One AO 2021
One AO 2021 was a virtual event organised by AO North America, featuring a distinguished line-up of speakers discussing innovations in science, medicine, patient care and education. Over 350 attendees from 61 different countries participated in this virtual conference.
Congrex was responsible for the overall planning, design, production and delivery of the meeting.
Objective, aim and purpose
To run a successful conference, digital or face-to-face, we have learned that it is necessary to understand not only the objectives (the client’s goal) but also the aim (from the audience’s perspective) and the purpose (the outcome) of the event, and make sure the entire organising committee is on the same page as to what these are.
Our first job was to define these three aspects for our client so that we would have an agreement and direction in which we could begin to design the event, (and yes, the objective, aim and purpose can be different, so it is worth exploring this at the outset with your client).
The objective of the conference was to share innovative thinking, new studies and ideas. The aim was for the audience to experience the information in a new way, one that could not already be found on the internet (this became a filter for content selection and delivery). The purpose was enhanced learning and finding new ways of thinking for these medical professionals.
To bring these to life the meeting was supported by the conference theme “re-imagine, re-think and innovate”.
To do justice to the theme, we realised that we too needed to ‘re-think, re-imagine, and innovate’ to prevent delivering a contradiction from the outset (does anyone now consider a standard zoom meeting to be innovative?). We knew we had to live the behaviours we were going to ask of our participants so we started re-thinking and re-imagining what could be achieved with the tools we had.
We wanted to create an environment that not only communicated the topics being discussed, but also offered participants an experience that stimulated thinking – so a standard instructional presentation would not cut it. We needed to re-think how this might look and what else we could bring.
A second challenge was that not all the content was new, and could already be found on the internet (as is often the case today). We re-imagined how this could be presented, in ways that would either reveal new insights about the content or in a way that has never been seen before.
We needed to innovate and be mindful of the time we would have to ask presenters to invest – people who are all medical professionals and also have a ‘day job’.
Once we had established all this, we set to the task of designing the agenda in a way that took the participants on a journey from start to finish. We needed a strong thread to tie the theme and presentations together. The metaphor that stood out for us, that could represent all that we wished to achieve: ‘re-imagine, re-think, innovate’ was music and art.
Music and art
The best music is innovative: the same handful of chords are constantly being re-imagined in different combinations to sound completely different, and transmit information in a completely new way.
We worked with SongDivision, who introduced each speaker through a song. They involved the audience in a collaborative song writing project, which helped inspire creativity and strengthen connections. Together with the audience, SongDivision created a song to commemorate and summarise the event, something that every participant could remember. The power of music is that it speaks directly to our emotions, strengthens connections and helps create memories.
Here’s what SongDivision had to say about the event:
SongDivision was really excited to be brought in by Congrex for AO2021. Having worked with them before, we knew it would be a well thought out event, delivered with the highest level of professionalism. Congrex did not disappoint!
Working alongside Open Audience and Amber Anderson, the content was delivered in a way that was informational yet engaging. The speakers were of the highest quality and the panel discussions were insightful. This made our job of reinforcing the event’s key messages through the creation of an original song (that all participants helped to create!) incredibly easy. This was partnership and collaboration in it’s truest form, and I can’t wait to work with Congrex again!
(Sam McNeill, General Manager – UK & Europe, SongDivision)
For us the music alone was not enough – we wanted to take it all a step further. In digital environments, everything can be very static. Because of this, we wanted to create something visual and creative. People respond to and process visual data better than any other type of data. In fact, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. We hired Amber Anderson, an extraordinary artist and expert in visual recordings of ideas, discussions and strategies. She drew a summary of each session and one of the entire meeting in a visual, artistic form – all live, during the event.
With music and art as a backdrop, we then sought to elevate the presentations, so the participants would take as much as possible from each one. We did that by coaching the presenters online and by presenting the content they provided in a visually stimulating way with the aid of post-recording design work.
Good storytelling techniques can help bring data to life and make it memorable and emotional. Rehearsals are very important: taking some time to practice might seem excessive, but it helped the presenters to be prepared, relaxed and able to concentrate on content and not the technical aspects. Our role was to make sure everything was taken care of, that the speakers felt comfortable and could easily convey their message to an audience. Each and every one of the presenters told us they were grateful for the way we helped bring their content to life and elevate their presentation.
Because of recent events our audience has been sitting in front of a screen more than they usually would and so we wanted to do something different and entertaining and to make them laugh. Research has shown that if you make someone laugh, they are more likely to remember what you told them afterwards.
The event was a great success. More than 90% of the participants said they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the virtual conference.
Although a majority of participants reported very positive feedback, we were aware that the event was not quite to everyone’s taste. Despite this, we were still able to hold the audience’s attention, make them think and appreciate the engagement it brought.
“The Musician/MC didn’t quite hit the mark for me but I applaud the attempt to „shake-up“ the typical bland virtual event – it certainly was a new approach, so perhaps it did actually hit the mark. Hmm”
“At first I wasn’t crazy about the song introductions, but then I got used to it and started to appreciate it.”
The lesson we learned from this event was: don’t be afraid to try something new at your conference. Even the participants that do not share the same taste as you or your client can still have a memorable experience.