ICRI Conference a great learning experience

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It was with great excitement that the team at Avstage received the invitation to propose for the audio visual and technical requirements for the ICRI (International Conference on Research Infrastructures) Conference 2016 roughly a year prior to the event.

The ICRI Conference focuses on research infrastructures and the event highlights the essential role of global research infrastructures in addressing challenges and reflecting on needs, development and sustainability of global/regional research infrastructures

This was the first time in South Africa and the organisers were expecting roughly 1 000 international delegates over the three days.

The venue had already been selected and the organisers had  selected Cape Town Convention Centre due to its central placement as well as being a well known destination for international conference visitors.

We took in to consideration the different requirements for not only plenary, but also parallel sessions and workshops, and submitted a detailed proposal soon after. After many revisions we were awarded the contract, and so began the preparation and planning.

Avstage finds itself constantly reminding clients of one thing – Yes, budget is important but the event must still be a success. Cutting corners can jeopardize the  quality of the event, and this is a knock on effect to the brand, and the event organiser.

For us the simple part of the event is setting up the equipment. It is the team on site that make the event work. Some of our clients seem more concerned about the budget than what it takes to make the event a success, and this is a mindset that we are working at shifting.

Our first port of call is making sure that we understand exactly what the client expects. An equipment list does not give any idea of what the room must look like. And one must ask oneself, what does the delegate feel when they enter the room for the first time? What impression will they have about about the organisers? Are screen images clearly visible from every seat?

Receiving presentations before the event can always be a hitch – usually presenters are such busy people, running businesses, lecturing and travelling – even the best conference organiser cannot guarantee having all the presentations a week in advance, let alone a day in advance.

Our Content Manager was tasked with ensuring that all the presentations were in, changes were made, checked and run through with the

For the on-stage panel discussions we provided a conference microphone system on the stage, and several roving microphones, with runners, were available for audience questions.

The plenary and some of the parallel sessions were streamed live over the internet via webcast and a link was provided on the client’s website for viewers to log in to the sessions from anywhere in the world. The content remains available on their website for six months after the event, allowing people from all over the world to not only log in and watch, but also have access to the footage as well as the presentations once the event is concluded.

We also provided a live camera feed to screen which is vitally important in larger venues so that the audience can see a close up view of the presenter, no matter where they are seated in the room.

The exhibition area was separate from the conferencing area, and the client requested an LCD Tree – which is basically a number of LCD screens (in this case 12) on a vertical truss that was visible from anywhere in the exhibition area.

We ran video content throughout the conference, and also used these screens to display Twitter feeds and the ongoing social media interaction.

The client also asked us to create a short video with a catchy soundtrack that would get people back into the sessions after tea and lunch breaks, and this worked really well! No matter what the delegates were doing they would start heading to the next session when they heard and saw the video – which helped immensely with prompt starting times.

All in all the ICRI Conference was a huge success. Our team had spent a lot of time designing a set for the stage, the client had mentioned that he wanted delegates  to walk in and say “wow”. When he walked in on the first day he said to me that it was exactly what he imagined, and this i possibly some of the highest praise we have received.

A few learning lessons from our side:

  1. Events Managers are quite busy people with a lot on their plate. Setting up a weekly touch base call to make sure everyone is on track is really helpful, and doing your best to understand your clients needs and executing that to the best of your ability is key.
  2. Technical conferences or congress do require a content or programme manager, with the vast number of session on the go throughout the day, it is vital that someone is in charge of the inevitable last minute presentation arrival, and that nothing is missing.
  3. Even if the client doesn’t request it – make sure you have a range of microphones available to accommodate every presenter’s preferences (stick mic, headsets, lapels etc)
  4. An event app is a great add on to the event – in that way programme and venue changes can easily be communicated to all attendees, much easier than printed programmes
  5. We are all for wireless communications between the technical crew and event organiser is essential, especially in massive venues. Headsets between key parties make life easier and phone bills smaller.

All in all we had a great experience with the team from ICRI and have learnt a lot about international conferencing from this event.


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