Case study: EAO in Athens

Striking transport workers in Greece threatened to derail the EAO's conference at the Megaron Athens International Conference Center, but solid preparation and creative thinking averted a crisis

The Megaron Athens International Conference Center hosted 2,700 delegates
The Megaron Athens International Conference Center hosted 2,700 delegates

Pre-event planning:

Each year, the European Association of Osseointegration (EAO) welcomes 2,500-3,500 delegates to a four-day scientific meeting, held between 15 September and 25 October. The conference programme is directed by specialists and the exhibition brings together up to 90 companies representing the main pharmaceutical sponsors, as well as medical publishers.

"Athens met all the criteria: an interesting and cultural destination, attractive congress centre suitable for our capacity, and accessible from Europe's important cities, with daily arrivals and departures," says Alexis Richard, project manager of PCO Colloquium.

Challenges:

The Greek strikes posed a threat to attendance. "One week before the event, it was announced that no airlines or public transport would be striking," says Richard. "However, when we got on site, public transport was sparse and taxi drivers were on strike."

Deliveries posed a problem as well. "For an EAO congress we have only two days to set up, and, as the exhibition is such an important part of our event, it would be a disaster if there were delivery issues and the sponsors were delayed by even a few hours," says Richard.

Solution:

"We had more than 2,800 pre-registered delegates, so we were surprised that there were only 100 no-shows," says Richard. "We communicated with delegates and sponsors, providing information through the year. We also worked with the convention bureau and convention centre to ensure we had reliable information.

"We anticipated the possible cancellation of the event by contracting a new insurance policy and working with the sponsors on new exceptional rules. We also worked months in advance on the deliveries schedule with all local and foreign suppliers."

Colloquium brought a contingency plan into action when the public transport problems arose. As the PCO booked 60 per cent of the accommodation, it could send emails to all delegates and organise transport by bus from the major hotels to the congress centre at the last minute.

Another challenge was to guarantee the scientific sessions could be held if speakers were unable to fly to Athens. "We worked with our AV supplier on solutions," explains Richard. "If necessary, we could webcast the conference and use Skype. The speakers could stay at home and give their speeches as if they were in the room. We used the system for one Italian speaker, and it worked well."

Post-event analysis:

The EAO was pleased with the high-level presentations and the scientific work showcased, as well as attendance levels. For Richard, the aim is to introduce more technological tools for delegates.

"The tools we use change fast and delegates are always requesting new concepts," he says. "These include more interactive sessions and communication tools such as smartphone apps. We are trying to implement at least one or two innovations every year."

FACTFILE
Organisation: European Association of Osseointegration
Event: Annual congress
Group size: 2,700
PCO: Colloquium
Date: 12-15 October, 2011
Venue: Megaron Athens International Conference Center (MAICC)

TIMELINE

2008: Host venue and destination announced

April 2011: Record number of abstracts reviewed

September 2011: iPhone app and full programme released

12 October 2011: Pre-congress courses and exhibition opens.

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