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Case Study - ICIC20 Virtual Conference
Our Client

The International Foundation for Integrated Care (IFIC) is a not-for-profit educational network that crosses organisational and professional boundaries to bring people together to advance the science, knowledge and adoption of integrated care policy and practice.

The Foundation seeks to achieve this through the development and exchange of ideas among academics, researchers, managers, clinicians, policy makers and users and carers of services throughout the World.

The Foundation’s goal is to provide a unique forum to bring these various perspectives together with the ultimate aim of improving the experience of care for patients, their families and communities, while improving the overall effectiveness of health and care systems.

The Conference

Every year the Foundation runs the International Conference on Integrated Care to further their goal of bringing this diverse network together. In 2020 the 20th International Conference on Integrated Care (ICIC20) was due to take place in Šibenik, Croatia from 27 – 29 April.

The Move to a Virtual Conference – COVID-19

Developments at a global stage and policies implemented in individual countries due to COVID-19 at the beginning of March, as well as organisational policies around travel restrictions meant it seemed more and more unlikely there would be a viable number of delegates able to travel to the conference by 27-28 April.  On behalf of IFIC and our hosts it was vital to put the safety of delegates and speakers as our priority and therefore it was suggested to refocus our efforts towards the organisation of a virtual conference. 

To ensure that the stakeholders remained part of the journey, the IFIC SMT had many bi-lateral meetings with key stakeholders, including partners from across Europe who have intelligence relating to policy developments around COVID-19. Meetings were held with IFIC Hubs, sponsors, SIG Leaders and partner organisations to get a sense of their commitment to a virtual conference.

Abbey Conference & Events, as the PCO, cancelled all services for the physical conference and reviewed the conference budget, taking into account financial commitments made for the physical conference and expenditure for the virtual conference.

A Feasibility Study was prepared and presented to the IFIC board and plans were discussed with the local host in Croatia.
With the launch of OnAIR by Events Air, Abbey Conference & Events could provide a functional virtual conference platform, which replicated a lot of the physical conference experiences. Demos were provided to IFIC, the local host and the organising committee.
With all above stakeholders on board, the conference was confirmed to go virtual during April 2020.

Considerations and goals for virtual conference

With the conference going virtual, there were a number of items to consider:
Registration fees: would the fees stay at the same rate as the physical conference, would refunds be provided to delegates who did not want to participate in a virtual conference and what are the financial implications for IFIC, as a small not for profit foundation.
Programme: a fully packed 3 day programme was planned for the physical conference with over 300 speakers confirmed. What would be the best format for a virtual conference and what dates would work best, considering the audience of ICIC20 could be heavily involved in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Host Country: how do we ensure that Croatia is still visible as the Host Country for this conference?
Benefits: How can we take advantage of some of the benefits of a virtual conference? 
  • By providing content of all sessions to watch back a lot of value is given to delegates, by allowing the portal to stay open for longer and delegates can use the virtual conference as a knowledge platform. The Meeting Hub would also provide additional networking opportunities, perhaps normally not available at a physical conference.
  • How can we involve patients more in the virtual conference. For a physical conference, travel and accommodation costs can be prohibitive to attend the conference. And how do we involve patients in the conference content?
Sponsorship & Exhibition: what is our new Sponsorship and Exhibition Offering? How do we convey the advantages of the virtual platform and keep our partners involved. Can we perhaps give more partner organisations visibility within the virtual setting when no costs are involved with travel to the conference?
Chosen format of the Virtual Conference
Date: Due to the delegate profile of the conference, it was decided to move the conference to September 2020, in the hope that key health care workers would have more availability after the peak of the Covid pandemic.

Format: It was decided to split the conference over 4 days during the month of September, splitting the conference over 4x Wednesdays with a specific theme for each day. As the abstract submission process was completed for the physical conference and all speakers were confirmed, the programme remained quite extensive with a plenary session and up to 11 parallel sessions twice a day. In addition a networking session was added each day and several SIG and HUB Meetings were conducted.

Delegate fees: New virtual registration fees were confirmed. Delegates who had registered and paid for the physical event were moved to the virtual conference and offered a voucher for the difference in price. The voucher can be used for any of the future 2 ICIC conferences. It was noted that over 100 sessions with over 150 hours of content were available to delegates to access either live or following the event via session recordings and that the value of this content justified the agreed registration fees.
Croatia Host Country: It was important that the host country was still visible during the virtual conference, as they had made a significant investment in the conference. It was agreed that a studio would be set up in both Croatia and Ireland from where we would live broadcast all plenary sessions. A Croatian chair and an IFIC chair was assigned to all plenary sessions accordingly. Talks from the Mayor of Zagreb and several Ministers of the Ministry of Health were pre-recorded in the Croatian Studio and broadcasted during plenary sessions. Croatian videos were played at the start of the plenary sessions and further videos were made available as on demand sessions during lunchtimes.

Sponsorship & Exhibition: We redesigned the Partner Proposal brochure to include new virtual sponsorship and exhibition packages, clearly outlining the advantages of the virtual offering. We secured a number of sponsors and exhibitors for the event and feedback has been very positive. In addition to this, the virtual set-up presented a good opportunity for IFIC to give more visibility to partner organisations, IFIC Hubs, course information etc, as there were no travel costs involved to staff these stands. These organisations were given the opportunity to have a complimentary virtual stand for this conference.

Patient/Carers Involvement: IFIC’s aim is to include and involve patients in their conferences. With this year’s virtual conference, barriers due to travel costs were eliminated. IFIC promoted a complimentary registration pass for all carers and patients to become involved. In addition to this, several patient-centred sessions were conducted. A video was created called the Voices of Lived Experience. In this video several patients/carers were interviewed about their experience around Covid-19. This video was included in the Opening Plenary of the conference and was very well received.

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The expected delegate numbers for the conference held in Croatia was approx. 700-800 delegates. For the Virtual Conference 1,075 delegates registered. We had the same amount of speakers and sessions, however delegates were able to watch back recordings of all sessions.  The conference had more exhibitors, allowing their partner organisations more visibility. There were more networking sessions than during a physical conference and lots of connections were made via the Meeting Hub.