Organisation of the First Hybrid BMCS MeetingDouglas Williamson
The BMCS ran its first hybrid event in collaboration with the SCI. The event was the 21st RSC / SCI Medicinal Chemistry Symposium, held on 13th-15th September 2021 both virtually and physically at Churchill College, Cambridge, UK, and it was highly successful.
2. Virtual Platforms
Vimeo was used for the live stream of the main technical programme on the recommendation of TC Digital (the AV company used and associated with Churchill College). The initial intention had been to use YouTube but the platform’s password-protection changed, and hence the change to Vimeo.
Zoom Meetings was used for networking, using one of the RSC’s licences, because it was gratis.
Zoom Meetings was also used for Posters (one licence) and for the Speaker set-up and Q&A (another licence). Again, this was on the recommendation of TC Digital as it was an easy platform to work with, inexpensive, and familiar to most users.
3. Role of AV Provider
In advance, TC Digital worked with each speaker and each flash presenter to create a recording for use on the day.
On the day, TC Digital set the cameras in the conference room, provided the sound mixing, communicated with the virtual speakers and chairs. They also managed the live Q&A in a dedicated Zoom Room. Two of the speakers delivered live presentations, and four of the speakers were live in the conference room for Q&A. The 2021 Malcolm Campbell Memorial Prize was presented in person and received via video link. This is the video with Sir Patrick Vallance receiving the Prize.
4. Aspects of the virtual platform which were used and registration arrangements
Virtual platforms were used for networking, poster sessions, exhibitors, Q&A and, of course, speaker presentations. Delegate registration and fee collection were handled via the BMCS’ usual channels, and not the virtual platforms.
At the time of registration, participants were asked whether they would be interested in attending in person if rules permitted. Once both Government and College rules allowed us to accommodate delegates on site, we asked whether (a) they still wanted to attend and, more importantly, (b) their company would allow them to attend. Those two numbers were very different. At this point, we notified potential physical participants of the rules agreed with Churchill College.
5. What worked well?
– Overall everything was fine and the full capacity of physical participants reflected how much a face-to-face event was welcomed.
– The physical networking was very well received, and the virtual networking sessions, although sparsely attended (10-12 people), were enjoyed by those who joined.
6. What could be improved?
– A broadcast onto a YouTube channel as well as Vimeo would have been preferable, because Vimeo was a bit poor.
– Trying to have virtual delegates asking question orally did not work, but this improved substantially when we reverted to written questions for virtual participants, relayed by the session chairs.
– The computer hosting the Zoom Room for posters failed, which was a disappointment for virtual delegates. Within the Zoom Room, the ‘top of the list’ posters were very busy but hardly anyone visited the later numbers and the attendance at exhibitor stands was low. There are no suggestions on how this might be improved.
– Exhibitors probably experienced no particular advantage in attending in person, because there were no physical stands – virtual attendance may have been equally beneficial to exhibitors.
7. Number of Attendees
There were 281 virtual attendees, of whom 55 paid additional premiums for face-to-face catering, etc (refreshments, lunches, optional dinners). These figures include 8 free-of-charge Organising Committee members, of whom 7 attended in person (including secretariat).
8. Delegate Feedback
Feedback was collected by paper and electronic questionnaires, and details of the feedback may be found in this document.
9. Organiser Details and On-the-day Management
One secretariat plus:
– Nadia Ahmad, Charles River
– Mark Healy, Novartis (Technical Adviser)
– Simon Peace, GlaxoSmithKline (Chair)
– Jo Pinder, Vertex
– Gordon Saxty, Fidelta (Treasurer)
– Jamie Scott, AstraZeneca
– Chris Swain, Cambridge MedChem Consulting
– Nigel Swain, Sosei Heptares
– Andrew Williams, Hon Chairman, RSC BMCS
Two of the Organising Committee attended virtually. Although large, the committee size is necessary for such an event.
10. Additional Information
– When the event organisation started, the Organising Committee had no idea how COVID would affect or change the event.
– The budget was signed off on the basis of a worst case scenario with just six organisers attending in person, and 450 online delegates.
– A budget annex was prepared and signed – this included for the face-to-face element of the event.
– The additional face-to-face component allowed for just over 50 people being seated in an auditorium with 320-seat capacity. One Organising Committee member indicated that he would not have attended if 100 participants were allowed, and some other members stated they were only allowed to addend with such a low density event.
Gordon Saxty, Chris Swain and Maggi Churchouse
17th December 2021