2020 AOTA Conference Cancelled Due to Coronavirus & Virtual Alternative

Why was AOTA’s 2020 Annual Conference & Expo in Boston canceled?

The Governor of Massachusetts declared a state of emergency on March 10 to support the Commonwealth’s response to the outbreak of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-10), and he urged large organizations to limit or eliminate large events where possible. AOTA made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel the Conference & Expo and all related events.

Moving Forward

AOTA mentioned that they will be exploring virtual formats to hold the conference. This is a great idea especially with the increasing popularity of Telehealth and Telemedicine. This is the OT community’s opportunity for professionals, students, and visitors to find ways to deliver and engage in a conference virtually.


Many technologies already exist to hold a virtual conference:

  • Live broadcasting
  • Recorded videos
  • Video conferencing
  • Audio conferencing
  • Podcasts

augmented reality idea

However, there are many new exciting technologies that the OT community can take advantage of as well:

  • Virtual Reality (VR)
  • 360 degree cameras
  • Augmented Reality
  • 3D Printing

Creative ways to hold a “Virtual AOTA Conference”


Talks can be simultaneously live streamed/broadcasted on platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, Instagram, and so on; then recorded to be streamed later. AOTA and presenters can create a large directory of links and schedule of these events.

Poster Presentations

Can be uploaded in a “whiteboard” format with the presenters logging in to answer via chat, webcam, or microphone. YouTube Live would also work well.

Product Demos

By manufacturers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and small businesses can be pre-recorded with a comment section for interested visitors to interact. To make the experience richer, a product can be recorded in 3D for virtual reality for users with VR goggles to view. Users at home can use more affordable googles such as Google cardboard due to limited access. Product demonstrations can be recorded on video as well and users can use augmented reality to “see” the product in action.

A Virtual World “Game”

Video games may be another alternative with familiar titles such as Virtual World, Second Life, VR Chat as examples. Users can immerse themselves in a 3D world and interact with presenters, posters, videos, and more. This of course, would involve a unified “game” creator and users to install the game. However, with mobile apps being so easy to install on IOS and Android, this is not a significant barrier if one app was made “official” for the masses.

Devices to Consider

  • Mobile
  • Tablet
  • Computers
  • TV
  • Webcams (remotely controllable)

Small Meet-ups

Currently, large gatherings of people are banned. However, smaller gatherings may be another alternative for locals to get together and share ideas.


In summary, it is understandable that leaders have banned large gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This has resulted in the AOTA conference being canceled. However, OTs have a unique perspective and creative ability to promote engagement in meaningful occupations.

We live in a wonderful time where virtual technologies (which falls under the OTPF) can provide an alternative means for social interaction and education. Let’s put our minds together and take the AOTA conference online!