digital medArt basel.20
The coronavirus crisis has been challenging, but it has also presented some opportunities. Virtual and hybrid event formats have become increasingly popular, with more companies and associations now open to the possibilities of these new digital formats. Our first congress which we adapted from a physical to a virtual event was medArt basel.20. The entire transformation took place in only four weeks and was a tremendous learning opportunity for everyone involved, as well as being a unique experience for the sponsors and participants.
MedArt basel.20 was scheduled to take place in June 2020, and as every year, was to be held at the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to have medArt basel.20 take place as a virtual event and slightly earlier than planned, in order to provide the best possible solution to the lockdown problem. The final decision was made a few weeks before the new congress date, so there was limited time to create a complete and engaging virtual experience.
MedArt is a conference for general practitioners, family doctors and internists that offers sessions covering a wide spectrum of medical practice. Due to the current situation, special COVID-19 sessions were included in the conference program, and to ensure as many people as possible were able to take part, registration was free of charge.
Congrex Switzerland was responsible for the overall coordination as well as the setup of the virtual environment and the virtual exhibition. The production and live-streaming of the sessions in the University Hospital was handled by Nominari Schweiz GmbH.
7 – 8 May 2020 — digital medArt basel.20 goes live
The digital medArt experience commenced on Thursday, May 7 at 9:00 am. Right from the start there was tremendous interest with plenty of participants logging in to watch the first live session in the virtual auditorium.
Many participants also visited the exhibition to connect with a wide variety of exhibitors and learn about their latest products.
On May 8, the the next round of the virtual congress started with a minor glitch. Like the day before, the first session was supposed to start at 9:00 am, but unfortunately there was a power failure at the University Hospital. Nevertheless, we were prepared with a contingency plan in place. We were able to switch to material that was not in the room, and to a server that was in a different location. Our team informed the participants on the platform via the push notifications about the situation and engage with them in the virtual environment thus kept satisfaction high. The live session resumed just 30 minutes later.
Scientific content presented in a virtual format
Initially, medArt planned to offered a five-day scientific program with over a hundred courses and workshops. In order to adapt the program to the virtual format, the least relevant content was removed. Normally, each session would have lasted thirty minutes. In the virtual version, these were replaced by ten minute podcasts which were pre-recorded in a green screen studio. Attendees had the opportunity to prepare questions which were answered afterwards in a live discussion session.
We had chairpersons and a moderator from the medArt team. The moderator was responsible for the storytelling. The chairperson led the discussions. Both of them had a special training to be prepared for the situation in the best possible way. Thanks to the moderator, who not only ensured the sessions ran to time, but who was also the “voice” of the audience, the chairperson and the speakers were able to concentrate on their content, without being distracted or needing to worry about logistics of the program and timings.
We recorded well over three-thousand unique views of the medArt stream. The last session on a sunny Friday afternoon even attracted over eleven-hundred participants. In comparison, at the real-world congress the last session typically has about two-hundred visitors.
Having recorded the sessions in a podcast format the material can also be viewed on demand, increasing access and the longevity of the content over a traditional format.
The Virtual Exhibition — Engage with sponsors on a new level
With carefully designed exhibitor booths placed throughout the virtual exhibition hall, visitors have as near to a physical exhibition experience as possible. The digital medArt basel.20 had seventeen exhibition booths with almost 24,000 booth visits. Another seven sponsors had a presence with their banner displayed in the virtual environment.
Visitors could click on a booth to access content like videos, pdfs, webinars, links to websites etc. with the ability to download the most important information or save it in their personal briefcase. They could even interact with booth representatives through a live chat function.
Overall, the sponsors were very satisfied with the virtual exhibition. They were impressed that the system worked so smoothly and found the event an enjoyable experience.
Special rooms for special experiences
Since the social program could not take place as usual, medArt came up with something very special. The Culture Program room invited participants to take a virtual tour of several museums in Basel.
To ensure that congress visitors didn’t spend the whole time sitting down, the Stay Fit room offered various training videos that encouraged attendees to get up and get moving.
Furthermore, the virtual environment offered a COVID-19 library with more than forty related papers on display.
Short-term attraction of participants via social media
Due to the short-term nature of the project, we decided on a combined strategy of branded content on social media with influencer and performance marketing – in this case Google Adwords and Facebook Ads.
We created a comprehensive list of influencers (doctors, medical associations and publications) in the German-speaking area (Switzerland, Germany, Austria), which have or could have content related to medArt. In addition to these influencers, we created an analysis list with more than two-hundred keywords on the topic and targeted advertising via Google and Facebook. For the ads we created our own image cards.
The number of social media followers increased by over 40%, with the LinkedIn account in particular growing by over 700%.
Review and numbers
The first digital medArt congress was a great success, with more than 4,000 people participating. For comparison, in previous years about 1,500 people would typically register.
Thanks to the virtual congress, people from all over the world were able to participate – medArt attracted participants from countries as diverse as the United States, Vietnam, Australia and India. Nevertheless, the largest number of participants was from Switzerland, with over 80%.
A survey conducted after the congress also showed that 95% of the visitors were either satisfied or very satisfied with the digital format. The majority of the participants would like to see medArt continue in a hybrid format.
What our Clients says
“Due to the COVID-19 situation, we converted our physical congress into a digital event with virtual exhibition within only 4 weeks. I would like to thank Congrex Switzerland for the professional organisation of our congress at short notice. I was always able to express my concerns directly, which were implemented with great commitment and to my complete satisfaction. We have received plenty of positive feedback for the digital medArt. This success was only possible with a dedicated, fully motivated congress team.”