Challenges. According to the Ottawa Conference Operations Director, Pat Lilley, “This particular conference was a lot more challenging than usual due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We came for our last site meeting in January 2020 and everything was wonderful and going according to plan, with large numbers of participants registered. However, we ended up facing the challenge of trying to maintain a full programme, while recognizing that many participants from around the world could no longer attend the conference.”
To help deal with these challenges the Ottawa Conference Organiser teamed up with the Centre to find innovative solutions to ensure the event ran smoothly despite the global disruption. This involved last-minute changes in the event format and the ability for participants and speakers to join and engage with the conference programme remotely and vice-versa, which utilised the venue’s state-of-the-art information technology (IT) and audio-visual (AV) infrastructure.
Of key importance at the time was the ability to keep potential attendees engaged and comfortable about participation under growing uncertainty about travel restrictions. Consistent, factual, transparent communication was the crucial factor that kept delegates committed to attending the conference. The other crucial factor was adapting and increasing hygiene and sanitary measures to ease concerns and create visible changes in the Centre around these mechanisms.
The Centre’s General Manager, Alan Pryor, said, “A flexible and engaged partnership approach with the Event Organiser was critical in order for them to feel assured and not alone in a volatile changing landscape. We constantly were looking at ways to make the conference remain viable and to ensure anyone who wanted to be a part of it could attend in person or participate remotely. It really did provide us with a very good opportunity to fully utilize our technologically advanced IT backbone to support flawless remote access and create a safe environment for the Ottawa Conference.”
Speaking on her experience and thanking the Centre for their role in making the Ottawa Conference such a compelling and seamless event, Lilley added, “The Centre was very responsive and senior management has been extremely helpful, recognising that we really didn’t want to cancel and postpone the conference, but were not in a position to accommodate the original number of participants we expected. The Centre was also very attentive and the staff extremely helpful throughout the entire process. We were very pleased with the high level of service we received.”
“In the end, the conference went amazingly well, albeit slightly differently due to the global situation, as it forced us to think very carefully about the format of the conference programme. It was quite an experience, but I have to say it’s been very enjoyable and the participant feedback was extremely positive, with many liking the new format as it felt more cohesive. Whilst initially it felt like all bad news, it certainly has not been that way at all. I am so pleased we put on a good conference with the help of so many people,” Lilley concluded.
Held biennially and jointly organized by the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) and International Medical University Malaysia (IMU), the Ottawa Conference brought together medical and other healthcare profession educationalists to network and share ideas on all aspects of the assessment of competence in both clinical and non-clinical domains, throughout the continuum of education. Participants include both those new to the area of assessment and those with many years' experience to share.