Live and online: A digital scientific conference


A Leader in Science


Science, Conferences

Find out how ATPI Events staged a hybrid digital scientific conference for 150 guests and 42 speakers

As a result of COVID-19, a three-day scientific conference with over 42 speakers and 100 international guests could not take place in its usual format.

Cancelling the conference was not an option for the client, as sharing of knowledge and gathering as a community are key parts of making developments and new discoveries

The client’s challenge: “Can a physical, live event be taken online and still have the same effect?

ATPI’s events experts pulled together to make the conference happen, using ATPI’s 5 Step Digital Events Plan as a framework.

Step 1: Investigate

When creating a digital event, our Project Managers start by doing some all-important research.

The client was keen to retain as much of the format of the live version of the conference as possible and felt that platforms such as kype and Webex would compromise the feel of the event, so the ATPI team began by searching for a digital platform that would be suitable. The team were looking for a platform that would allow for as much variety and creativity as possible and found this with Let’s Get Digital.

Three essential requirements In collaboration with the client, we started looking at what they felt were essential capabilities of a digital platform and concluded on the following;

  1. Speakers needed to be able to present from home
  2. Participants needed to be able to network
  3. Sessions needed to be recorded for later viewing
Step 2: Create

Once the digital platform was decided, it was time to start the communication process and let guests know about the event. Attendees were told straight away that the event would take place online this year and that no special software or technology would be required. Furthermore, a web app was created especially for the conference, allowing guests to get in touch with each other at an early stage.

After the agenda for the event had been outlined, ATPI began to build the platform for the client to ensure that the look and feel of the experience was on brand.

Sample program – Day 1
09:00 – 10:10: Welcome & introduction
10:10 – 10:40: Time to network
10:40 – 12:40: Session 1 – Concurrent Engineering Facilities
12:40 – 13:40: Lunch
13:40 to 15:40: Session 2- Concurrent Design Tool Box
15:40 to 16:20: Session 3 – X-years of Concurrent Design teams
16:20 to 16:30: Closing

Step 3: Convert

The team then started working on the substantive preparations needed for the conference. The speakers were given deadlines for submitting the summaries of their scientific research and presentation slides, and then received instructions for what would be needed during the conference.

After setting up the platform, we focused on obtaining answers to the following questions: How should the content for the presentations be delivered? How did the platform work for the speakers, and what were the options available to them?

All speakers were briefed in advance about the capabilities of the platform. A ‘test drive’ was also organized two weeks before the event, during which all speakers were invited to test the platform under supervision. With more use it became apparent that the platform was very easy to use and speakers quickly got to grips with how different features worked.

Step 4: Manage

As this was the first time that ATPI had organised a digital scientific conference for this client, the process was challenging. Time flew by
and before we knew it, the time had come for the conference, spread over 3 days with over 150 guests, to go live. There were no fewer than 7 sessions, with 42 different speakers, as well as 400 3-minute ‘networking sessions’ where guests were randomly linked together.

Naturally, various challenges arose during the conference; speakers who came online too late, cameras that did not work at first, internet connections that were too slow and even moderators who forgot to record certain sessions. Fortunately, these are all challenges that ATPI were able to solve quickly.

A conference spread over 3 days
+ 42 speakers
+ 150 guests
= a challenge!

Step 5: Evaluate and Learn

During the completion of the three-day event, we received a virtual applause from guests! The client was also very pleased with the success of the conference and was impressed with how well the feeling of community was retained during the event.

  • During the development of the conference we found out that quite a few people were needed to keep the event running smoothly. Within the team, extra tasks were divided, such as a moderator for the lobby chat and people who were present at the Helpdesk (where guests could go with questions about the platform).
  • Slow and unreliable internet connections are the enemy of any online event and so we found that having a backup of all presentations, shared ahead of the event, was essential if sessions were to run smoothly.

We even received a virtual applause from attendees!

Learn more about ATPI’s sector-specific event management solution