International Vascular Biology Meeting 2018 organizational feedback

IVBM 2018: Final words by main organizer Kari Alitalo

As part of the local organizing committee, I was asking conference participants for direct feedback. I received lots of praise, which I do not want to iterate here. If we are ever going to organize a large international conference again, here are the things that we should do differently next time. Maybe this list can also help other first-time organizers of large, international conferences. If this list gives you the impression that the conference was badly organized, you would be mistaken! All the important stuff worked smoothly and some of the issues below were solved before any of the participants noticed. However, there is always room for improvement of the details! And - as always - some of the issues were out of our control as we had outsourced some of the work, most notably to Confedent International. And some decisions were a compromise between the optimal and what the conference budget could accommodate. I also encourage you to contact me if you want to add something to this list; it could make things better in the future!

  1. Technical issues (my responsibility)
    • Dysfunctional USB-C-to-HDMI adapters, which were needed to connect newer Apple Macbook Pros to the beamers. The adapters were provided by Finlandia Hall and they were cheap knockoffs and we had to buy a set of four original Apple adapters to get a reliable connection for each of the four parallel sessions. Interestingly, some of the cheap imitations did occasionally work, but apparently only the original Apple adapter can be trusted to work ALWAYS.
    • A failing Extron DVS 605 scaler/switch, which controlled the beamers. The plan was to show a video about Finland's beautiful nature in the background during the piano & cello performance. We had tested this multiple times without any problem, but the projection failed at the actual opening session. After getting the connection to work, only about 3 of the 16 minutes were shown before the connection broke again. When comparing our video about Finland with the amazing announcement video for the upcoming IVBM in Seoul in 2020, the Finland video (mostly consisting of drone aerials and nature shots) appears humble and modest. If you want to watch it, it is a 16-minutes-cut from this 30-minute video.
    • The throwable soft microphones (https://catchbox.com/) for the plenary sessions were in principle a good idea, but most of the time, the mics were rather carried than thrown, perhaps owing to a intuitive sense of what could happen and what eventually did happen: the mic knocked out a laptop computer.
    • There should have been as many headsets as speakers for each session. Changing the head set during a session was sometimes omitted for the last speaker, who was confined to the podium mic.
    • The standing mics in the middle aisle of the parallel sessions were not so easy to reach for the participants that were sitting on the very left, the very right or in the front row, but the session chairs were filling in with their own, hand-held mics. Some of the sessions were so crowded that not everybody could find a place to sit. If there had been more space, mic accessibility would have not been an issue, but the halls were perhaps generally too small. On the other hand, it is difficult to predict the popularity of any given session in advance...
    • The integrated remote/laser pointer provided by Finlandia Hall was not very intuitive to use. The model that everybody knows how to use is the Kensington Presenter, but Finlandia Hall had only the old model with the faint red laser light, which was way too faint for the plenary sessions. There is a newer model ("Expert") with a 10x brighter green laser, which would have been nice to have. Kari Alitalo offered his ultra-bright near-weapon-grade green laser pointer, but most people don't like to operate two different gadgets simultaneously.
  2. Poster sessions
    • 200+ posters in 2 hours is undoable. That's about 36 seconds per poster. If you were (un)lucky to be a speaker, you had only 90 minutes since you are expected to check in with the technical crew 30 minutes before the next parallel session in order to hook up your computer to the beamer switch and check that your presentations displays correctly. That makes 27 seconds per poster for speakers.
    • The poster boards were pinned with posters from both sides and arranged in two rows. However, the distance between to two rows was to small and the central corridor between the two rows was very crowded. That shows that there was much interest in the posters, but some people couldn't even get to the posters they were interested in.
    • I (as an organizer) was looking for the high numbers before I noticed that the high numbers were on display on the second floor. There was a sign, but it was too small and not noticeable enough.
  3. Catering
    • The breaks between sessions (including lunch break) were too short to grab food elsewhere. Therefore, the food quantity could have been bigger (especially at the reception after the opening session). Some people were starving when the program finished on Sunday evening.
    • Same goes for the coffee! It was not always there when needed! With such a dense program, you get tired fast and especially after lunch, access to coffee would have helped me and other caffeine addicts to keep our minds focused.