The British Society for Immunology (BSI), the leading UK membership organisation working with scientists and clinicians from academia and industry on immunology research and application, asked us to produce the BSI virtual conference; Connecting Immunology in the time of Covid-19, taking place on the day the MHRA approved the PfizerBioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in the UK.
In a year where immunological research has been at the forefront of responding to the pandemic, the digital conference was designed to bring immunologists together from their labs or homes, to share the latest research and reconnect. The event brought together over 800 delegates from 31 countries, to an event platform designed to create community and connection, while ensuring that the broadcast content was second-to-none.
The programme included keynotes from Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Akiko Iwasaki from Yale School of Medicine on Immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and Garry Nolan from Stanford School of Medicine, on Mapping the dynamic architecture of immune cells in normality and disease. There were also Bright Sparks PhD and post doc sessions, highlighting the latest research from early career researchers. Forty-five speakers presented from our virtual digital studio, broadcast and live vision-mixed into the event platform.
Other highlights included Teresa Lambe from the University of Oxford on the Development of the ChAdOx1 nCOV-19/AZD1222 vaccine and measuring the immune response after vaccination, Paul Moss from the University of Birmingham, on the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC). Day one culminated in the award of the Bright Sparks in Immunology 2020 prize, and day two culminating in a fascinating panel on Coronavirus.
We customised a branded event platform with a well-designed user experience, two parallel stages, eight parallel sessions, seven chat rooms, a coffee lounge and helpdesk staffed by real people, as well as an exhibitions and posters area with booths for twelve sponsors, five BSI booths on the Society’s membership, journals and other activitiers, integrated with a poster platform to host 100+ posters, and hosting a speed networking area which nearly 50% of participants enjoyed.
The Business Narrative team worked closely with the BSI team to produce and deliver the event. We delivered all the production and technical elements of the event; customising the event platform, onboarding sponsors and other booths from the BSI, briefing speakers and managing their platform onboarding and tech rehearsals, managing question moderators, overseeing the creation of video stings and video messaging loops, briefing the wider BSI team on the platform, supporting onboarding delegates with a bespoke platform showround video. We built a complex production schedule with 4 digital studios, dozens of videos and pre-records, On the day we ran both the backstage and front of house operations; our team of stage managers and production professionals managed speakers and ensured professional live-streaming into the event platform, interspersed with videos, lower third name straps, running two stages to time. Our front of house team staffed the helpdesk answering any queries, managed the chatrooms and roundtable discussions, supported sponsors and the BSI in their booths, created and delivered directional messaging within the platform to ensure delegates experienced the full event, and responded to any chat queries. Post event, we delivered a detailed dataset and analysis to the BSI team, enabling them and their sponsors and partners to fine-tune their activities for future events.
The event launched the BSI’s new Open Access journal, Immunotherapy Advances, and created the oppprtunity to share work members had done over the last nine months, The event received phenomenal feedback, both on Twitter and via follow-up evaluation.
It was a privilege to work with the BSI team and to deliver a true event with purpose at a time when it really matters. As one delegate posted at the end of the conference “proud to be an immunologist today!”