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Since the coronavirus outbreak the demand for virtual congresses has skyrocketed immensely. Something that was considered impossible before. And they appear to have interesting side effects. Project manager Mirella Mels explains the ins and outs.

Webinars have become a well-known medium within healthcare. But making a multi-day congress completely virtual? Since corona it has been proven that it can be done. For example, a large European hematology conference in June, normally attended by around 12.000 people: completely virtual. All sessions were digital, participants could register in advance and watch them afterwards as well (on demand). There was even a complete virtual exhibition. Online Seminar was involved in broadcasting three satellite symposia live from our studio in Amsterdam.

Benefits of a virtual congress

‘No travel time, a lower registration fee, increased sustainability: those are the obvious benefits,’ says Mirella. In her role as project manager, she is responsible for ensuring that everything is arranged from A to Z: she makes sure that potential participants are invited, explains the webinar process to the speakers, and is present during all broadcasts. ‘We hear from many participants of the virtual congresses that they value the reduced travel time the most. They can spend the extra time on work or their families. Obviously, people miss the personal interaction too, but there is just as much space for interaction during the sessions. For example, questions can be asked to the speakers via the live chat.’

The future: a hybrid form

Mirella expects that the future of congresses will have a hybrid form: physically and virtual. ‘The time we are living in now accelerates everything. People get used to it, albeit in a “forced” manner. Obviously, the need for face-to-face contact won’t go away. But there are many people who find it more pleasant to attend the sessions from behind their desks. This is because they don’t want to, or can’t travel, they want to take care of the environment, or because they like the virtual experience just as much. I’m convinced that a virtual congress will soon be an indispensable part of the mix’.