Monday, December 7, 2020

Why we built an online platform for virtual poster sessions and how it works

Integrated to a complete event management system

Current situation

Many event platforms have developed new virtual tools in the wake of the pandemic. Most of these tools are essentially the same: they allow the broadcasting of speakers, a chat, ask questions and to conduct surveys.

Not much work has been done to help with virtual poster sessions. What explains this?

First, event platforms are not specialized in academic / scientific events and therefore are not familiar with this reality.

Second, a poster session takes 5-10% of the time of a physical event, while oral presentations often take up the rest of the time. So it doesn't seem very important at first.

Third, developing tools for an interactive, effective and easy-to-use poster session is not a simple task and requires some technological prowess.

Bottom line: the few online tools that exist for poster sessions simply post a list of images with sometimes a pre-recorded video. Some have an area for exchanging questions and answers by text.

As usual, our approach was a little different!

First, Fourwaves is a platform specialized in academic and research events. Having organized and participated in numerous events ourselves, we knew how the poster sessions are among the most fun and important moments. They allow:

  • To Obtain constructive feedback from other participants on our project
  • To practice presenting your project and popularizing its results
  • To network, find new ideas and forge collaborations
  • To have presentation experience (if you have not been selected for an oral presentation!), useful for scholarship applications!

Second, instead of seeing poster sessions as a small aspect of the event, we realized that for virtual events, what is important is the interaction between the participants! People want to talk to each other, not spend the afternoon listening to speakers! In our opinion, it's the opposite: poster sessions are the most important aspect of a virtual event!

Third, we saw this technological challenge as an opportunity to smash the pandemic and innovate, rather than do just like everyone else and go with a boring list of online posters.

Finally, it was also an opportunity to anchor who we are, a platform specialized in knowledge events!

How it works

No need for Zoom

The platform supports live video conversations at each poster (you don't need Zoom or any other external platform for this). It is all integrated in Fourwaves directly in your browser!

Fast to set up

It is super easy to set up and you don't need to create individual rooms for each poster.

A nice user experience

Participants can see at which poster there are ongoing conversations and join them or start a new conversation with a presenter. Presenters don't need to wait at their poster all day, they can browse other posters. When someone calls them, they will see a notification on their screen and also get an email notification with a link to join the call at the poster.

More than online posters

Participants can read each submission before and after the event whenever you decide to publish them. We often say 'poster', but in reality any submission that you collect through the platform that can be published. You can add custom filters in a click to allow participants to filter submissions and there is a search bar so they can find the most interesting submissions. We have a powerful submission form that you can easily customize to collect all the data automatically.

  • A submission can be published with:
  • A title
  • A list of authors and their affiliations
  • An abstract
  • Figures (each with a title and description)
  • A short Powerpoint (10Mb) that can be viewed online
  • A poster (image format that can be expanded)
  • A pre-recorded video (hosted directly on the platform - no need to upload on youtube)!

No limit in the number of posters or participants

There is no limit in terms of submissions or for the number of participants that can join the live event. There can be a maximum of 8 participants in a video conversation at a time at a given poster.

Conversation modes

During a video call, participants can minimize the video conversation to look at figures, the poster or any other content. They can move the conversation to the side to see other participants while looking at the content. They can also go to full screen mode.

Share screen

Presenters can share their screen during the video conversation to point at specific sections of the poster or go through a more formal presentation with a PowerPoint. They can also share a local application on their computer.

Use it for more than poster presentations (oral, exhibitors and more)

Some events use our live online platform for more than poster sessions. For example, you can get your participants to start conversations with the oral presenters of the morning session, if they didn't have the time to ask a question in the chat and they want a more personal in depth discussion. Before and after the event, a button allows participants to communicate via email to keep the conversation going.

Video presentation