When COVID-19 put an immediate halt on 2020 in-person events held by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), our Highlight team of marketing, communications, and event planning experts immediately got to work with the NIH Division of Communication and Outreach (DCO), along with others from the Office of Extramural Research (OER), to examine alternative meeting options.
The result: the first-ever NIH Virtual Seminar on Program Funding and Grants Administration. The event, held October 27-30, provided research institutions with essential funding and grants administration guidance. About 12,000 investigators and administrators attended the four-day event, featuring 60 live and on-demand sessions.
For those who missed the virtual event or those who want to go back and take another look, registration is free and resources are available on the site until November 27.
Not If, but How?
The challenge for our team was not “if,” but “how” to turn essential live events into meaningful digital engagement opportunities to help researchers get on with their work.
Highlight, working with the NIH OER Team, began with an assessment of virtual platform solutions. The vFairs platform was chosen for its life-like conference experience and interactive tools. For example, the experience included a virtual lobby, help desk, networking lounge, and distinct session auditoriums. We viewed these as essential features to provide attendees.
Missed a presentation? No problem. Attendees were able to view recorded discussions and threads of session chats. Sessions will eventually be posted on YouTube and on the NIH site to provide NIH with even greater reach to the research community. Much of the material also provides an excellent overview of grants and funding for new employees and can be incorporated as part of the onboarding process.
Forty-five virtual booths were also available, giving attendees the opportunities to hone-in on specific funding and grant-related issues, as well as to direct specific questions to NIH’s 24 Institutes, Centers, and special program offices. Many of the booths integrated with Slack, WebEx, and Zoom to offer more finely tuned discussions. For example, when an investigator visited the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases booth, they could drill down on topics to chat about a specific disease or therapeutic.
Virtual events not only provide alternatives to live events, but they can also greatly augment them with additional pre- and post-conference networking, learning, and collaboration opportunities. As Highlight and NIH experienced, today’s virtual event tools are rapidly expanding and when integrated with other solutions, you can create new and meaningful engagement activities.
Highlight is an award-winning woman owned ISO® 9001, ISO 20000. ISO 27001, ISO 44001, ISO 56002 certified, CMMI-DEV Level 3 and CMMI-SVC Level 3 appraised woman-owned small business that provides critical services to more than 20 U.S. federal government customers. Using our HI-WAY™™ best practices framework, we design and deliver solutions that integrate current systems and procedures, address all stakeholders, and seamlessly advance the mission. With over 10 years of federal contracting experience, we apply our proven transformation and evolution process to deliver quality services that balance agility, continuity, security, and compliance.