Cristina Soica, Project Manager at APTEN − the Association of Water and Harmful Substance Treatment Professionals : performance, professionalism, responsiveness, and kindness!
For the 24th edition of its congress, APTEN had to deal with the health crisis. To avoid having to cancel the event, which only takes place every two years, they opted to organise a 100% virtual congress at the very last minute. A new experience for the organisers as well as for its delegates.
What state of mind were you in during 2020?
We had no idea how the health crisis would develop. We were extremely optimistic and thought that by May everything would be back to normal. Then, instead, we had a problem to solve. A physical event was going to be impossible, but we were already ahead of schedule. I cannot thank Pascale and Thibault enough, because we contacted them in mid-July with the constraint of needing a virtual platform ready for the beginning of October.
Why did you put your trust in ExpoPolis?
On its site, ExpoPolis had clearly identified the plug-ins that work with its software. Basically, plug-ins particular to conference organisation. We immediately understood that their tool could be adapted to us and our needs. Since it is a scientific congress, the basis for our event is the conference programme, to which we add an equipment fair based around the water treatment domain. Our congress is a benchmark for professionals in this field. For its final rendering, we had an idea of what we wanted, but didn’t know if anyone in France, or elsewhere, could do it. It is for this reason that we looked for a service provider like ExpoPolis; a service provider that was able to offer us a tool that could be used for both conference rooms and fair halls.
How did the organisation of this first virtual congress go?
For us as an organiser, it was a great experience! We discovered and learned a lot. We do not regret taking the leap to continue as planned and to not sacrifice any element of our congress! We were very well supported by ExpoPolis. Plus, we knew that no matter what happened, the team would always be there to respond quickly to our requests. Personally, I am incredibly grateful for all the kindness they showed us and for their round-the-clock availability. It was more than perfect, and it worked brilliantly!
What are the advantages of a virtual congress compared to a traditional physical event?
For us, the advantage of this format, and the ExpoPolis solution, is being able to view all the conferences which took place at the congress. Normally, it is not possible to attend everything. You have to choose between several conferences taking place at the same time. Thanks to the virtual and ExpoPolis, all the conferences were recorded and available in replay. Using the platform, delegates were able to see and listen to everything at a time of their choice.
What is your general feeling about the ergonomics and use of the ExpoPolis platform?
It is extremely easy to understand. It is also very attractive which, in itself is especially important, since it makes you want to go and look what is there. It is very intuitive and easy to use. In practice, it is up to us to populate the software and set it all up: to put the conferences in place, as well as the scientific posters sent to us by their authors, and to add all our visual supports. It’s the same for our exhibitors. As soon as we got our hands on the fair part, we sent the information to our exhibitors. It was like a new toy! We were all delighted! The exhibitors, for their part, immediately started to set up their booths. Within just a few hours, several of them had pretty much everything installed. We were very surprised and happy to see how they latched on to it. All the feedback from our delegates was very positive!
Where will virtual conferences fit in after the return to “normal” life: once the health crisis is over?
Although the virtual world is a great tool, it is still very important for us to have physical events. In this regard, I think that the hybrid solution is a very good compromise: that is to say being able to give congress access to those people who are not able to travel for varying reasons (financial or distance etc.), and, last but not least, to reduce the environmental footprint of physical events.