Digital Conferences Engage Global Communities

10 September 2021
Our thought leadership campaign continues to promote the core brand values of the Optical Society (OSA), the leading professional society in optics and photonics. Through a series of blogs, feature articles and podcasts we tell the inspirational stories from scientists and engineers improving the world.

Our recent campaign looked at how OSA kept the optics and photonics community connected via a series of Digital Conferences when the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic disrupted in-person events globally.

The shift to an all-virtual approach combined with a waived registration fee meant people previously unable to participate due to travel or registration costs could engage like never before. An unimaginably diverse, global audience of roughly 50,000 individuals from 100 countries participated in these meetings. This was four times the typical number of attendees.

OSA meetings bring together the best minds at every stage of their careers. Traditionally hosted worldwide, from Tokyo to Sydney to Munich to Montreal, these events have always showcased the latest research, expanded personal networks and allowed for the discovery of technology and new corporate partners. The rapid emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns represented a considerable threat to OSA’s ability to continue to hold meetings, and an immediate solution was needed.

While the lockdowns prevented travel and in-person networking, they also had the surprising effect of uniting the community to unseen levels. People who typically were unable to attend an in-person conference could suddenly engage with a suite of online meetings untethered from geography or by paywalls. Our campaign heard from the technical developers who built OSA’s customized platforms and the pioneers who chaired our new digital conferences, who explained how OSA connected the community and ensured the ongoing dissemination of light science.

Sam Young, Head of Content and Media at Matter PR said:

“Matter PR’s campaign looked at digital conferences and the wonders they did for global engagement, opening up science to audiences who might never have been able to attend in person. Although created out of necessity, these digital platforms enabled an incredibly diverse audience to engage with light science in ways few could have foreseen.

David Plant, 2020 OFC Program Chair, David Plant, McGill University, Canada believes future conferences will be engaging and more popular than ever:

“What I can tell you about 2022 is there will be a rebound effect, and lots of people will return to in-person attendance as they have been at home for so long. However, the community will expect online access for those who can’t travel or prefer to consume the content virtually. We need to take the best of what we have learned from the digital experience and use it to enhance the meetings of the future.”

Read the full article here.