It’s safe to say that 2020 has been – and continues to be – a strange year! We have all been forced to adapt the way we live and think, and at EMBL it is no different.
Traditionally we would now be presenting a sneak peek of our 2021 training programme. However, since we have had to make a range of changes to adapt our programme to the current circumstances, we are doing things a bit differently this year! Our new poster includes the updated 2020 events (virtual of course!), as well as the planned training courses and conferences for the first half of 2021.
We hope to welcome people onsite in 2021, but have back-up plans in place should this not be possible! Our EMBO | EMBL Symposia series continues, and we continue to offer a range of EMBL Conferences, EMBO Workshops, and Courses – both established and new. Ever wondered what all these different event types are? Here’s an explanation!
Our online training offerings are more popular than ever, so you also have the option to learn at your own pace with our train online and webinars to make sure you stay up-to-date with the latest scientific techniques!
The complete 2021 EMBL Course and Conference Programme will be published in November – if all goes to plan!
This week we meet Rebecca Nicholl, Events and Marketing Officer at EMBL-EBI. Rebecca is responsible for the marketing of the EMBL-EBI Training programme as well as running some of the on-site (and now virtual!) training courses. She also attends exhibitions to represent EMBL-EBI Training.
At EMBL since: April 2019 Number of organised conferences/courses: 11-ish! Some of these I had started but sadly had to cancel as they were due to run during the early stages of lockdown.
Favourite place in Hinxton: It’s got to be the Red Lion pub just outside the campus gates. Especially the beer garden in May/June when the wisteria is in full blossom. We usually have one dinner at each course here, and the delegates love the history of the traditional 16th-century British pub.
Since lockdown began. EMBL has had to change the way we offer events. What are the challenges/differences of organising a virtual conference?
For me, it’s the constant video calls that are involved in preparation, tests and meetings involved in virtualising a course. I never really paid much attention to the way my face looks or my mannerisms in face-to-face meetings, but now I am going over the top to show I am enthusiastic and engaged in the content, which felt very unnatural at first.
How have you adapted your role during lockdown? I am lucky to have a split role, and so during this time, I have focussed more on my marketing skills rather than my events role (especially when my first few events got cancelled during the early part of lockdown in the UK). I ended up joining a cross-EMBL comms channel to help support each site during the #EMBLatHome social campaign, and met some colleagues (virtually of course) I hadn’t previously worked with.
And the other challenge of working from home I am sure we have all found, is the endless eating, snacking and grazing!
I couldn’t help tucking into this chocolate box selection to celebrate #WorldChocolateDay during our Cancer genomics course tea breaks! (Don’t tell my husband, these were part of his birthday present!)
Back in the time before virtual courses were the norm, what was the first thing you did before a course started and the first thing you did after it finished?
First thing I did is fill up my water bottle and put on my Fitbit – with such long hours it’s important to stay healthy. No longer can I survive on coffee and carbs alone! Although since lockdown, those have been my diet staples… Last thing – catch up on the all-important sleep I missed out on.
If you weren’t an event and marketing officer what would you be?
At school I wanted to train to become a town council planner; I guess I always wanted to organise something!
What is the strangest/funniest thing that has ever happened in a course?
I did have a phone call from someone asking for a refund for an upcoming course her mum had signed her up for without her knowing as a surprise birthday present. The girl was still studying for her A-levels rather than the masters’ students audience we are advertising at.
If you were a superhero what power would you like to have?
The ability to be in two places at once; so I can be in the room making sure my speakers are keeping to time, as well as being at the event desk or checking catering, coaches and so on.
Favourite TV show?
The Great British Bake Off, and I do try to bake along with the show. But in the 2019 series, I bowed out at the quarter-finals, who wants a savoury Tarte Tatin anyway!
Upcoming virtual events in 2020 Rebecca is organising: Cancer genomics
With many of our events going virtual (yay!), we think our team deserves a big round of virtual applause 👏. We are working hard behind the scenes so you can advance your virtual training, be it attending a virtual conference or a virtual course – yes, you read correctly – courses! We are super excited to bring them to life, but more on that in another post😉.
Meet Elisabeth “Liz” Wintersteller. She is the Course and Conference Officer who turned this year’s BioMalPar conference into a hugely successful virtual event. We admit it was a bit stressful to organise an event with more than 400 participants in a completely new format in such a short time, but Liz’s light-hearted and cheerful personality made it all possible.
At EMBL since: April 2019 Number of conferences/courses organised: 4
Favourite place in Heidelberg:
Adenauerplatz; I like to sit in the park, look at the fountain and enjoy a cup of coffee.
If you weren’t a Course and Conference Officer what would you be?
I would own a “Würstlstandl” – an Austrian sausage cart.
If you were a superhero what power would you like to have?
Flying, to get everywhere quickly.
Schlafes Bruder by Robert Schneider
What are the challenges/differences of organising a virtual conference?
I miss seeing the excited faces of the participants upon arrival.
How have you adapted your role during lockdown?
It wasn’t too difficult to adapt to working from home, but I miss the team lunches!
Upcoming virtual events in 2020 Liz is organising:
Virtual meetings are rapidly gaining popularity, due largely to the necessity of continuing knowledge exchange during the social isolation brought on by the Corona pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, EMBL´s Course and Conference Office was already exploring options to improve our services and the event experience on-site, including the option of digital poster presentations.
Our software provider iPosterSessions comes with easy to use WYSIWYG templates. Users can display high-resolution images, videos & animations, and the content can be updated at any time right throughout the conference – allowing poster presenters to present their research digitally and dynamically.
If you are presenting a digital poster at an upcoming (virtual!) meeting, here are eight tips to help you on your way:
Download the official template from the software provider
Most digital software providers have an official template that you can download – use it! This will reduce the risk of glitches, resolution problems and sizing issues in the final product, and you know from the outset what you have to work with.
Check out the tutorials
No two digital poster tools are the same, so take the time to browse through the online tips and tutorials to make sure you are comfortable with the software before starting. It will save you a lot of frustration in the long run!
Make your design eye-catching – it should stand out from the crowd
This is the same principle as creating a printed scientific poster – there are so many of them, so make sure yours stands out! It should be eye-catching and visually appealing. Include clear data representations, and make sure the text is to the point. It should grab attention but not explain every little thing about your results – that’s your job during the discussion.
Use media – images, sounds, video. Check that they work and display properly
Graphics and media can express details more quickly and memorably than paragraphs of text, so have a think about how you can present your work in this way and put some time into it. Be sure to check that the media files work with the software, and test every file to make sure they display or play properly.
Link to external resources
Digital posters differ from printed posters in that you can generally link to other pages online – so if there is a great external paper or online source you want to link to in order to explain your point in more detail, do it! Your audience will be grateful to have further reading handed to them on a plate if they want to find out more after the poster session.
Check your work
This should really be a no-brainer. Check your work is complete, correct and final before publishing your poster! Silly mistakes only show that you haven’t put as much time and effort into the work as you probably should have, so get someone else to go over your poster before you release it to the conference community.
Practice your presentation
Yes, it’s a digital poster presentation, and no, you won’t be talking face-to-face with your audience as you normally would, but you still need to practice your presentation beforehand and know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it. It may feel strange online, so try presenting the poster online with a colleague or your boss (e.g. with Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts) and get them to give you feedback and pointers.
Stick to the publishing deadline
There are deadlines for a reason, so please stick to them! You don’t want to risk your poster being excluded from the poster presentation because of tardiness. Give yourself plenty of time in case of any issues that may arise with uploading or compatibility (this shouldn’t be an issue if you followed the template and guidelines, but sometimes computers have a mind of their own!).
By guest bloggers and EMBL AV experts Christopher Höhmann and Jan Abda
Virtual events are on the rise, largely due to the necessity to adapt to the physical distancing enforcements and travel restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
EMBL is continuing to offer advanced training for the scientific community as safely as we can, with many events pivoting to virtual. With speakers spread all over the world with different internet connection speeds, technical support and varying levels of experience with virtual presenting, the EMBL Audiovisual team have put together a guide on how to make sure your presentation is smooth and you come across as professionally as possible for your digital lecture.
Choose your location wisely
Make sure you choose a location without a window in the background, as this will result in a high contrast, causing you to appear dark and hard to see. Make sure the background isn’t too busy, or has anything that might draw the attention away from your talk.
Pick a quiet room
When selecting the location for your presentation, make sure there is no loud background noise and that you won’t be disturbed. Who can forget Prof. Robert Kelly’s live BBC broadcast starring his adorable children as unexpected guests!
Use a headset
Ideally, use a headset in order to ensure the best possible sound. It may feel a bit strange at first, but your audience will thank you for it!
Check out a review of some of the best options here.
Use a wired connection if possible
If you have the option, connect your device directly rather than relying on a wireless internet connection. This will help avoid any possibly wireless instability or network breaks.
Avoid using the web browser
There are many different streaming software options out there. If there is a video conferencing app available for the event you are presenting at, for best results download this in advance to use for the live stream rather than relying on the less reliable web browser version.
Close other programmes
In order to save bandwidth and processing power, close all unnecessary applications on your device before your presentation starts. This will result in a smoother streaming of your talk.
Share your entire screen – carefully!
It always comes across better if you share your entire screen rather than just your keynote or PowerPoint presentation. Just be sure to keep in mind that as soon as you share your screen, everything that you can see can be seen by your audience, so be aware of what you have visible!
Troubleshooting on Macs
If you have a Mac (running Mac OS Catalina 10.15), you may have some initial problems with sharing your screen. If this is the case, try the following:
Go to System Preference → choose Security & Privacy → select the relevant app under Screen Recording and tick the box.
The (VC) app will have to be restarted in order for the changes to take effect.
Unshare before question time
When you have finished your presentation, end your screen sharing before the Q&A session starts. Your audience wants to see YOU when they are asking questions about your presentation, not the final slide of your talk.
Make it readable
Remember, people will be watching your presentation on different devices with different-sized screens. Make sure your digital presentation is clear and that the font is readable – if you can’t read it easily, neither can your audience.
Test, test, test!
At EMBL, our AV team will test the setup and conditions with you before the live event. Make sure that you carry out the test with exactly the same set-up as you plan to use on the day to eliminate the risk of any nasty surprises.
So now there’s nothing stopping you from giving a smooth and polished presentation at your next virtual conference. Take the time to get familiar with your streaming applications, practice and test the software in advance, and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about!
Jan Abda and Christopher Hoehmann are dedicated Audiovisual Technicians in the EMBL Photolab, and are responsible for ensuring the technical aspects of our onsite and virtual conferences and courses run as smoothly as possible. We would be lost without them!