10 tips on how to make your virtual conference sponsorship a success!

For the past year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual sponsorship has become the norm rather than the exception at scientific conferences. With most events taking place exclusively virtually, companies are seeking alternative ways to stay connected to their users and potential customers. One way is supporting a scientific conference as a virtual sponsor and companies have increasingly been taking advantage of the benefits these packages offer. Undeniably, sponsoring a virtual conference is an entirely different experience from sponsorship at in-person meetings. Therefore, based on a year of experience, we have put together a list of tips and tricks to help you make the best out of your virtual sponsorship.

1. Define your goals and set priorities

Sponsorship goals may vary from company to company. While one company may aim for wider brand recognition, others may look for ways to generate leads or introduce a new product. Taking this step back to reflect on your goals will help you choose the best package for your needs and define your overall approach to achieve these goals.

2. Find out more about the virtual event platform

There are various virtual conference programs in use throughout the event industry. Inquire in advance about the software features that are relevant to your goals and do not shy away from asking the organisers about what worked previously and what didn’t. We pursue open communication with our sponsors and are happy to clarify all details in advance.

3. Choose your sponsorship package

Now that you have set your goals and know more about the virtual event platform, it is time to select the most suitable sponsorship package – it can either be a set package or one specifically tailored to your needs. Get in touch with the organisers to discuss the options.

4. Get ready for the event

Depending on the package you book and the opportunities the virtual conference platform offers, prepare all the necessary materials and content. For instance, if your goal is to generate more leads, prepare a sign-up form on your webpage and link your virtual booth to it. Keep in mind the deadlines so as not to miss any networking opportunities with the attendees.

5. Be creative

Understanding the format and the needs of the virtual audience is essential for your success. We now know that more interpersonal interaction and networking is something that many participants wish for at virtual events. You could address this need by offering quizzes or games at your booth with the chance to win prizes such as attractive merchandise products, discounts, or vouchers. Many of our participants are interested in career opportunities, so this is also a good way to engage them.

6. Highlight your sponsorship

Your participation at the virtual conference is not only a possibility to reach out to attendees but also the opportunity to create digital marketing content for your own audience. You can highlight your sponsorship and your support of the scientific community in your social media, newsletters, and website posts. Make sure to use the event hashtag in your post and don’t hesitate to ask us to provide you with the event visual.

7. Be curious, get involved

Take an active part in the conference, visit talks and posters to understand the participants’ research-associated needs and problems. This way you will be able to offer suitable solutions by your company.

8. Use networking opportunities

Your participation at networking activities can be the first step in engaging virtual participants. This is important to gain visibility and could encourage more visits to your booth. Make use of as many conference platform features as possible for better networking, e.g. fill out your profile, write about your interests and put in relevant keywords for better searchability. If you are interested in meeting specific people, request a virtual meeting with them via the platform. Once you’ve made a new acquaintance, do not forget to send them your virtual business card.

9. Request analytics

After the conference, do not hesitate to ask the organisers to provide you with some post-event analytics. For data privacy reasons, no personal details can be shared, but you can still get some anonymised statistics about the traffic at your booth or talk views. This will help you evaluate the success of your campaigns during the conference and will show if you need to make any tweaks for future events.

10. Give feedback to the organisers

For us, virtual conferences are a new domain so we rely heavily on the attendees’ and sponsors’ feedback to help us improve our services and their experience. We are eager to receive your feedback so please do not hesitate to pass this on to us. You can do this by either filling in the feedback surveys circulated at the end of the conference, or communicating it directly to our sponsorship and conference officers. We carefully look into the feedback provided by our sponsors and see which suggestions can be implemented in the future.

In times of restricted face-to-face interaction, it is important to stay in touch with the scientific community. Engaging relevant audiences in the scope of a virtual sponsorship is one way to keep their interest and stay abreast of any research developments. Do you feel ready to give it a go? Get in touch with us or check our sponsorship brochure to find out more about the sponsorship opportunities at our upcoming conferences.

 

EMBL is looking for scientists with artistic talent!

Are you a scientist who is interested in structural biology and bioinformatics and passionate about arts?

This is your chance to showcase your talent!

EMBL is looking for scientists with an artistic vein who can transform scientific theories into art.

What do you need to do?

Create an original piece of art representing scientific and/or societal concepts relating to a structure in the Protein Data Bank.

Need some inspiration? Look here: http://www.wwpdb.org/

If your artwork is selected, it will be hosted on www.artsteps.com, an innovative, web-based application targeted at the PDB research community.

“This art exhibition is part of the EMBL Conference: Bringing Molecular Structure to Life: 50 Years of the PDB run by our team, the Protein Data Bank in Europe. Through this project we aim to provide new interpretations of molecular structures through artwork. And this allows the introduction of complex scientific themes in a more accessible form to the general public,” explained David Armstrong, Scientific Database Curator from EMBL-EBI.

You can create your artwork using any technique or media.

And why should scientists submit their artwork?

“The exhibition will allow scientists to present their area of work or interest in a new context through the medium of art. This will also help them to think about how to communicate their work, particularly to people from a non-scientific background,” said David Armstrong.

Please bear in mind that we will need a high-resolution image of the artwork to be able to present it in the virtual exhibition.

Together with the artwork, the following data provided by you will be displayed:

  • Name of the submitter
  • Affiliation of the submitter
  • Research stage
  • Which protein the artwork is linked to
  • What technique/tools were used to create the final piece
  • Short description about the artwork.

The opening of the exhibition will take place on 13 October 2021, during the launch of the virtual conference platform for the EMBL Conference: Bringing Molecular Structure to Life: 50 Years of the PDB and will stay open for one year.

We are looking forward to getting to know the artist in you!

More information and submission details can be found on the conference website.

 

 

 

 

How to get your abstract selected for a short talk

by Nicola Vegiopoulos, EMBL Alumna, marketing expert and pianist

So, you’ve registered for a conference – be it virtual or onsite – and you reeeeeally want to present your work? It’s got everything going for it – it’s a hot topic and you have some great results to show. There’s just one little problem – you haven’t made a name for yourself in the field yet, so of course you haven’t been invited as a speaker. Never fear! There are some short talk speaking slots available. But how are you going to make sure that the abstract you submit is selected for a short talk?

Follow these steps to give yourself an edge over the others, and increase the chances of your abstract being selected to present your work.

  1. Get to the point – quickly

Generally you will have a word limit for your abstract. Don’t waste valuable words making your abstract flowery – enter straight into the subject, your problem or research question. Scientific organisers have to read a lot of abstracts, so make sure you put the most important information at the beginning.

  1. Make sure you answer 4 important questions

– What problem are you addressing and why is it important?
– What methods are you using to research the problem?
– What data have you been able to produce or process?
– What (preliminary) findings will you be able to discuss?

  1. Make it clear why your work is important

Be sure to clearly emphasise the approach and importance of your findings and theorisation. Make a concise statement that outlines the purpose, context, approach and significance of your work.

  1. Clarity, clarity, clarity!

Make sure you give strong conclusions and clear outcomes. Don’t leave anything open to misinterpretation, and make it clear if the work is finished, or at least nearly finished.

  1. Make it relevant to the research field

Outline how your research has made steps forward in the field, and what impact it will have.

  1. Make it relevant to the conference topic

Take a look at the conference programme and relate your work to areas of interest covered at the conference, as well as session titles. Have an idea of which session your short talk could fit into.

  1. Avoid dull titles

Make sure the title is catchy and informative – it will be the first thing that anyone reading your abstract will see, and will also be the topic of your short talk should you be successful in your goal.

  1. Find the balance

It’s not the easiest thing to do, but try to bring across enthusiasm for the topic across whilst remaining professional. This is one of the hardest things to do, so take your time with it and don’t try to do it at the last minute.

  1. Get feedback before submitting

Ask others to read and review your abstract before submitting, for example your colleagues or PI. They can provide you with valuable feedback which you should take on board!

  1. Follow the guidelines

It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people contact us to ask if they can submit their work after the deadline. Late submissions won’t get considered for a short talk, and there is a chance that they will not be accepted at all. In addition, stick to the word limit, and make sure you include all authors and co-authors in the correct format.

So, to sum it up, aim for precision, linearity of thought, and succinctness, and you‘re in with a good chance of getting selected for a short talk at your next conference.

Original video by EMBL Photolab and EMBL Events, EMBL Heidelberg

Best short talk winners at New Approaches and Concepts in Microbiology

The popular symposium “New Approaches and Concepts in Microbiology” took place virtually this year. 598 people from across the globe joined from their own time zone. Two presenters impressed the crowd with their short talks, even though the local time for one of them was 4.50 am (that doesn’t count as morning yet, does it?).

Jordi van Gestel and Nitzan Tal were the well-deserved winners. Read about their research below.

Short-range quorum sensing controls horizontal gene transfer at micron scale in bacterial communities

Jordi van Gestel, University of California, San Francisco, USA

Presenter: Jordi van Gestel, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), USA

Introduction: I am a Postdoc in the laboratory of Carol Gross at UCSF. Being trained as an evolutionary biologist, I was introduced to the fascinating world of microbiology during my PhD and have been working at the interface of both fields ever since. My research focuses on the organisation and evolution of bacterial cell collectives.

Abstract
Inside bacterial communities, cells often communicate through the release and detection of small diffusible molecules, a process termed quorum-sensing.

In general, signal molecules are thought to broadly diffuse in space; yet, paradoxically, cells often employ quorum-sensing to regulate traits that strictly depend on the local community composition, such as conjugative transfer. This raises the question if and how nearby cells in the community can be detected.

Here, we employ a microfluidic platform to determine how diverse quorum-sensing systems, differing in their regulatory design, impact the range of communication. While some systems indeed support long-range communication, we show that other systems support a novel form of highly localized communication.

In these systems, signal molecules propagate no more than a few microns away from signalling cells, due to the irreversible uptake of these signal molecules from the environment. This enables cells to accurately detect micron scale changes in the community composition and engage in local cell-to-cell communication.

Intriguingly, several mobile genetic elements, including conjugative elements and phages, employ short-range communication to specifically assess the fraction of susceptible host cells in their vicinity and adaptively trigger horizontal gene transfer in response. Our results underscore the complex spatial biology of bacteria, where cells both communicate and interact at widely different spatial scales.

https://twitter.com/EvolvedBiofilm/status/1413103744649203719?s=20

Antiviral defense via nucleotide depletion in bacteria

Nitzan Tal, Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

Presenter: Nitzan Tal, Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

Introduction: I am a PhD student in the lab of Professor Rotem Sorek at the Weizmann Institute of Science. For the past few years I’ve been studying the interactions between bacteria and their viruses (bacteriophages), and how both adapt to ever changing conditions in order to survive. My research focuses on identifying novel anti-viral defense systems and on understanding the extremely diverse arsenal of microbial immunity.

Abstract

DNA viruses and retroviruses need to consume large quantities of deoxynucleotides (dNTPs) when replicating within infected cells. The human antiviral factor SAMHD1 takes advantage of this vulnerability in the viral life cycle, and inhibits viral replication by degrading dNTPs into their constituent deoxynucleosides and inorganic phosphate.

In this study, we report that bacteria employ a similar strategy to defend against phage infection. We found a family of defensive dCTP deaminase proteins that, in response to phage infection, convert dCTP into deoxy-uracil nucleotides. A second family of phage resistance genes encode dGTPase enzymes, which degrade dGTP into phosphate-free deoxy-guanosine (dG) and are distant homologs of the human SAMHD1.

Our results show that the defensive proteins completely eliminate the specific deoxynucleotide (either dCTP or dGTP) from the nucleotide pool during phage infection, thus starving the phage of an essential DNA building block and halting its replication. Our study demonstrates that manipulation of the deoxynucleotide pool is a potent antiviral strategy shared by both prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

For tips and tricks on how to give a good scientific talk, watch this video

From an online interview to running my first virtual course

Iva Gavran joined the EMBL Course and Conference Office in December 2020.

We asked Iva Gavran, who recently joined the team as a Course and Conference Officer, to give us her newcomer’s insights about the very first virtual course she organised (EMBO Practical Course: Drosophila Genetics and Genomics, 11 – 15 January 2021), held in the EMBL virtual learning platform – eCampus.

It was December 2020 and after a 5-day quarantine and a PCR test I had started working at EMBL. It was just one month before the EMBO Practical Course: Drosophila Genetics and Genomic was scheduled to take place. A virtual course, of course.

In fact, my job interview at EMBL was held virtually as well and I had seen the EMBL ATC building and the city itself only in pictures prior to relocating to Heidelberg (and oh, both are stunning).

A lot of things for the course were pretty much arranged by then, but I was still baffled about how one could organise a virtual practical course. The answer may well lie in the EMBL Advanced Training Centre building’s architecture that resembles the DNA’s double helix and reminds us that adaptation is the key. We have fully adapted the face-to-face training’s structure and interaction to a new, online format.

Virtual platform

What really helps is that there is a whole learning platform dedicated to our courses, called eCampus. A clean slate at first, it was soon populated with all kinds of learning materials, videos, articles and other input sent by the speakers and trainers.

The EMBL virtual learning management platform eCampus was launched in 2020 and is used as a collaboration and networking tool by the virtual course participants.

Course materials and programme

I would say there are three main pillars of eCampus: the pre-course materials, the interaction options and the daily programme. The pre-course materials are a proper little treasure trove of knowledge with pre-recorded videos, quizzes, articles and assignments. If you have any questions, just go straight to the Forum and ask away, or chat with another participant or trainer. The programme is always up-to-date with all the links you need and it also has a nice feature where you can adapt it to your time zone. If a live session has some pre-course materials that need to be watched or read, it will be hyperlinked in the programme or the material will be added below, which is pretty cool and very convenient.

Networking

Networking is a crucial part of every event, whether it’s a conference or a course, but it is hard to replicate in a virtual environment. I remember how it was for me to virtually meet my colleagues, and trust me, it’s definitely odd, but somehow at the same time it also felt normal. After all, we share the same work experience and it’s the same when attending a course. Well, not exactly the same if you are a work-from-home parent, but EMBL has amazing childcare grants to help you with that.

The Drosophila course started off on a Monday with an ice breaker event, where all participants shared a few slides to introduce themselves, their hobbies and their career path. It was a full display of lockdown life with cooking, baking and Netflix all over the slides (mine included). There were also networking activities like speed networking, student presentations, a discussion panel and a quiz which fostered interactions between participants and trainers and helped create a really nice group dynamic.

Course modules and learning process

The course was designed in a way that required some pre-course work.  The platform contained a lot of pre-course materials, papers and videos which the participants needed to go through before attending the full 5-day course with about 4-5 course hours per day.

I remember some participants were a bit unsure if they needed to watch them before the course. The idea (and I really liked this) was that participants watch the pre-recorded videos in advance, so that when the speakers and trainers joined live during the course, participants could ask as many questions as possible and thus learned even more from the discussion. This was actually the true benefit of the virtual course – a more thorough discussion and full understanding of the topic compared to the standard format of live lectures followed by 5 min of Q&As. And judging by the participants’ feedback, this format was quite a success.

Some of the interactive sessions of the course were designed in a similar way. For example, participants were assigned tasks that they had to complete before the course. During the course, they received feedback, could ask questions and go over the rest of the tasks with the trainers. To let this all sink in properly and to give them a chance to reflect on what they had learned, participants were able to access all the materials and live recordings for two weeks after the course. As some pointed out, this was amazing for a virtual event and I agree completely.

For me, the best part of the Drosophila course was watching the lively interactions and discussions between participants and trainers, and especially among participants during their presentations of their current research. I found it inspiring and rewarding to see their curiosity and ideas. There it was, 20 people sitting in their homes in different parts of the world, talking about one tiny fly with top experts in the field. How amazing is that!

Events Iva is organising or co-organising:

EMBL Course: Advanced Fluorescence Imaging Techniques, 23 – 27 August 2021

EMBL Course: Gene Expression at Spatial Resolution, 30 Aug – 2 Sep 2021.

EMBO | EMBL Symposium: Seeing is Believing – Imaging the Molecular Processes of Life, 5 – 8 Oct 2021.

EMBL Science and Society Conference: One Health: Integrating Human, Animal and Environmental Health, 3 Dec 2021.