Thursday 2nd September was a significant day for the EICC. For the first time since the pandemic began, we held an in-person conference in our venue. Combining the expertise gathered during the past year and a half and the excitement for the return of face-to-face events, the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine (BSLM) Annual Conference was a resounding success. BSLM Executive Director, Dr Fraser Quin talks us through the event, balancing the hybrid format and the joy of coming back together
In early September, we were delighted to welcome through our doors the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine (BSLM) for their 2021 Annual Conference. Returning in a hybrid format, a total of 755 guests attended the conference – around 500 in-person and the rest tuning in remotely.
The BSLM is a charitable body that promotes the role of lifestyle medicine in improving people’s health and wellbeing. The majority of the society’s members are practicing clinicians, but there is representation from other areas of the health sector such as nursing and physiotherapy.
“People applauded us as an organisation for being brave enough to do this. The delegates’ experience was fantastic and we were absolutely thrilled.”
- Dr Fraser Quin
This year was the fifth BSLM Annual Conference, an event which has grown from around 100 attendees in its first iteration to 755 in 2021. Although the conference had a hybrid element, with some delegates joining remotely, the structure was essentially the same as a typical year – spread over three days, it incorporated the six key pillars of lifestyle medicine.
Dr Fraser Quin is BSLM’s Executive Director and was involved in every aspect of planning the conference. Last year’s BSLM conference was completely virtual, with 700 attendees connecting to the event from home. “It was a good alternative,” Fraser recalls, “but people definitely missed the face-to-face interaction. Our attendees were absolutely delighted to be back at an in-person event, with all the buzz and the networking opportunities that it brings. The EICC was a great environment in which to do that. It felt very safe, with plenty of space to spread out and social distance.
“People applauded us as an organisation for being brave enough to do this. Some organisations are saying that they're probably going to keep their events fully virtual moving forward, which I think is a terrible mistake. The delegates’ experience was fantastic and we were absolutely thrilled.”
A bespoke event
“Our nutritional group liaised with the EICC and their team around the menu ... so that we could list everything that was in the food.”
“The EICC team were tremendous, every step of the way,” says Fraser. “I can't speak highly enough of them. We found their guidance invaluable and they were incredibly responsive to what we needed as a team.”
Fraser highlights the conference’s food as a great example. “We work in lifestyle medicine, so the food that we eat during the conference has to be nutritionally extremely clean, unprocessed and very good quality. Our nutritional group liaised with the EICC and their team around the menu and the constituents of the menu so that we could list everything that was in the food. That was a lot of work, but it worked wonderfully.
“Tanja Kunze (Events and Client Relations Manager) and her team supported us all the way. It made our job so much easier; we knew that we just didn't need to worry and that they had everything under control. They were absolutely fantastic and I can't recommend them enough.”
Mirroring the experience
One of the key challenges of the hybrid model is creating an event that is engaging for both in-person and remote participants. “The EICC team led us by the hand down that route and it just worked fabulously,” says Fraser. “From time to time, we swung the camera around so that people at home could actually see that there was an audience there. The people at home saw everything that the in-person delegates saw.
“The technology was mirrored between in-person and at-home attendees. Everyone used the same polling apps, the same chat functions, the same notice boards, and so on. So from a technical perspective, people at home weren't losing out in any way.”
As part of the hybrid aspect, about a third of the speakers delivered their presentations remotely. “The technical team at the EICC had everything organised to perfection,” continues Fraser. “When an in-person speaker stood down, the team immediately went to the recording or the live stream for the remote speakers. So in terms of the programme, it was just a traditional conference programme with live streaming slotted in.”
An all-round success
Feedback from the BSLM Annual Conference attendees has been overwhelmingly positive, with an over 99% approval rating and praise for the venue, the city, the organisation and the food. “The response from attendees has been tremendous,” says Fraser. “One highlight was a tweet from Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University. We were thrilled that she came and about her comments on how great the conference was – well organised and safe.”
“The EICC were just great – such an expert team, great to work with, and really lovely people, too! We definitely hope to be working with them again in the future.”