Why do we charge registration fees for virtual events?

“Why do you charge registration fees for virtual events? You are not flying speakers in, there are no accommodation or catering costs. You are not printing any conference material!” Yes, you are absolutely right! All of these are valid points in the world of virtual training. And yet we are still charging registration fees. Why?

As a non-profit organisation and with training being one of its five missions, EMBL sets its fees at the lowest possible level to just cover the costs of the events program. These are:

Staff

It sounds incredible, but virtual events turned out to be more time-intensive and demanding in terms of staff support than we thought. We are now busy scheduling test runs with speakers, populating virtual platforms, coordinating the timely and high-quality delivery of pre-recorded talks, providing technical support and trouble shooting – all things we didn’t have to do for onsite events, or previously had support with from our onsite service staff. In the past year, our team has even grown in order to be able to deliver the 31 virtual courses and conferences that took place in 2020.

Behind the Scenes at the EMBL Conference: Transcription and Chromatin (27 – 29 August 2020). Previously only one conference officer was the main coordinator of an onsite meeting. Now there are always two people onsite, splitting the tasks of monitoring and communication with the participants, speakers and audio-visual technicians.
Software

Unfortunately, virtual events cannot be run solely on Zoom. That would have made everything much easier, but attending a conference or course is so much more than listening to the talk. Participants look for interaction, networking options and avid peer exchange. So our courses’ and conferences’ programmes incorporate a range of networking and knowledge-exchange sessions such as meet-the speakers, bar mixers, pub quizzes, speed networking and poster sessions. In order to meet these requirements we make use of paid solutions which offer all these benefits and are easy to navigate for the users.

Training

New software means new set up in terms of design and maintenance, and to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible during the events our staff require appropriate and sufficient training to be able to operate it.

Sponsorship

With all our events turning virtual, income from sponsorship has decreased accordingly. Normally at a conference you would see several companies exhibiting in the Advanced Training Centre foyer, but with the meetings taking place entirely online, there has not been as much interest in virtual sponsorship. While we are being creative with what we can offer our sponsors, they also miss the face-to-face interaction with our participants.

Marketing

While the onsite costs have decreased, getting the word out still requires the same amount of budget (if not more!). How do we make sure you hear about us and the virtual meetings we are organising? How do we stand out from the other virtual events that are currently out there? Would you hear about our meeting if we used the traditional channels as before? In most cases, we have had to add on to our marketing channels and campaigns to increase awareness about our virtual programme.

Fellowships

EMBL offers various types of fellowships to support scientists to attend our events. An advantage of the virtual format is that with lower registration fees and no travel to cover, the funds stretch much further.  We are finding that we are able assist more applicants than ever before to attend entirely free of charge.

 

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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Raili Pall

In the middle of 2020, Raili Pall joined the Course and Conference Office (CCO) team. She was the first member to start working with us remotely and it was quite a journey to get everything in place. Despite all this, she was a total hero, learned everything so quickly and started talking the CCO “language” (yeah, we kind of talk in codes for our events) within a few weeks!

Check out her interview to the end, you might want to read her favourite book🙂.

Railli Pall PHOTO: Railli Pall

At EMBL since: June 2020
Number of organised conferences/courses: 4

Favourite place in Heidelberg: 
Altstadt (Old Town). I find it really cute, full of nice cafés and restaurants.

Old Town Heidelberg Marktplatz (2017). PHOTO Achim Mende/Heidelberg Marketing GmbH

First thing you do before a conference/course starts and first thing you do after it finishes:
Before the conference/course starts I’ll go through my checklist to be sure I didn’t forget anything. After a conference/course finishes I say a big thank you to the scientific organisers, speakers and the participants for making it all possible.

What are the challenges/differences of organising a virtual conference or course?
The most challenging is probably the social aspect – working out how to increase the audience interaction and keep them engaged during the virtual event.

What do you miss most about life before the pandemic?
Travelling. I love travelling and discovering new cultures, food and people. I can’t wait to start planning some trips & travel as soon as it’s safe again.

If you weren’t an event organiser, what would you be?
I’d love to be an interior designer. I can spend hours in design shops and reading design & décor magazines. I find it incredible how simple elements can change the look and feel of a space.

If you were a superhero, what power would you like to have?
I would like my superpower to be able to speak all the languages in the world. I find languages fascinating and it would be amazing to be able to communicate with anyone in their language.

Favourite:
Recipe: I love Indian food, so I’d probably choose butter chicken. I recently learned how to cook it myself and am very proud of it😊 .

Book: „On nagu pole“ (“It is like it isn’t”) by Estonian author Alan Adojaan. I read it quite long time ago, but it’s one of the most funny and inspiring travel-books I’ve ever read.

Film: I love to watch movies, so it’s difficult to choose one. I like Paolo Sorrentino (‘La Grande Bellezza’, ‘Youth’, ‘Loro’) and Quentin Tarantino movies. One of the recent highlights was ‘Parasite’ by Bong Joon-ho that I finally managed to watch.

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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Rianne

We are very happy to welcome Rianne Moes to the Course and Conference Office marketing team! Rianne, her husband and her son just arrived to Heidelberg from Utrecht, in the Netherlands, a couple of months ago. New job, new house, new house again, taking care of a baby boy, all of this in the middle of a pandemic — you go girl!

At her previous job, she was a Communications Officer at the public library in Utrecht, with the responsibility to promote about 150 cultural events a month at the 13 library buildings scattered around the city.

Rianne Moes PHOTO: Rianne Moes

You just arrived in Heidelberg and settling down is certainly hectic. Do you already have a favourite place in Heidelberg where you go to relax?
I live near the Rohrbach area right now, and I really like the Rathausstrasse. It’s like a little village, with the town hall and some nice restaurants, bars and a bakery. It is nice to sit down on the Rorbach terrace with a drink or grab an ice cream at Illegally Tasty (they have great pasta too!).

What are the challenges of starting a new job in times of a pandemic?
First of all, I had my job interview virtually and I had never been to Heidelberg before. So, I didn’t really know what to expect. But I like a bit of an adventure!

And now, working mostly from home, it is a different vibe. Especially in the first weeks, you have so many questions that you just want to quickly ask your colleagues, instead of sending them emails or putting meetings in their calendar. But luckily, I get to go to the office quite a lot and have now also met most of my colleagues!

If you weren’t a Marketing Officer, what would you be?
A teacher probably. Maybe I will become a teacher one day, who knows! It has some similarities to marketing, because you really need to be able to place yourself into someone else’s shoes (or head, actually) and see their view on things. Also, I believe in simple, straightforward and appealing content, and explaining things to students should also be simple, straightforward and appealing.

If you were a superhero what power would you like to have?
The ability to read minds. I would love to know what everyone is thinking.

What’s your favourite:
Recipe: Melanzane alla parmigiana, that’s an Italian dish with fried eggplant, tomatoes and lots of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Wouldn’t mind eating this every day.

Book: I actually worked in a library (as a marketing officer though), so I should be able to answer this. Maybe I should promote the first Dutch writer that (just) won the Booker prize: Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (1991) with their (Marieke identifies as both male and female) book the Discomfort of Evening.

TV Series: The Wire. I think everyone should watch this. And really, keep watching, it took me a few episodes to get into the slang and the story, but this is really the best series I have ever watched.

 

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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Liz

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.

Liz Wintersteller PHOTO: Carolina Cuadras/EMBL

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.

Favourite book:
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: 

EMBL Conference: Microfluidics: Designing the Next Wave of Biological Inquiry. 13 – 15 July 2020

EMBO | EMBL Symposium: The Molecular Basis and Evolution of Sexual Dimorphism. 14 – 16 September 2020

 

 

 

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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Tim

The EMBL Events team has been working harder than ever during the coronavirus pandemic, figuring out new ways to bring our scientific programme online and trying out new technologies to make our virtual events a valuable experience for all.

Tim Nürnberger was the first event organiser to lead the EMBL transition into the digital world, organising the EMBO | EMBL Symposium: The Four-Dimensional Genome. Tim did an outstanding job (as always!) in a very short amount of time, gained a great deal of experience and is now helping the rest of team with the upcoming virtual events. So, in this Meet the EMBL Events Team edition, we are more than happy to introduce you to him.

Tim Nürnberger PHOTO: Nicola Vegiopoulos

At EMBL since: 2010
Number of organised conferences/courses: 73 (!)

Favourite place in Heidelberg:

Königstuhl for its great view and hiking routes.

First thing you do before a conference/course starts and first thing you do after it finishes:

Before: Take a deep breath, have a cup of coffee and expect the unexpected!
After: Just relax!

If you weren’t a conference officer, what would you be doing?

Travelling around the world.

What is the strangest/funniest thing that has ever happened in a course/conference?

A coach with a large group of registered conference participants drove up just outside the ATC main entrance, all of them taking pictures in front of and inside the ATC like being on a sightseeing trip, and left just a few minutes later without taking part or being interested in the conference at all.

If you were a superhero what power would you like to have?

Time travel would be kind of cool to witness some historic moments, or to travel to the future!

Favourite TV show:

Dark / Babylon Berlin / Fleabag

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