Globetrotting in the name of science

How an in-person meeting for over 1,500 forensic scientists swiftly transitioned into a fully virtual event at the eleventh hour.

The 58th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists brought delegates “Around the World in 80 Talks" in a fully virtual event.
The 58th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists brought delegates “Around the World in 80 Talks" in a fully virtual event. Photo Credit: ICMS Australasia

When the Omicron Covid‐19 variant reared its ugly head in South Africa, Australian PCO ICMS Australasia (ICMSA) was contacted at the eleventh hour to run and manage the 58th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT) virtually.

The association represents over 1,500 global members in analytical toxicology or allied areas, with backgrounds in legal medicine, pharmacology, pharmacy and toxicology.

Originally scheduled as an in-person event, TIAFT converted to a fully virtual format with the theme of 'Around the World in 80 Talks' and a goal of advancing science by participating in engaging presentations and reconnecting as a community.

To be asked at the eleventh hour to make this meeting happen is a testament to the ongoing work we do within Australia and internationally.
Emma Bowyer, managing director and owner, ICMS Australasia

Strong programme sessions

To maintain high quality content, all sessions had their presentations pre‐recorded. The meeting was held on the OnAIR Virtual Conference Platform, and each session was run using AIRCast Studio.

During the sessions, AV technicians from Cliftons assisted with seamless switching between pre‐recorded and live content. The support allowed ICMSA to meet and greet the speakers, explain the system, and ensure they were confident with the entire process, providing a more personal in‐person feel to the virtual realm.

The platform's 'Green Room' was used to bring in the speakers prior to the live components. When they logged in, the speakers were met by the ICMSA AV technicians who guided them through technical aspects including framing, checking their sound quality, and using the Q&A feature of the platform.

Delegates participated in a Rock n Roll Game Show featuring live musicians jamming and hosting games.
Delegates participated in a Rock n Roll Game Show featuring live musicians jamming and hosting games.

A live Q&A session followed each pre‐recorded presentation to ensure that the programme was still engaging for a virtual audience. All speakers successfully accessed and attended their live Q&A components. Attendees were also able to leave comments and questions in the discussion section for the presenter.

A special touch to the programme was the inclusion of break‐out rooms. The meeting used Zoom breakout rooms for networking and poster sessions, which allowed attendees and speakers to discuss their research in an informal setting.

Another popular feature was the eight 'Mentoring Sessions' which saw presentations from leading scientists in forensic toxicology. These were each attended by approximately 100 delegates and allowed for live and interactive Q&A between all participants. The meeting was streamed from a live studio control room managed by ICMSA. Pre‐recorded content was streamed through to the virtual platform, with seamless switching to the live Q&A sections of the sessions.

At the end of each day, ICMSA wrote and distributed a 'daily wrap' e‐zine, highlighting exciting moments in the programme that day and previewing what was ahead for the next day. This was a valuable addition to the marketing strategy to connect with virtual delegates and create a sense of community on a global scale.

Experiencing a 3D exhibition

The major sponsors of TIAFT 2022 were provided with a custom‐designed 3D exhibition booth to showcase their latest offerings; have one‐on‐ones with attendees in a live meeting and chat function, and include PDF brochures and videos on their booth.

The ICMSA sponsorship team conducted one-on-one platform training meetings with all the sponsors and exhibitors via Zoom. The team showed them how to use the platform, live chat and meeting function, and how to upload any FAQs to the booth. This was a great opportunity for the exhibitors to view their booths, make any design changes or give final approval.

A TIAFT exhibitor showcases products on the virtual platform with customised features.
A TIAFT exhibitor showcases products on the virtual platform with customised features.

Let’s get networking

ICMSA provided a variety of networking opportunities with eight themed break‐out Zoom rooms. These spaces offered different interaction opportunities and engaged delegates outside of the scientific programme times, proving to be a successful strategy.

The closing celebration also provided fun interactivity, with a Rock 'n Roll Game Show featuring live musicians jamming and hosting games for audience participation.
Valuable feedback

ICMSA managing director and owner, Emma Bowyer, said her 30‐strong team liaised with the client, key stakeholders and attendees before and during the programme to make sure it was a success.

“To be asked at the eleventh hour to make this meeting happen is a testament to the ongoing work we do within Australia and internationally for our valued clients,” said Bowyer.

TIAFT President Marc LeBeau was also full of praise for the team. ICMSA has been invited to manage the 2025 TIAFT meeting in New Zealand.



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