We recently spoke to Eve Propper, Events, Sponsorship & RCPA Foundation Manager at The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) who has been in her role for over 15 years, about her recent experience in working with hybrid events, event trends and changes she has seen and what’s surprised and impressed her about the events industry over the last few years.
1. The RCPA have been developing tools to educate event attendees on what to expect at a hybrid event; what are some of the most common questions or feedback you receive from attendees/exhibitors regarding the hybrid experience?
The RCPA has a suite of activities for the continuing professional development of Pathology Trainees, Laboratory Scientists and Fellows. Our key educational activity is our annual scientific meeting called “Pathology Update”.
For our smaller internal educational activities, we created concise and specific information called the Virtual Event Guide that is available on our website with the integration of video content. Our delegates are extremely patient and kind and grateful that these educational activities can continue.
What has been really challenging to me is most delegates really want to meet face-to-face and nothing replaces that human interaction.
2. In your experience, what do you think the formula for a successful hybrid event is?
The College’s annual scientific meeting “Pathology Update” was cancelled one week before it was meant to commence in March 2020 at the International Convention Centre, Sydney (ICC Sydney) due to COVID-19. It was then scheduled for February 2021 at the Melbourne Convention Centre, Melbourne. The decision was made to have Pathology Update 2021 in July at the ICC Sydney.
Pathology Update 2021 was scheduled as a hybrid, the plan was to have onsite speakers, onsite delegates, and an onsite Industry Exhibition along with a virtual platform. Pathology Update 2021 went fully virtual five business days before it was meant to commence due to a Stage 4 lockdown in Sydney, Australia. I am extremely proud of the virtual delivery of Pathology Update 2021 through the ICC Sydney Connect (ICC Sydney virtual inhouse platform).
It is difficult and challenging to plan a hybrid event, as you are coordinating and planning for two conferences – the onsite and virtual conference.
My top 5 tips are:
1: Research “hybrid” types to suit your audience and choose the right tools to make it happen
2: Scenario plan (no more than 3 scenarios)
3: Set parameters & clear deadlines
4: Manage expectations
5: Work with experts in their area, collaboration goes a long way
And finally, you must be agile.
3. How does the planning for Pathology Update 2021 differ from previous years? How are you supporting your team in managing these differences?
The Planning for Pathology Update 2021 doubled due to the nature of a hybrid delivery. It is important that team members are given skills, projects, and tasks to manage within a timeframe. Training must be provided if new skills are required and don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask the experts.
4. What advice would you offer someone who postponed an event last year and is looking to have an in-person element this year?
Where is the crystal ball? I cannot wait for 100% face-to-face to be the new normal again, however I suspect we will be working within the hybrid space for at least the next 2 years, and you must plan for this. I encourage as many Event Managers as possible to work towards an in-person element, however, be realistic and always plan for virtual.
5. What are some of the event trends you’ve seen change this year? (I.e., early bird tickets, exhibitor participation)
The below are trends that I have noticed, (this does not mean I necessarily recommend or do them, it’s simply what I’ve noticed has changed in 2021).
1: Early bird registrations being extended
2: Free or reduced rate registration for virtual content
3: Streamlining the structure of your event is recommended
4: Virtual events are either hit or miss!
5: Exhibitors & Sponsor expectations are very high.
6. What is one thing you’ve seen over the past year that has really surprised you / impressed you about the events industry?
The resilience, kindness and dedication of events industry has really excelled. It is not really a surprise to me, but it was elevated. The connections and relationships that have been forged are extraordinary. To see your professional colleagues at their most vulnerable is a humbling experience.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the PCMA community?
I suspect I am with the majority view that I did not expect to be living through a global health and economic pandemic. Everyone who works in Events is fundamentally there because they love people – the interaction and engagement. It is okay to admit what you do not know – we are all not experts in everything and need to ask for help. We all need to be kind and sensitive to one another and realise that one day soon we will be all back together and that is what we are all craving.
About The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA)
The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) is the leading organisation representing Pathologists and Senior Scientists in Australasia. Its mission is to train and support pathologists and to improve the use of pathology testing to achieve better healthcare. For those who are not already familiar with this area of medicine, pathology is about the study of the causes of disease and pathologists are the specialist medical doctors involved in the diagnosis and monitoring almost of all acute and chronic illnesses.
As a way of background, the College was first established in 1956 and has been responsible for the training and professional development of Pathologists since that time and more recently Senior Scientists. College members come from across Australasia including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. The RCPA is also responsible for the promotion of the science and practice of pathology.
One discipline of Pathology is Microbiology and Microbiologists in public and private laboratories in Australasia are responsible for testing COVID-19.
Eve Propper is the in-house Event, Sponsorship & RCPA Foundation Manager and has been at the College for 15.5 years. Please follow @evepropper on twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.