Like many events organisers amidst the pandemic, the Scottish Dementia Research Consortium had to reimagine the format of their annual conference. With the help of the team here at the EICC, they delivered an online event that was met with overwhelmingly positive feedback
The Scottish Dementia Research Consortium (SDRC) is a network of dementia researchers, policymakers and people living with dementia across Scotland. Funded by Alzheimer Scotland, the nation’s leading dementia charity, the SDRC is a community of more than 500 members, committed to bringing research into practice and improving the lives of people with dementia and those who care for them.
The SDRC organises a number of events, the largest being the SDRC Annual Conference. Free-to-attend and open to anyone, it brings together experts in the field of dementia research to present their latest work, while providing learning and networking opportunities. “We try to ensure the conference is suitable for a general audience,” says Carleen Smith, Policy Officer at Alzheimer Scotland. “We ask presenters to bear in mind that not everyone there will be a researcher; and of course, there are many different disciplines within dementia research, from data-based studies to social research.”
Bringing life changing research online
“The EICC managed all of the logistics - organising speakers’ arrivals, helping them to rehearse, and giving me a timeline for what I was doing and when. I couldn’t have done it without them!”
Carleen is responsible for project managing the SDRC’s events and initiatives, as well as coordinating social media and website content. “This year’s conference was originally going to take place in April,” explains Carleen, “but when the lockdown was announced, we rescheduled it for September. It wasn’t until the middle of August that we came to the conclusion it would need to be a fully virtual event.”
Thankfully, a lot of the preliminary work, such as advertising the conference to attendees and organising the programme of presenters, had already been done. The team’s challenge was to transform the event for a virtual setting. “It was a very quick turnaround,” says Carleen, “but the EICC managed all of the logistics - organising speakers’ arrivals, helping them to rehearse, and giving me a timeline for what I was doing and when. Their expert team handled the technological side of the event too, and it went without a hitch. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t have done it without them!”
Despite the last-minute change in setting, guests were very pleased with the overall event, emphasising the value of the presentations and discussions that the conference facilitated.
Setting the standards high for an online audience
Now in its fifth year, the SDRC has established itself as an informative, accessible and seamlessly-run event, so it was Carleen’s task along with the EICC to ensure that this reputation was upheld. “People knew what to expect content-wise,” explains Carleen. “We always put on a high-quality event and we certainly didn’t let them down with that this year. Luckily, we were able to use exactly the same programme of presenters. No changes were necessary so attendees received what was advertised.”
"The virtual setting also opened the event up to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend; we had people tuning in from across the globe"
Like many teams organising events amidst the global pandemic, the SDRC wanted their event to be more than just an upscaled video conference. Utilising EICC's new online events platform, they were able to include features such as poster exhibitions, break-out sessions, chat functions, and audience polling to determine the best poster of the day.
“We tried to vary the format as much as possible to maintain engagement, which worked a treat,” says Carleen. “We managed to keep strong attendee numbers throughout the day, with 160 people attending in total. We were absolutely delighted with the turnout. The virtual setting also opened the event up to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend; we had people tuning in from across the globe, including the US and Canada.”
The feedback received from the conference was overwhelmingly positive, with many attendees taking to Twitter to praise the organisers for their excellent online conference experience. Despite the last-minute change in setting, guests were very pleased with the overall event, emphasising the value of the presentations and discussions that the conference facilitated.
“Of course, we love hosting in-person events,” says Carleen, “but as long as restrictions are in place, the EICC provides an excellent alternative. As it was such a huge success, we would definitely run a virtual or hybrid event with the EICC again.”
To speak to a member of our team about how your event could work in a virtual or hybrid format, please call +44 (0) 0131 300 3000 or contact [email protected].