Event Tech empowering connectivity for students across the globe
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
The annual Postgraduate Research (PGR) Degree Student Conference of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) is a two-day event that serves as an opportunity for PGR students to present their research to the wider community at LSTM. It was planned to take place this June as an in-person event but the government restrictions changed unexpectedly and the venue was no longer available to host it.
This is a very important event for the post-graduate students of LSTM as it is a mandatory presentation they each have to do for the whole school and academics and they are rated on. A large number of the students are located overseas working on their research onsite in Africa and other locations while the rest are working from home over the last year so it is very important to make it an easy and stress-free process for everyone who is participating.
The biggest challenge for the DXM team was the tight schedule and the number of students and Poster booths who were involved, and the importance to offer an equal opportunity of representation at the event.
We started working on this project almost 7 weeks out and our focus was on quickly identifying the project objectives and deliverables as well as the factors that would make this event a meaningful experience for the LSTM students and academics. The school had specific standards on how the agenda had to be structured and there were back to back live presentations throughout the 2 days which we could not negotiate or change but had to find solutions.
Part of our job is to assess the event elements in detail and suggest the best-suited technology to deliver it and after careful thinking, we proposed:
Platform: Hopin & Streamyard
Length: 2 days, 7hrs each day
Audience: all staff and students of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)
The platform we suggested offered the possibility of easily accessible areas for the attendees to navigate and also offered adequate technology for the students to present their research.
The Lecture Theatre
The students presenting nevertheless had to present live from their remote location via their laptop or pc without being able to see the live audience but at the same time ensuring their work is properly presented. There was a lot of doubt around how this would be received and work.
Along with the technology, it was very important to build the necessary rapport with students and chairs so they trust us and follow our lead. Group rehearsals were scheduled with each one despite the large number (32), to set up backup plans in case connections failed, ensure no one overran and support the chairs with different scenarios and how to manage them. It was essential for us to focus on the people involved rather than just the technology and it paid off.
There were also around 50 students from different years whose posters would usually be presented in the foyer of the lecture theatre and, although time was running out, we decided to upload them on the platform and create a special area for them. It was again very important to us to give everyone equal representation and similar exposure as during an in-person event.
This conference was the best opportunity for all postgraduate students to get together and this element could not be compromised while transformed into an online event.
Our job was to educate the attendees, presenters and chairs on how the platform worked and how they could navigate it and make the best of it. We created a manual with images and concise information as well as ensured frequent 'nudges' and info 'bites' were shared across the platform during the live event to remind attendees how to best connect with each other even post-event.
Thematic round table discussions were set up on Day 1 in sessions/breakout rooms which gave the opportunity to academics and students to meet from across the world meet and exchange views on the different themes while live Chat and Q&A functions across the platform kept the live feedback and comments coming in, connecting the speakers with the audience at real-time.
The overall event experience
The fact that we used a platform for this event enabled us to have strong data gathering and analysis that clearly showed the client how the event was experienced and received. The reporting of the Chat and the Q&A is a testament to the strong engagement of the attendees with the Lecture Theatre presentations, display positive and celebratory spirit from all participants and enable presenters to easily connect with the audience and carry on valuable exchanges and conversations, even post-event.
Reporting from the Poster booths could easily show again high engagement and valuable connections were easily made by students across remote locations that would have been very difficult otherwise.
The conference had an 80% attendance rate across the two days, the activity was high and stable across all the areas of the event and the overall feedback from senior management, academics and the students was very positive!
Everyone loved the value the technology could bring to the conference that the LSTM is now considering next years' PGR to take place again online regardless of any COVID-19 related restrictions.
The Postgraduate Research (PGR) Degree Student Conference involved a lot of work but it was equally an immensely rewarding experience for us.
We met and worked with an amazing group of people who, like us, are passionate about their work and that surely showed through the results.