Melbourne conference forced to go virtual amid statewide lockdown

Organisers say the transition was possible thanks to a solid contingency plan.

Just days after Victoria was forced into a seven-day lockdown, the Australian Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) annual scientific conference rapidly transitioned to a fully virtual event in order to go ahead.

Originally planned as a hybrid event from 31 May to 3 June, ASM’s Annual National Scientific Meeting and Trade Exhibition 2021 was set to bring together more than 580 delegates from Australia and around the world to present their latest research findings.

Professor Dena Lyras

The sudden statewide lockdown, announced on Thursday 27 May, saw organisers transition into a virtual setting, made possible thanks to a strong contingency plan and a hybrid set-up already in action.

“The recent lockdown and uncertainty in Victoria has highlighted the importance of contingency planning and the benefits of hybrid event delivery for scientific conferences,” said Professor Dena Lyras, president of The Australian Society for Microbiology.

Melbourne-based event management company ASN Events worked with event technology company Delegate Connect on the virtual delivery.

ASN Events executive director Tim Hancock said the event will still be a great success, even with the last-minute format change.

“Despite our clients desire to aim for as much in-person delivery as possible, we have always recommended a hybrid setup,” he said.

ASN Events executive director Tim Hancock
Tim Hancock

Delegate Connect chief operating officer Hannah Cusack said this scenario proves hybrid events will continue to play an ever-important role as the events industry recovers post-COVID.

“The surprise lockdown highlights the continued uncertainty that event organisers face,” she said.

“We still have some time to go before we return to normality with venues not yet permitted to operate at full capacity and COVID lockdowns still an ever present reality.

“A hybrid focus is the perfect safety net for organisers to pivot to virtual at short notice.”

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