel is discussed then the participant has less opportunity to test the idea with the speaker or the other participants. Few professionals would be happy to pay significant sums for a video and there is a risk that new providers will enter the market offering free content.

The Authentic Speaker

There are speakers who are so engaging and appealing that they will have an audience even when their work is presented as a video. Sometimes the power of the message can be enhanced by a good format such as TED talks or YouTuber type presentation. Often the use of graphics such as video clips or Draw My Life type illustrations on a white board can may a dull presentation more interesting. The common factor in the most popular videos on the web is that the speaker is authentic.

There is no single method to become authentic but as a basis talking about a subject you have genuine interest in is essential. Anecdotes are often essential to ensure that the audience is able to trust the speaker, to assess their authority. Humour is a two-edge sword, some people will find any humour as offensive, others a necessary part of the authentic presentation. In professional situations there are many names who are leading the way in showing how to be authentic.

In some ways a video presentation is no different from an article, social media or a pod cast, whether the reader will give their attention depends upon the intrinsic interest of the content. Even professionals who are in learning situations will turn off if the content fails to catch their attention. In a conference there are typically a few sleeping participants, but rarely they will actually leave. Online conferences can be played at double speed, multitasked or skipped entirely. Emperor Conference has no clothes, unless the content and the speaker are engaging learning will move somewhere else.

New approaches

Having a panel is increasingly used to engage the thought leaders of the profession as being asked is payment enough. Identifying those who would be asking interesting questions in a conference hall and asking them to be on a panel can ensure that participation is controlled. They are instructed to ask interesting questions of the speaker thus limiting the number of active people on the webinar. This approach combines the best of both worlds with no extra cost to the organiser.

Multiple presentations on the same subject can be provided funded with adverts on a platform such as YouTube and made to compete for attention. This approach effectively uses the audience to produce the content and allows the market to determine what is successful. For individual companies it can be difficult to produce enough content to compete effectively with me-casters despite better having higher production values.

Online journals such Law Gazette and PIBULJ are dominating short form journalism and are increasingly efficient at comprehensive news reporting. The failure of the big training companies to capture an online audience for articles is likely to lead to declining interest in their core products. This is likely to lead to an interest in joint working to ensure that the training companies’ websites are able to survive the move from in person to online.

Podcasts such as the Nature Podcast have audience figures that are starting to catch the eyes of broadcasters. The rise and rise of podcasts in the younger age groups is now being followed by older age groups. Although the majority of experts have never tried this way of accessing data this is likely to reverse in the next decade. It is worth noting that the Nature Podcast has extraordinary production values which means significant investment.

Networking with networks

The future of networking is through networks not meeting people in person. An ideal network would introduce me to other people that share my interests, highlight ideas that might be of interest, let me showcase my abilities, show an interest in my ideas, mentor me, give me feedback. This type of network would disrupt professional conferences in the same way as Amazon has disrupted retail and logistics. It may appear impossible for AI to do all these things but deep learning is mastering many games and the game of networking is no more complex than for instance Go.

Education has not been disrupted in the same way as online shopping or gossip (social media) as there is a conflict between attention and learning. It is fairly straight forward to get someone’s attention online, much harder to provide them with a learning experience. Part of the problem is that individuals have a zone where they can learn (Vygotsky) so you need to know what the person knows and does not know to identify it. Too easy and they already know it, too abstract and they do not have the foundations to use the learning experience.

Professional development is attention led which means it is not as critical for the network or algorithm to identify what the person does not know. The professional can be provided with a large range of ideas and will select those that interest them. The connections between professionals can be easily identified by the common interests that they share. Consider also the way that Twitter is being used by ordinary people to question those at the top of organisations. A network based upon current technologies could already disrupt professional learning.

Healthcare has largely resisted networking and even take up of available technologies such as video conferencing has been poor. Most doctors still speak with their patients on the telephone and only a few offer video consultations. Sharing patient data such as blood pressure or glucose reading is still discouraged and there is slow progress towards patient access to their medical records. Healthcare professionals of the future will need to use networks to network with their colleagues if the advantages of new structures such as integrated care systems are to be realised.


It is unlikely that professional conferences such as Online Clinical Negligence Conferences will survive in the long term in their current form. The lack of the opportunity to network is a major barrier to their proper function and alternatives are already being developed. As professional work moves online and international, groups of people travelling increasingly large distances to meet up will become unsustainable. The large training companies have the opportunity to get in front of the trend or be left behind.

Networking solutions are likely to be developed by the large tech companies but training companies can piggy back their products onto these solutions. They can direct the innovation process as customers of for instance LinkedIn or YouTube. Training companies have the experience of providing a customer service to their client that organisations such as the NHS or legal firms do not. All training companies have sold networking, whether they were aware or not. These changes are an opportunity to take the skills that they have with networking to the next level.

The training companies have expertise in curating and creating content that translates to editing and publishing. These functions can be expanded to engage the attention of their customers but training companies will soon run out of new material. New partnerships can be made with their existing customers to draw on their resources and make them the product. Tech companies often describe themselves as platforms and rely upon their customers to create their product. Training companies should take note - it reduces costs and increases profits at the same time.

Doctor Mark Burgin, BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP is on the General Practitioner Specialist Register.

Dr. Burgin can be contacted on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 0845 331 3304 website


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