Don't forget the bubbles and fun in face-to-face conferences

This conference founder was convinced the days of F2F events were over -- until she fell in love with meeting her community in person again.

After three years of online meetings, Don’t Forget The Bubbles co-founder Tessa Davis (centre) meets her tribe in Brisbane during the in-person conference.
After three years of online meetings, Don’t Forget The Bubbles co-founder Tessa Davis (centre) meets her tribe in Brisbane during the in-person conference.

After two years of online learning during the pandemic, Tessa Davis, co-founder of the paediatric community Don’t Forget The Bubbles (DFTB), was “100% certain that face-to-face events weren’t worth the effort”.

“Who needs them when you can learn everything online, right?" said the paediatric emergency medicine consultant at the Royal London Hospital and senior lecturer at the Queen Mary University of London, who started DFTB with three friends in 2013 to deliver high-quality education.

"Online we can connect with people globally, we can avoid the hassles of travel, we can dip in and dip out of the conference, they’re far cheaper to attend and, we can do it all in our pyjamas.

"Conferences cost a fortune to run, especially when you compare them to online events. They take a massive amount of work to make it all flow smoothly. The returns simply aren't worthwhile," added Davis, who had to postpone DTF 2020 when the pandemic hit. "Since then, the conference has been a financial millstone around my neck."

Prior to the start of DFTB22, which took place as an in-person conference in Brisbane in August 2022, Davis was convinced that this year’s paediatric community conference, organised with the assistance of ICMS Australasia, “would be the last we’d ever run”.

Don’t Forget The Bubbles returned as in in-person conference in Brisbane in 2022.
Don’t Forget The Bubbles returned as in in-person conference in Brisbane in 2022.

But Davis completely changed her mind after feeling connected, energised and inspired after running the in-person conference. "Seeing our community face-to-face was a thing of beauty," she remarked. “I spent [time] hanging out with my tribe. You simply cannot replace that feeling with online content.”

She believes that it’s easy to slip into thinking that in-person events could be replaced. “Our DFTB community hasn't been able to meet together for three years, and in that time the memories of why I did it faded. I'd forgotten why the conference was such a special place.”

She says that in 2022 about 90% of the learning she does happens online and it is a “killer way” to deliver education. “It is one way to learn, but it is not the best way to connect," she stressed.

“I know that connecting with other people in online communities is possible. I've met some of my closest friends through Don't Forget The Bubbles on Twitter. But our relationships are always brought closer when we meet."

She urged everyone to attend at least one in-person conference this year to rediscover the joy and meaning of connecting face-to-face.

Echoing Davis' sentiments, ICMSA owner and managing director, Emma Bowyer, adds it is in human nature to work with people we like and it is far easier to determine that in a face to face setting.

“Personally, I see that moving forward we may see people attending less conferences because we are all used to doing more online but those events that are deemed important and where people want to make true connections will remain strong and maybe even have record attendance numbers.”



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