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Italian Retina Society


 Venice, July 1-2, 2021


The Italian Retina Society (SIR) National Congress was the first event that had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak in February 2020. Nevertheless, it was the first in-person meeting to be back. It was held in Venice on 1st and 2nd July 2021, without forgoing the advantages of going virtual that we have appreciated since the beginning of the pandemic. 


The Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal hosted the Congress. Sistema Congressi worked in partnership with the location and the suppliers to ensure strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols. Therefore, although back to its historical venue, the Congress had a limited in-person access. With a maximum capacity of 90 attendees, a big portion of the usual attendance (about 300 people) could have not participated. 
Not being able to join the Congress would have been a lost opportunity for so many potential participants, especially since the 2021 contents were more numerous than ever. The call for abstract got a stunning response, with about 50 abstracts submitted by the main Italian research teams specialized in retinal diseases. Free communications constitute the very core of the Congress, with round table sessions and thematic focuses alongside


Hence the need to actively engage participants. 
Our team has studied and developed plenty of virtual and hybrid event solutions, whose effectiveness has been widely tested and measured. We have always explored all the possible options, without forgoing any possible conclusions. Each event is unique and characterized by its own specificities, and this fact is precisely what guides us in the process of decision making while working on a project.
The best solution for the 2021 SIR National Congress was a mix of tools. On the one hand, this made the transition to the hybrid mode possible; on the other hand, it allowed us to respect what our audience was used to.
The Society website remained as the information container. In fact, the attendees already considered it as the hub where conveying all the information regarding the Society’s activities and the specialized activities. This is why replacing it with other landing pages was not an option: it would have turned out to be completely unknown to them. 
We used our well-established e-mail Marketing system, already employed to communicate with the Italian Retina Society, to meet the communication needs of our audience concerning the registration process and the Congress program, as well as the information and news useful to both the in-person and remote participants. 
Our online registration software fed the contact database allowing real-time implementation. The software collected the Congress registrations through a customized registration form.
Zoom was the live-event platform. A detailed-oriented plan transformed video-branding and branding design into high-quality contents.
A strategy combining Zoom meetings with Zoom webinars proved a success in engaging the online audience: participants could book and join a video meeting; also, they could send their questions via chat; moreover, the Congress featured a green room dedicated to the free communication speakers. 



The program featured round table sessions, thematic focuses and free communications.

The communicators and the Faculty did not have to reach Venice in order to give their in-person presentation and take part in the discussion session dedicated to their research. The Congress guaranteed both the in-person and remote presentations.  

Free presentations had been collected as pre-recorded videos meeting specific criteria, in order to respect the Congress timeline and be consistent with the Congress graphic concept. A helpline was set up to assist communicators with the delivery of their video presentation to make it as easy as possible.

The very detailed rundown facilitated a smooth transition from one section to another; it increased the engagement of the industry partners and their video visibility not only on the online platform but also in the conference hall; most important, it fostered the participation in the discussion session encouraging questions from the remote communicators too.



The event was a great success for the Society’s Community. With almost 600 remote participants attending the two-day Congress, the audience doubled as compared to the numbers of the previous in-person format  Congresses; in 2021, on average 200 participants were online at the same time.

Industry partners continued to give their support, which was vital for the success of the 2021 Congress.

In turn, they had been favored by the audience expansion, which they used to consolidate and enhance their image and reputation: an opportunity not to be missed after over a year of the COVID-19-forced-distance!

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