Following 2021’s successful Climate Smart Engineering conference, we sat down and with Nicole Appleby, General Manager,Professional Development at Engineers Australia to see how she felt things went.

1. Engineers Australia hosts a variety of national and international conferences and major events each year. What was the biggest event highlight for you in 2021?

Our virtual Climate Smart Engineering (CSE) conference was the highlight for Engineers Australia (EA) in 2021. We pushed the boundaries of the virtual platform for the two-day, six stream inaugural event. Our new ideas ranged from the bespoke ‘lobby’, to rethinking auditorium scenes taking into consideration how the speakers would feature ‘on the stage’ and making the most of gamification features available on the platform. In addition to the support hub, poster gallery and sessions, delegates had access to a learning hub, where we hosted videos and speaker’s books, a yoga studio and zen garden with online guided stretches and meditations. These additions and our innovative conference communication helped to keep participants engaged throughout the conferences and enhanced their experience. As a result, we saw an increase in delegate involvement in networking sessions and sponsorship interaction with fellow attendees on the platform.

2. How has the shift to virtual over the past two years changed the way you develop and deliver your events?

The use of our virtual delivery platform for all continuing professional development (CPD) and events has driven changes to how we develop content. Because members now have access to content regardless of where it is being delivered, every webinar and event is a national event. Processes have been developed to ensure content isn’t duplicated and speakers are encouraged to consider a national, rather than parochial audience. As a result our regional members have particularly benefitted. We are hoping to move towards a hybrid format in the future, but virtual is here to stay and so is the ‘on demand’ video viewing platform. Not only do we have to plan our forward calendar of content, we need to consider our back catalogue too, as members have easy and direct access to all the content delivered over the last two years.

3. The program sits at the heart of Engineers Australia’s conferences. How do you manage the program for your events (and how does eOrganiser support this)?

Program management is an integral part of conference production especially for a membership organisation like Engineers Australia. Technical abstracts, reviews, scoring and ranking, presentation types and full paper submissions are all components of a technical conference. We ran the World Engineers Convention (WEC) in 2019 and had more than 600 abstracts submitted, without e-Organiser we’re not sure how well we would have coped! It makes the abstract submission process a breeze and its capability for mass speaker communications is particularly handy.

4. What is your most important learning in 2021 that you would share with Event Managers in other organisations?

Flexibility. We had to adapt delivery formats multiple times (for one conference we had three different delivery formats, in-person, to hybrid to fully virtual). We have found flexibility requires good processes, great communication and good-quality technology. In addition, we work closely with our suppliers who also need to be flexible.

5. Event technologies play an increasingly important part in development and delivery of events. What are the must-have technologies for a successful event in 2022?

I would suggest that event technology is integral to any future event. As we mentioned earlier, virtual event delivery is not going anywhere, so the must-have technologies this year include:
– A virtual delivery portal (ideally mobile friendly), which facilitates discussion forums and chat functions for delegates between themselves and the speakers.
– An easy to view program with the option for delegates to build their own personal program for multi-streamed conferences.
– Immediate access to recorded sessions.
– It would be great if a scoring card could be built in for each session to do away with survey questionnaires post event.

6. What do you look for in a supplier / partner (including event tech partners) for your events?

Reliability, accessibility, flexibility. Ideally a supplier will work with us to help deliver events that improve the delegate and speaker experience time after time. We look for an organisation where any request for improvement or modification isn’t too much trouble and where every request doesn’t cost more money.

7. What does 2022 hold for Engineers Australia’s events in terms of new technology or new directions with your event delivery?

We are exploring ways to keep improving our networking functionality and accessibility because that’s something that delivers extra value to our members. We will also be looking at quality of content over quantity. With so much content recorded over the past 18 months, we’ve built a strong resource from which we can build and grow. We are looking forward to hosting more hybrid events in 2022 and beyond.