Transforming a physical event into a virtual form within 8 weeks.
The key was to convince business partners of the attractiveness of the virtual event. It was necessary to set the right communication strategy with the participants as well.
Experts in gastroenterology have their needs in congresses and conferences. We had to offer them a solution (platform) that would meet these specific requirements. Participants come to the event mainly for two reasons – to get new information in the field of gastroenterology, but also to talk to their colleagues in the field and establish new contacts.
When planning the congress, we used the experience gained from previous virtual medical conferences and knowledge of the event as such, as we organized conferences with CGS in the years 2012 – 2017.
We realized that participants would be connected to the event from their work or homes. They could have diverse environments and time possibilities. For this reason, we decided together with the client to rebuild the congress from the original one full day to 3 half-days. The programme always took place in the afternoon.
We used our tailor-made platform for the virtual congress. Participants could connect via video conferencing or chat functions and could contact exhibitors through their virtual stands. This platform is connected with scientific content and the advantage was that the programme was made-to-measure, and all speakers were approached in advance to provide their presentations. All lectures were pre-recorded and the connection of the speakers for joining live discussions after each section was tested. All content is available to participants even after the end of the congress.
To promote the event, we used newsletters which we mainly targeted at the rich membership of the Czech Society of Gastroenterology and the friendly Slovak Society of Gastroenterology (Slovenská gastroenterologická spoločnosť) and the Society of Hepatology (Hepatologická společnost). We also regularly advertised the event in medical periodicals.
The event was organized by our seven-member team consisting of a project manager, an assistant, an exhibition coordinator, a sponsorship manager, a programme coordinator, a technical manager and a registration coordinator.
Our original assumption that there would be little interest in the virtual event was not fulfilled, and the conference eventually gained 20% more participants than the original estimate. 687 participants showed interest in the three-day CGS 2020 Postgraduate Course, the male part prevailed by 20%. The physical conference is always attended by around 1,000 participants.
Part of the congress was a virtual exhibition, which was quite large at this event. A total of 16 exhibitors took part in it with an interesting solution of their virtual stands.
The success of this virtual event combined with the simple transfer of lectures to the online environment persuaded the client that even the online form of the conference can bring a valuable professional experience from the comfort of home and also the advantage that lectures are available without limitations on the conference website even after the end of the event, to those participants who could not participate all the time during the event.