ITALY – Innovation has played a big part of AIM Group International’s business strategy. One of its clients, the Italian Academy of Prosthetic Odontology (AIOP), had already defined the scientific content of its congress, the sponsors had been confirmed, and a good number of participants had also registered.
With COVID-19 standing in the way, the group was then tasked with transforming the annual event which was originally scheduled to take place in a congress centre in Riccione, Italy, into a virtual one. Delegates followed the AIOP On Air congress sessions remotely by connecting online from their PC, tablet or smartphone.
“We had to work very hard to provide the technical solutions, involve sponsors, train the speakers and inform the expected participants, but the client was really enthusiastic and committed as we were, so we finally succeeded in realising a seamless event which was a real success” said Ms Lavinia Ricci, business manager, Congress, AIM Group International.
Several tools enable active online audience participation, making it possible to interact with speakers and exchange views with other participants through chat rooms and poll systems. The event took place from 30 April to 2 May in a “virtual television studio” which had a realistic and immersive layout, with different graphic setups according to the type of session.
The speakers presented slideshows, videos and virtual Q&A sessions. Moderated by a chairperson, a live talk show was held where supporters and opponents of a specific viewpoint were able to discuss topics, engage in debate with the online audience.
An area dedicated to sponsors offered the possibility of following thematic itineraries (live and on-demand). Branding, Video Content and Meet the Sponsor themes drew new audiences, who otherwise would not have been able to attend the physical meeting, and attendees could follow all of the content rather than being restricted to attending only one of the parallel sessions. All of the live event content is available on demand for one year.
An internal search engine allowed participants to search the content through personalised thematic journeys and by speaker, keywords, tag or topic. “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,” said Mr Carlo Poggio, president of AIOP.
“We are convinced that despite the social distancing imposed by the health crisis, the need for meeting people face-to-face will remain. We strongly believe in the power of events, where people interact, collaborate, learn and build relationships,” said Ms Patrizia Semprebene Buongiorno, VP, AIM Group International.
“At this time, events can only be online but the digital transformation is part of a wider evolution process that, having begun as a result of a crisis, will last into the future.”
The digital event was developed on the customised “AIOP On Air” virtual platform, which offered the following:
• Active online audience engagement included chat rooms, poll systems, Q&A forums which allowed participants to interact with speakers and exchange views with other participants
• A virtual television studio had a realistic and immersive layout and different graphic settings
• A well-structured virtual area dedicated to sponsors with thematic itineraries, corporate videos, documents and presentations. Participants could also attend one-on-one or one-to-many meetings with exhibitors
• A Press Corner allowed journalists to download hi-resolution materials and record live interviews with speakers.
• All the content is available on demand for one year, searchable through personalised thematic journeys.
• Multiple education experiences. Education sessions were broadcast live not only during the three-day event but also on two more half-day webinars.
• Social interaction The board, faculty and attendees could share informal moments and participate in online happy hours.
Success in the making.
Member engagement was achieved and AIOP was able to deliver education to its community, avoiding cancellation or longer postponement. Achievements include the following:
• A larger attendance. There were 1,850 registered attendees which was a 130% increase from the previous edition. The association attracted new audiences, who would not have been able to attend the physical meeting.
• An effective learning experience. Attendees could interact and participate in the conversation.
• New sponsorship opportunities. Despite the lockdown, companies were able to disseminate their communication materials, organise networking and virtually meet delegates.
• Event extended lifespan. The event duration was longer with sessions being spread over several days. The on-demand archive will extend the virtual lifespan of the content for a year.
• 97% liked the new event format and 94.5% will take part in another virtual congress in the future.
Said Ms Rosangela Quieti, managing director of the Congress Department, AIM Group International: “As event professionals, we know that in this crisis situation, we must put our in-depth knowledge of the needs of scientific societies and companies and of the learning processes to create effective virtual events.
“Technology allows us to create educational and experiential paths user-friendly, engaging and interactive sessions that can keep attention high and facilitate the knowledge exchange typical of live events.”