Basic Event Information
Date: 17 – 20 June 2022
Location: MAICC, Athens, Greece
Organiser: AIM Group International
Client: European Society of Hypertension (ESH)
EVENT CATEGORY: CATEGORY B2C
EVENT SUBCATEGORY: Best Association Conference, Congress
EVENT FORMAT: HYBRID
Event description and key objectives
The most recent editions of the annual meeting of the European Society of Hypertension (ESH) have been so different to normal. The last in-person edition took place in Milan in 2019. The 2020 congress was cancelled due to the pandemic, while the 2021 edition was fully virtual. In 2022, ESH decided to organise the event in Athens using a hybrid format. This gave physicians from low-income countries or with limitations to travel the chance to easily attend the online version, while guaranteeing the European community the chance to meet in person again. AIM Group, which has organised the ESH meeting since its first edition in 1982, also managed the online version. The AIM Phygital Platform provided a completely customised, interactive and multifunctional virtual congress hub.
Attract a large audience in Athens, despite the travel limitations, the Ukrainian war, the time passed from the last in-person meeting. Attract and engage at the same time also the online audience, making the content accessible and the interaction easy and appealing, creating a link between the two audiences and the speakers. Effectively organise two parallel and interconnect events: actually, hybrid format doubles all the operations. Further develop the IT technology infrastructure to guarantee a powerful and stable connection to broadcast without delays and disruption all sessions. Develop a fully-customised web platform to host the digital event, user-friendly, appealing, flexible, effective.
Managing a hybrid event demands a different, creative approach from organisers. A virtual speaker room for example was set where dedicated assistants managed to contact remote speakers before their sessions, welcoming them and helping them to use the platform. Large space was given to scientific content and discussion. Hybrid format requested to provide more sessions moderators, part of them in-person part connected remotely, able to facilitate discussion among the two different audiences. Sponsorship opportunities were multiplied to combine in-person and digital initiatives, for example we introduced a web tv channel completely dedicated to one sponsor which broadcasted its symposium online – providing also live simultaneous translation in Chinese. The opening ceremony included a music concert live which was spread also online to give entertainment also to digital delegates.
The ESH meeting was one of the large international hybrid conferences that used the AIM Phygital Platform. It is a proprietary web platform, developed by AIM Group, specially designed to host virtual events, up to 10.000 online participants, allowing the broadcast of live or pre-recorded videos, content sharing, the interaction and collaboration of the audience (through questions, polls, reactions, etc.), the setting up of exhibition areas and spaces dedicated to sponsors. In addition, the platform has many other functionalities, including back-office management functions, useful for the most complex events (hotel rooms, travels and transfers, etc.). AIM Group’s specialized know-how and vast experience on the mechanisms of events and the needs of all the stakeholders (client, participants, sponsors, etc.) made it possible to clearly understand what the characteristics of the ideal product and its customization are.
Participants were able to easily access the congress, navigate the platform and explore the scientific program. They were able to save their favourite sessions in a personalised agenda, visit the sponsor area, consult the sponsor documents and videos, discover the e-posters, contact the faculty, chat with other participants in a lounge area and watch the shared content on the social wall. All the education sessions were broadcast live during the congress and are available on demand for the next three months for all the registered participants (including the in-person ones). The online event was as rich as the in-person edition, which counted 126 congress sessions, 360 speakers (one third connected remotely); 12 sponsored symposia; 23 sponsors in the 400sqm-exhibition area; and 14 joint sessions realised in collaboration with scientific societies from other regions of the world (India, Korea, Latin America, United States, etc.).
The hybrid format was the right choice, as demonstrated by the recorded numbers: almost 2.000 participants registered on site in Greece and another 2.000 online delegates following remotely. It is a very satisfying result, considering that the pandemic and the travel limitations were still ongoing. The hybrid option allowed more people from different countries to attend. 20% of remote delegates came from Asia and the Far East (more than in the pre-covid editions). India and China ranked in the top ten countries followed by Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Romania and Poland, confirming that hybrid can help enlarging the geographical scope of the meeting.
Every year the ESH Annual Meeting has its event website, fresh and constantly updated, to provide all information to interested potential delegates and faculty members. The Annual Meeting is also promoted on social media with a special focus on Twitter and Facebook, and through email blast sent to a mailing list, communicating all the congress updates and insights. This activity helps maintaining a good interaction through the years and allows the hypertension community to be always updated. The recorded numbers show an increasing engagement from online communications: +260 followers on twitter and +50 followers on Facebook were gained since the previous edition.
The use of sustainable practices
The in-person meeting has clear objectives: to reduce the amount of printed paper, use less water, conserve energy, help preserve adult trees and contribute reducing the global CO2 emissions. The Scientific Programme was available only in digital version, downloadable from the congress website or by scanning the QR code available in the venue. No printed version has been provided. To avoid food waste, ESH decided to support a local non-profit organization and fresh left-over/exceeding food was donated to vulnerable social groups. To reduce water consumption but also plastic use, water dispensers with biodegradable cups were placed at the congress venue.