Successes (and challenges!) of scientific conferencing in a brand new format 

Amanda Fletcher, Conference and Events Organiser

When the pandemic hit, the turnaround to migrate our Learning and Training programme to virtual was rapid. Within months, we had created a virtual conferencing portal to be proud of, thanks to a successful collaboration with Venue AV – our regular audiovisual partner.

Over two years down the line, we were faced with an even bigger challenge… returning to on-site conferences, but this time combining a virtual element to create a successful ‘hybrid’ event.

Here is a little insight into how the Learning and Training team tackled this for our return to in-person conferencing, with Single Cell Biology 2022 ,which took place on 6 – 8 June.

The online portal was a key part in the success of this first hybrid conference; providing a platform for our virtual delegates to watch the live talks, and enabling us to host our very first paper-free event! All delegate materials for Single Cell Biology 2022 including the programme and poster abstracts, were available to view by all attendees via the portal. The portal’s ‘on-demand’ feature will also enable attendees to re-watch all the talks for up to four weeks post-event.

We were delighted that all our live steam virtual talks were broadcast without a hitch! We had three speakers who pre-recorded their talks and then joined for a live Q&A. When it came to the virtual Q&A session, the speaker was broadcast on to the auditorium screen for the live audience to see, and the speaker was also able to see the audience member posing the question… this worked really well!

Single Cell Biology 2022 Live Streamed Speakers
Musa Mhlanga, Single Cell Biology 2022 speaker, University of Cape Town, South Africa

I really like the hybrid approach to conferences, because it allows people to enjoy the best of all worlds. Some people are unable to travel for various reasons…for funding reasons. They get to pick and choose, so they don’t have to attend a full conference, they can just pick the talks that are interesting for them. I think that hybrid conferences makes science more equitable, so it’s very important to continue with this format.

Dr Leeat Keren, Single Cell Biology 2022 speaker, Weizmann Institute, Israel 

A number of changes were made to the in-person floorplan for the conference, in order to make our space more COVID-friendly and to reduce crowding; registration was separated across two desks – one for speakers and the other for delegates. The aim was to reduce the number of people at any one desk at the same time. As we didn’t have the usual paper delegate pack materials to give out, the registration process was a lot quicker, with less unnecessary interaction.

Overall we were happy with our first face-to-face event in nearly two and a half years; although we have few items for improvement to take forward to our autumn 2022 events.

Pulling the event together was a big team effort and I think it has given us the confidence to tackle our upcoming conferences in September!

You can view our full autumn hybrid conference programme here.

Events are now open for abstract submissions and registration. We look forward to welcoming you to one of our conferences soon.

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