Retina 2020 nominated for a CovidComms Award

May 10, 2021

Retina 2020 webinar on a laptop

We’re delighted to announce that our Retina 2020 conference has been shortlisted for a CovidComms Award in the category of ‘Best Online External Event’.

The category recognises organisations that have been creative in their efforts to communicate with external stakeholders. The judges were looking for events that were initially planned as physical ones and forced to adapt, or bespoke online events created to reach different stakeholder groups.

Winners will be announced on 27 May and we’re proud to be nominated in the same category as the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition and International Foundation for Integrated Care.

Retina is our annual conference; it brings together top international and Irish researchers and clinicians in the global effort to find treatments and cures for conditions causing vision impairment and blindness.

Our aim with the event is to deliver the highest quality content presented by world-renowned experts in the field of retina and a forum for researchers at all stages of their careers to exchange ideas and knowledge.

In response to Covid-19, we developed a virtual experience for Retina 2020 with Agency X, a strategic marketing agency specialising in creative healthcare communications. The virtual meeting took place on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 November with a stream of live and pre-recorded adapted presentations. The Friday agenda (Science Day) was designed for the research community and our Saturday agenda (Public Engagement Day) was designed for people living with sight loss.

Science Day

The challenge for our first day was to keep the event social and interactive, while giving graduate researchers the chance to share their work with established labs and experts from across the globe.

Agency X used their unique Event X platform to build a custom virtual studio to display the event host, retinal experts and global researchers. Interactivity was facilitated by a comment box and a custom virtual poster gallery with a “Comment and Collaborate” feature, allowing all attendees to come together, comment on posters and forge future partnerships in the retinal research world.

In tandem, they built a custom website that hosted the live stream and allowed attendee registration. Full production of the show was handled in house by Agency X in collaboration with the Fighting Blindness communications and research teams, covering speaker and sponsor management, show running order & scripting, interview pre-records, video editing, highlight reel and data analytics.

Public Engagement Day

Public Engagement Day is designed for people with visual impairments and features a mix of science, research and practical tools for people living with sight loss. It’s free and open to everyone to attend. The in-person event is the highlight of our year so it proved a big challenge to move such a popular event onto an online platform.

Accessibility was a key issue for us designing an event for people living with sight loss. For the second day of Retina 2020, Public Engagement Day, we chose video conferencing platform Zoom for its ease of use and access. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, our charity has provided Zoom training to over 100 people living with sight loss to reduce isolation.

We designed a four hour agenda that featured eight live speakers and a number of pre-recorded messages from ambassadors such as actress Victoria Smurfit and international rugby player Ian McKinley.

Success

The success of the event was unprecedented and our average in-person attendance doubled to over 700 attendees that tuned-in over two days. The event was met with widespread acclaim from all attendees on both days via the comment box and social media.

We would like to thank all our Retina 2020 sponsors; Novartis, Bayer, Roche, Janssen, Chiesi, Biogen, Health Research Board, GenSight, Blueprint Genetics, BioSciences, ICO, Orbital and Experimentica.

Covid-19 has been an extraordinary time for companies and charities. They have achieved great things under the most unusual and challenging of circumstances. The awards, run by CorpComms Magazine, offer the chance to reflect on these achievements, to share the lessons and to celebrate brilliance in communications during the pandemic. A trophy presented by CovidComms Awards Ireland will stand for excellence in adversity.