Geosynthetics professionals are no stranger to amazing feats of ingenuity and none more so when IGS Brazil attempted to move a worldwide conference entirely online.
While concerns over Covid-19 cancelled conferences all over the world, Chapter President Victor Pimentel and his team were determined to find a way GeoAmericas 2020 could continue. The resulting hard work sees one of the IGS’s flagship events launch next week entirely online – a first for an IGS geosynthetics conference.
Here, Mr Pimentel shares the challenges and his highlights coming up at the event on October 26-31…
GeoAmericas 2020 is just days away. How is everything going?
The cooperation and collaboration to ensure the event is a success is very evident with delegates and sponsors working together well. Everyone is looking forward to providing the best digital experience over the six days of the conference.
We are very happy with what is being put together by the organizing committee, executive and strategic partners, and the GeoAmericas 2020 digital platform is already available to sponsors to fill their digital booths with very powerful content, so we’re in a very positive place.
What has it been like moving everything online? What were the challenges?
It was a very difficult decision because so many variables had to be considered; social, economic and technical. We analyzed the positive and negative impact. But when we decided to go online I must say that as time went on, we became more and more confident about the route we chose to follow.
The biggest challenge we faced was related to showing people how they could really identify the value added by a digital event such as this. Normally, people tend to first think of what they are losing with this transition, but later on, the positive aspects started to appear and the real engagement happened.
It’s a new way of relating with the technical audience that will add to the face-to-face events, making hybrid events a big trend in future technical conferences.
The sponsors have continued to support the conference. Do you have any message for them?
The sponsors have been very supportive from the first moment and were always ready to understand how they could take part in a digital conference while meeting their corporative objectives. And the possibilities are enormous regarding the ability of digital tools to promote engagement and networking. The GeoAmericas platform and app will allow companies and participants to be in direct contact all the time, with very comprehensive tools like a Digital Exhibition Hall, gamifications, quizzes, live meetings and events, among others. There is also a dedicated Industry Day (October 29) for sponsors. It will include a series of technical events promoted by the Gold and Silver sponsors to showcase the most innovative solutions available.
Many delegates are used to face-to-face events. What are the benefits of going online?
The conference platform and app were designed in a very intuitive way, which will allow the participant to easily follow the whole program at any time, from anywhere. The extensive volume of content will result in several parallel technical sessions that, different from a face-to-face event, will be at the disposal of the participant to be accessed later on so they won’t miss out.
There will also be a program screen, from where the participant will be able to ‘favorite’ several sessions to be remembered before they start. It’s among several other features that will make the full GeoAmericas digital journey very positive.
The event has an eclectic programme. What are your highlights?
Certainly the technical content (speeches, technical and discussion sessions, training lectures, Industry Day) and the digital exhibition are the highlights of the conference.
The scientific committee has put together a very strong program and all speakers were very supportive, confirming their participation. More than 120 papers will be presented orally during 40+ sessions. The fact that all this data will be readily available to everyone from all parts of the world to access at any moment during the conference week, brings a totally new perspective to dealing with valuable information.
What do Young Members have in store?
There will be exclusive technical and award sessions dedicated to the young professionals. It’s very important to mention the extreme hard work and engagement of the IGS Young Members Committee, chaired by Dawie Marx that, together with the Brazilian Chapter Young Members group, led by José Luiz Ernandes, organized a very rich technical programme. I encourage all delegates to follow them closely. They have a great future ahead of them.
GeoAmericas 2020 has some great speakers and short course opportunities. Why should delegates register for these events?
The technical program offers our audience a series of renowned speakers within the seven plenary sessions and four short courses. The themes are diverse, and state-of-the-art geotechnics with geosynthetics will be covered.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank each one of the speakers that, promptly, made themselves available to shift the event format with us. To all of them and also to the IGS Officers and council members, in the name of GeoAmericas organizing committee and IGS Brazil board of directors, I send very special thanks.
And any final thoughts?
As the first online IGS conference, we are very excited about the opportunity to bring a different view to how we can innovate in future events.
We understand that there can be a balance between face-to-face and digital formats to allow much more people to have access to the geosynthetics world. There are so many engineers that partially apply geosynthetics solutions in their professional activities and would join a digital event rather than travelling abroad to a face-to-face one. On the other hand, full geosynthetics professionals wouldn’t refrain from having the irreplaceable networking experience that a face-to-face event offers. We welcome feedback from delegates and sponsors to help inform future hybrid events.
I’d like to thank each one of the members of the GeoAmericas organizing committee, IGS and IGS Brazil board of directors, secretaries and everyone that participated so intensively putting their heart into each action and decision from the beginning. We are sure that we are offering the best available event and hope to see all of you in ‘digital Rio’ for GeoAmericas 2020 online.
For a full schedule and to register, visit the GeoAmericas 2020 website here.