When did you realize that COVR had to provide alternatives for the conferences?
Since February, we had to deal with a lot of cancellations. So we got together with the team to look at all the possibilities, taking into account the two main components of a conference: presenting new insights and developments and establishing networking
How did that work?
The whole process took place in two steps. First, there was a virtual extension of physical conferences where everyone was present and we only streamed live for visitors and speakers who could not come. Second, we organized complete virtual congresses. Many people think it’s “just a webinar,” but there’s more to it: for example, how can we stream multiple sessions at the same time and how do we bring that unique conference feeling to such a digital session?
Which results did COVR achieve?
In the result we achieved, all the physical has been given a place digitally. For example, you can navigate as if you were in a real conference room to follow a live stream. There are also networking opportunities such as forums, a messaging system and video chat. In this way, you can look up people and chat with them. This is the equivalent to running into someone in the hallway. In addition, there is a virtual meeting room where you can ask questions via a Q&A panel. Other visitors can like the questions so the speakers know where the greatest interest lies.
Even Poster Presentations have been given a place in the virtual conference platform. These are presentations that are exhibited in a gallery, but not presented in a session. This can be done by uploading a document in the online gallery, whether or not accompanied by audio.
The icing on the cake? That’s the exhibition part, which is also the biggest economic factor for conferences: full exhibition stands in 3D where you can view leaflets and videos and even ask questions at desks. As a bonus, there are contact opportunities thanks to the “Drop your business card” feature.
What was the biggest challenge for COVR?
The speed with which everything had to be done was the biggest challenge. In the process, we also have to sell functions that have not yet been developed. So the customer actually has to buy these items based on trust in our organization. A second challenge of switching to a digital alternative is that customers start “shopping” again: they look up if the competitor offers the same thing.
Do you think virtual conferences are a one-time offer or is it the future?
Right now, customers want to go back to the physical as soon as possible, but it will be risky for a long time. So we have to bet on two tracks. In the future I think it will be more of a hybrid approach when residents of certain countries cannot get outside the borders. In this way they can follow and give lectures too. Fortunately, this alternative is easily accessible. Almost everything runs in a web browser and you don’t have to install anything. Everyone who has access to a laptop can take part in the conference.
How did the first virtual events go?
Very well. We have already completed a number of workshops and we can be proud of the innovative power and speed of implementation that we have shown. We learned a lot of new things as a team, based on our experience. When you hear from the customer afterwards that it was fantastic and easy to participate, it’s very satisfying.