While working as Research and Engagement Manager for the Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University I helped to organise the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research Congress in April 2021. This major biannual conference had to be moved online due to the COVID. I was brought in to help with the challenge of running the event online whilst ensuring that the spirit of the in-person event remained.
My key role was to coordinate the technical side of the event. This hinged around the congress website which I built (with a professional designer who created the look and feel). The website used design elements and plugins to create a conference hub with an online searchable programme, embedded Zoom links, access to video posters, FAQs and a help desk. I also worked throughout the event as a technical producer for the keynote speakers, general troubleshooter and communications manager.
The event was a huge learning curve for everyone involved but surpassed our expectations. Registrations were around 400% of what had previously been achieved for an in-person NNMHR Congress. In addition, participants joined from across the globe including Europe, USA, South Africa, the Middle East, and Australasia. The organising team were particularly pleased that, despite being online, there was a great atmosphere and sense of community. The online format was particularly appreciated by those who would have found attending in person difficult for financial, health, caring or geographical reasons. Feedback comments included “The congress managed to feel cohesive, and I felt part of something” and “I’ve attended several online conferences, and the NNMHR congress is, by far, the one that was best organised.”
To capture the learning, I wrote a ‘Guide to Running Online Events’ with input from colleagues, which has already been an incredibly valuable resource as we move into a world where hybrid events will become the norm.