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Conferencing & Events blogR&D Management Conference 2021

We recently worked with Professor Beverly Wagner and Dr Juliette Wilson from the Department of Marketing, Strathclyde Business School, to welcome almost 400 delegates to the R&D Management Conference 2021 “Innovation in an Era of Disruption” using our virtual platform, OnAIR. In this month’s blog, Professor Wagner and Dr Wilson discuss the conference and provide some top tips for running your own virtual event. 

An example of an OnAIR online event agenda timeline

When our bid was successful to host the 2020 R&D Management conference back in 2019, the world was quite different. Face to face conferences and travelling around the globe to conference venues were the norm. March 2020 saw the world of events turned upside down, with the Covid-19 Pandemic and we had to reassess our conference plans to provide an on-line only event.  Luckily, the Strathclyde Conferencing and Events team were in the process of introducing a new virtual platform, OnAIR, and this seemed the perfect way to welcome delegates from our international communities in a safe manner. 

We had a small but very committed working party to deliver the conference and from that moment, we planned every element of the conference meticulously. Clearly defined roles and processes meant that participants knew exactly what was required from them and they felt empowered to make decisions. Relationship management was key in ensuring planning and delivery of the conference ran smoothly. This required holding regular meetings to keep everyone focused and working to the same goals.

An example of an OnAIR online event plenary session

On the 6th-8th July this year, the preparation and planning paid off when we welcomed almost 400 delegates to a virtual Strathclyde and we couldn’t have wished for a better conference. The feeling of community and engagement shone through across the three days and that was exactly what we had envisioned back in 2019. Whilst delegates couldn’t be here in Glasgow or at the university in person, we used the fantastic resources from the Glasgow Convention Bureau to instil the warm and friendly welcome the city is renowned for with ‘People Make Glasgow’. One of the team said that he ‘made friends’ at the conference and this was the best feedback we could have asked for! To feel that we had facilitated new friendships and connections via our virtual event was just so emotional and something we’ll never forget, particularly after such a strange year. The virtual rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ was the perfect way to hand over to the next hosts and close a conference of which we’re very proud.

An example of an OnAIR online event plenary session

The past year has certainly been a learning curve but we’ve come out of the other side feeling confident and delighted that so many people came together as a community in such difficult and challenging times. Planning a virtual conference is completely different to arranging a face-to-face event so here are some of the top tips we learned along the way:

  • Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve from the conference and what you wish your delegates to take away from it. Ensure that this narrative runs strongly throughout your conference programme as this helps speakers, track chairs and delegates engage with one another. Due to this being online, we wanted the conference to feel more like a festival where people could dip in and out of the sessions that they felt were relevant to them but still maintaining the same theme throughout
  • Don’t underestimate the time and work required in advance to ensure a successful conference. From the moment we decided to change to a virtual event, we committed one day a week to the delivery of the conference, with the last two months seeing us working together almost every day on the complexities of the event. Each and every session was well orchestrated behind the scenes due to the vast preparation that we undertook but on the three days of the conference itself, it felt like each session was very relaxed and flowed well – this was due to us paying such close attention to each and every detail in the lead up to the conference, we left nothing to chance!
  • Make the conference accessible to all delegates from Early Career Researchers through to experts in the field. We considered pricing very carefully and this really encouraged new faces to join a well-established community where they can improve their contacts and exchange knowledge
  • The relationship with your events team is crucial. We worked very closely with the Conferencing and Events team during the planning stages and found all contact with them amazing! The patience of the technicians during rehearsals with all our speakers and track chairs was awesome and this was due to the communication and collaboration between us and the team.

An example of an OnAIR online event plenary session

Thanks Beverly and Juliette! We thoroughly enjoyed working on this conference and would love the opportunity to welcome more of our internal clients to our virtual venue! If you’d like to find out more, contact us today!