The pandemic delivered a temporary setback to the face-to-face conference but spurred interest in how social media and other platforms can build networks that increase rather than restrict opportunities for engagement, explains Dr Chris Williams.
Conferences are the foundation for learning and networking in the scientific community. In the aftermath of the Covid pandemic and the switch to online, this face-to-face foundation has evolved, encouraging wider engagement both through different media and across wider geographies.
It is vital that these events provide easy access to high-quality scientific content. Offering free-toattend conferences is one way in which the likes of ELRIG is lowering barriers to attendance, but we understand that face-to-face meetings are not the only way forward.
Extending social media outreach onto a wider range of platforms can help to increase visibility and connect with new audiences. Many groups in the scientific community have used LinkedIn and Twitter but more are now utilising platforms such as Instagram.
Working with active community volunteers provides an opportunity for like-minded groups to address the challenges of accessibility and inclusivity in communication
We’ve found this great for engaging early career professionals and sharing behind the scenes content from events. Actively partnering with influencers and media companies can also be useful when developing an engagement strategy or developing a new community.
Working with active community volunteers provides an opportunity for like-minded groups to address the challenges of accessibility and inclusivity in communication. Individuals with experience of scientific marketing, content strategy and building online communities can work together with a diverse range of ‘audiences’ to ensure active participation. ELRIG is using this approach to enhance access to high-quality content and build digital mechanisms for encouraging networking, learning, discussion and collaboration.
Vendors and suppliers are another important lifeline for growing scientific communities. Exhibition halls at face-to-face events are fantastic for learning about innovative technologies and discovering novel tools to support research. It is well known that engagement is less effective when running virtual events, especially when content is available on demand. You don’t just wander past, find something that catches your eye and have a chat. There’s no doubt that networking is harder too. It’s crucial that we look at ways to try and overcome these challenges, so you don’t lose the opportunity to have a ‘live’ exploratory conversation or meet new people.
Organisations at the helm of the scientific community need to be ready to get creative ideas out there and pilot test different approaches. They should be open to feedback from across the community and may well send polls or surveys to gather input. Taking into account opinions from academia to industry, early career professionals to group leaders or C-level execs, and fledgling start-ups to global biotech and pharma companies, will allow us to share perspectives and ensure our thinking continues to evolve whilst building diverse and inclusive networks.
Dr Chris Williams sits on the European Laboratory Research & Innovation Group (ELRIG) UK Board and leads the not-forprofit organisation’s Engagement Strategy Work Group. She is also Founder and Managing Director of Questae Coaching & Consulting Ltd