"We'll keep our community safe"

Interview with Celina Renner, Senior Manager, Congress at the International Diabetes Federation, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you have decided to host the IDF Congress, which was supposed to take place in Bangkok, virtually. What sparked the decision to host an online event instead of e.g. a hybrid event or postponing the in-person Conference?

We took the decision to postpone the IDF Congress 2021, initially scheduled to take place in Bangkok on 6-9 December, and host a fully virtual event because of the uncertainty with regard to international travel and a concern to keep our community safe. The experience we acquired in organizing webinars since the beginning of the pandemic, as well as lessons learned from other organizations, also informed our decision to go fully virtual.

Is this your first virtual event format? How has the planning and organization changed?

Yes, this is our first virtual meeting. Planning has shifted from multiple suppliers and logistics around a physical meeting to almost solely IT-related matters and one IT supplier responsible for the virtual platform. In the last four weeks leading up to the event, organization focuses on presentation recording, replacing the speaker preview room function.

Can you give us an impression of what the Virtual Conference will look like for attendees?

IDF Virtual Congress 2021 attendees will be welcomed in a virtual convention entrance hall that will feature sessions, satellite symposia and a series of networking opportunities that will allow attendees to exchange with peers and experts on a wide range of topics, and get first-hand advice and expertise from our top-level speakers and leaders in the field of diabetes.

Going back to large in-person events might take some time to get used to. Do you think this may affect the number of attendees in the future?

Yes, I think onsite participation will decrease and online participation will increase, as most meetings will be offered in a hybrid format.

How do you think COVID-19 will change our industry, and what measures can be taken, in your opinion?

Meetings will turn hybrid, offering an online component for a global community. Long distance travelling – especially from faculty – will be reduced; meetings will decrease in size and expenses for funded hotel and travel will go down. On the other hand, IT-related onsite expenses will increase and congress centers will put facilities for online streaming in place, increasing AV expenses.