Hybrid conferences – how to make the most of EMBL’s virtual event platform – Course and Conference Office


Our mission is to train scientists. This blog is a platform for us to share updates on our annual programme, tips and tricks for scientists, new e-learning opportunities, and sometimes just something to make you smile.

Hybrid conferences – how to make the most of EMBL’s virtual event platform

Two years of a global pandemic have significantly transformed scientific training. Conferences were turned into a virtual format almost overnight. On the one hand, it imposed many challenges on organisers, speakers, and attendees. On the other hand, we have learnt a lot in the process and while delivering online activities, the scientific community recognised many advantages of the virtual format. Now, with conferences and meetings slowly returning to an in-person setting, we have been presented with the opportunity to combine the best of the two worlds and develop a hybrid format which has become a new standard for our scientific conferences.

While the main focus of scientific training at EMBL Heidelberg is on in-person participation, we constantly work to improve the hybrid experience for our attendees – for both on-site and for fully virtual participants.

Our on-site attendees can benefit from the possibility to present a talk and/or a poster, to network and interact with their peers in person, to enjoy our social programme including dinners and parties, and have a chance to visit the beautiful city of Heidelberg.

But there are also clear benefits for those deciding to attend a conference virtually as they can listen to live talks by world-renowned speakers and have the opportunity to ask questions and connect with other participants without having to travel, which can save a lot of time and money!

EMBL virtual event platform – home screen

We have adjusted our virtual event platform that was first introduced during the pandemic for the hybrid format. This allowed us to enhance the scientific conference experience both for our on-site and virtual participants, bringing the best of both aspects together.

We highly encourage not only remote participants but also our on-site guests to use the online platform during your next conference at EMBL and here are 10 reasons why…

  1. Access to the digital abstract book. Less printing is better for the environment. We decided to offer our abstract book only in digital format, accessible via our conference platform. Bonus for our participants: it is fully searchable and doesn’t demand any physical space, so you have a little less to carry in your luggage.
  2. Convenient overview of the most up-to-date programme. The upcoming talks are always displayed at the top and past talks are shifted to the bottom, so you can always see what is coming next without having to search in the programme by day and time.
  3. Access speakers’ abstracts through the programme. Not only can you see the talk titles and speakers’ names in the agenda, but you can also learn a bit more on what each of the talks is about by instantly viewing the abstract. You don’t need to search for speakers’ abstracts in a physical book or a long file anymore. You’re welcome!
  4. Watch the live stream and ask your questions. Through the “Programme” menu you can access the live stream of the talks. Can’t or don’t want to ask your question live? You can type it into the Q&A field and the chair will read it to the speaker. This is a great added value to your remote participation as you can also follow up and quiz the speakers! It is also a good way to get your answers if you are on site but don’t feel like asking your question in front of the large auditorium. All questions submitted via the Q&A field that remained unanswered during the live session will be posted in the “Discussion” section, so speakers can reply to them after their talk is over. Speakers and attendees have an opportunity to continue the discussion here and further chat on the session topics.
  5. View talks on-demand. Most of our speakers give consent to record their talks. The recordings are then added to the “Video library” on our platform and are available to watch for 14 days after the event. If for any reason you missed the talk or want to watch it again, you have an opportunity to do it at your own pace.
preview of the online events platform - video library
Virtual event platform – video library with on-demand scientific talks
  1. Better searchability. You can use search function across the whole conference platform or in the separate menu items. Different filters such as Speakers and Categories under “Programme” allow you to easily display the talks by speakers and days. In the menu item “Speakers” you can see an overview of all invited speakers and get direct access to their talks in the programme or in the video library.
  2. Connect with other attendees. You can find the list of attendees under “Networking”. Here you can send them a message, request a chat, or video call. You can also arrange a meeting with other attendees either virtually or on site. We encourage you to update your profile to improve your networking experience. Our attendees can see each other profiles and communicate via the platform but cannot view contact details of each other without permission. If you wish to share your contact information with other attendees, you can do it by sending your vCard and request it from others. The event platform is accessible only 14 days after the conference, so make sure you don’t miss your chance to network!
  3. All practical information for on-site participants in one place. All practical information for on-site participants including the schedule of our daily bus shuttle, travel and accommodation, campus map, COVID-19 safety policy, and more is available in the menu under “On-site information”.
preview of the online conference platform - resources page
Resources available via EMBL’s virtual event platform
  1. A collection of helpful, fun, and useful resources. Under “Resources”, you can find our annual training programme, useful tips and tricks for scientists, the conference bingo sheet and some handy videos to help you to navigate the conference platform.
  2. Scientific journals within arm’s reach. Interested in publishing a paper? Under “Journals” or “Partners”, you can view resources from publishers that are our media partners, as well as get in touch with the editors directly to ask your questions and get their advice.

We hope next time you attend one of our conferences, be that on site or virtually, you will enjoy the enhanced hybrid experience and find our event platform useful with some of its features highlighted above! Should you have any questions, experience any problems, or have any feedback for us, please feel free to get in touch with us via the virtual “Help desk” on the conference platform.

See you in 2023!