In October we were approached by BTS (British Thoracic Society) to support their flagship annual conference as their production and platform partner, the annual event going virtual for the first time in over 20 years! As an industry leading medical society, the Winter Meeting is one of the most important dates not only in the BTS calendar, but also in that of their attendees. Even more so given the current COVID-19 pandemic, with attendees and speakers holding positions on the NHS front line or in thoracic research, the event was critical but required sensitive planning.
With a full programme already in place from their live event planning, we had the challenge of creating a virtual solution to suit every aspect, all within three months.
This resulted in a 3-day event, packed with 323 live and pre-recorded sessions split into 5 auditoria, over 20 exhibitors, a poster area and a networking lounge, all of which was then available on-demand for 90 days post event.
To get to this point and with BTS’s content already set, we adapted our usual workshop process to accelerate the planning stage. This allowed us to focus on how best to produce the content and stream it effectively via the virtual event platform. Starting with the production process, we planned for 6 studios running concurrently in order to deliver live sessions across all 3 days. We scheduled multiple coaching meetings and technical set up calls with speakers, to ensure they were prepared and comfortable presenting in this new environment (as we all know presenting digitally is vastly different to a live audience!). During this time, the team also collected, checked and tested over 480 presentations that had to be submitted in advance of the conference.
On the event days each session was supported by a full technical team, who managed the various inputs including live speaker feeds, pre-recorded presentations, videos and live Q&A. All of which were mixed together to form one stream that was then broadcast via the virtual event platform for attendees to view in real time.
Of course, by this point the platform was ready to go. We started the build process by collaborating with BTS on their creative aspirations for the site. The decision was made to keep as much of a live event feel as possible by incorporating images of the usual venue and styles familiar to attendees. With the vast amount of content on the platform, it was key that we designed the site in such a way that it was interactive and easy to navigate. At every turn we had the end user in mind. We created a bright and inviting lobby with clear guidance to every area, including a welcome video by the Chair of the BTS Science and Research Committee, explaining the layout of the event.
So that’s the (very) short summary! Now we’ll let the Chief Executive of BTS give her take on things…
BTS (the British Thoracic Society) shortlisted ETM to be the supplier of our on-line conference platform in the autumn of 2020 when it became obvious that our face- to-face flagship conference event would not be possible in December 2020. We subsequently selected ETM from a strong field because they showed signs of being eager to “go the extra mile”- not only to provide what we needed, but also to understand how a large medical research focused conference differs from other conferences they have done and presents some challenges previously not encountered by the ETM team. We quickly developed an open and honest rapport with Owen and other key members of the team, and learned together how the platform could be developed and delegate experience enhanced as much as possible. This resulted in BTS being able to provide an event which was very well received by delegates and which enabled more than 1,800 people to benefit and learn from superb content after a year in which many of them had been on the front line of providing COVID treatment and rehabilitation services. We will be working again with ETM on our summer conference in June 2021.
– Sheila Edwards, Chief Executive BTS
And just like that our first medical conference is complete, now onto the Summer Meeting!