Transforming a scientific congress into a virtual, interactive experience
A fully digital, immersive and realistic event enhances knowledge exchange, networking and sponsor visibility
Due to the lockdown resulting from the Covid-19 crisis, the AIOP scientific association decided to rapidly transform its planned annual congress into a full digital experience, which was able to facilitate the knowledge exchange, stimulate the interaction, enlarge the audience and extend the lifespan of the event.
Due to the Covid-19 Crisis, the Italian Academy of Prosthetic Dentistry (AIOP) had to re-organise the annual two-day Mediterranean Meeting originally scheduled to take place in the congress center in Riccione.
To meet this challenge, it was necessary to:
- Monitor the crisis development and the national and international rules that apply to mass gatherings.
- Evaluate how to re-plan the event, whether to postpone, cancel or move it into a digital environment, with an in-depth analysis of the pros, cons, costs and required actions.
- Organise the first scientific congress as a digital event, in a very short time frame, ensuring:
- high level of scientific content,
- interaction with participants,
- visibility for sponsors,
- easy access and personalised user experience,
- immersive and realistic layout to allow for an engaging experience,
- a new effective communications plan,
- training of speakers around the new tools for virtual presentation.
After a careful evaluation of all the likely scenarios, pros and cons, AIOP together with AIM Group decided not to cancel or postpone but to transform the congress into a virtual meeting. AIOP took the challenge and embarked on the ambitious plan to transform it a very short timeframe. In just a few weeks, the congress was transformed into a fully virtual event which took place online from 30th April to 2nd May. AIOP is the first Italian scientific society to experiment with this kind of solution.
The digital event was developed on the customised “AIOP On Air” virtual platform, which offered effective solutions for a 360-degree congress experience, such as:
- Active online audience engagement: Q&A forums allowed participants to interact with speakers and exchange views with other participants. The speakers were also able to make appealing presentations with slideshows, videos and live Q&A sessions.
- The virtual television studio included a realistic and immersive layout which made the attendees experience more engaging.
- A well-structured virtual area dedicated to sponsors offered the possibility of following thematic itineraries, with opportunities to consult corporate videos, documents and presentations. There was also a feature where participants could attend one-to-one or even one-to-many meetings with exhibitors.
- All the content is available on demand for one year, searchable through personalised thematic journeys.
- Multiple education experiences. Education sessions were broadcasted live not only during the three-day event but also on two more half-days, to facilitate the attendance and the online experience
- Social interaction All the board, the faculty and many attendees had the pleasure to share some social moments and participated in an online happy hour, toasting the opening of the congress and enjoying informal moments.
The online format provided AIOP with many benefits:
- Member engagement. AIOP was able to deliver the education to its community, avoiding cancellation or longer postponement.
- Larger attendance. There were 1.850 registered attendees which was a +130% increase on the previous edition. The association attracted new audiences, who would not have been able to attend the physical meeting.
- Effective learning experience. Attendees could interact and participate in the conversation. They could also follow all the content and consult them on demand with more flexibility.
- New sponsorship opportunities. Despite the lockdown, companies were able to disseminate their communication materials, organise networking and virtually meet delegates. 160 participants registered at the “meet-the-sponsor” tool and 60 made personal appointments with sponsors.
- Extended Lifespan. The event duration was longer with sessions being spread over several days. This made attendance more comfortable for users. The on-demand archive also extends the virtual lifespan of the content for one year.
As reported in the customer survey 97% liked the new event format and 94.5% will take part in another virtual congress in the future.
Despite the Board, the speakers and the staff being so far from each other, there was a such a beautiful atmosphere, such a close empathy that is hard to explain in words.
The comments received on AIOP’s social media (LinkedIn, FB and IG) were all enthusiastic and very positive!
“It is better than a real event!”
“I am convinced that this innovative event, whose origin is undoubtedly caused by the Covid-19 emergency, will transform a challenge into an opportunity, opening new horizons even for the future when the emergency is over”, explains Carlo Poggio, President of AIOP.
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