The 1st Women in Science Symposium (WiSS) took place on 4-5 March 2021. The Lively agency was responsible for the technical organisation of this unique event and selection of the communication platform. The conference was aimed at increasing the awareness of young female and male scientists regarding their own potential and career opportunities, with particular emphasis on the presence of women in the scientific world.
During the two-day symposium, participants met with successful, established academics from a wide variety of professional backgrounds – academia, industry, scientific publishing and sociology.
WiSS is an initiative of the community of the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw (IIMCB). This is one of the most modern research institutes within its field in Poland, with an A+ rating in the parametric evaluation of scientific units in Poland carried out by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. It was established with the support of the Polish government, the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) and UNESCO. The symposium was financed by the "Excellent Science" programme of the Ministry of Education and Science (formerly the Ministry of Science and Higher Education).
The task set for Lively in the brief was not exactly simple – the key elements of the event were to include a complicated website, numerous lectures and workshops that would also create an ideal environment for interaction between the speakers and participants, a round-table discussion platform and scientific "speed-dating" sessions. What’s more, due to the international nature of the symposium, it was to be held in English. A difficult task? No problem! At Lively, we like ambitious projects where we can not only share our knowledge and experience, but also learn a lot. We therefore proposed that two platforms should be used – PINE for the participants and Microsoft Teams for the speakers.
Our team, which worked both on the bid and the project itself, came up with a design for an extensive website for the conference with a registration panel, a platform with many functionalities and, of course, technical support for the streaming. The bid was also designed to include copywriting and communication support. We knew that such a task would require the creation of a strong team, combining people able to handle the individual elements of the brief. We prepared an interesting, engaging and price-competitive proposal, but what surprised the client the most was our holistic approach. In addition to the elements from the brief, we also wanted our proposal to include activities that we believed would fit the conference perfectly, but which the client had not thought about. Our meetings with the client were crucial as we were able to discuss our proposal with them, and present the platform and work schedule for the project. All the pieces of the puzzle came together to create a single harmonious picture, which was instrumental in helping Lively to win the tender.
- "This is probably the most interesting project that I’ve had the pleasure to co-organise and work on," says Piotr, Project Manager & Video Coordinator at Lively. "Technically, the WiSS conference was a combination of two tools. All the participants watched the conference via the PINE platform, while the speakers connected via Microsoft Teams."
How was the idea of organising the symposium born? Almudena Ponce Salvatierra, the main organiser and initiator of the event, explains:
- "The 1st Women in Science Symposium (WiSS) was inspired by the WCANet – Women, Careers and Networks symposium at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany. I was involved in organising that symposium many years ago and thought it was a very helpful event that could also be organised in Warsaw. The objective behind WiSS is to show the diversity of career paths that are available to researchers at different stages of their career, in various fields, through the experiences and first-hand testimonies of the speakers."
WiSS is an event whose main goal is to support young scientists in their career development. It helps to establish relationships and draw attention to some of the less obvious career development paths.
- "The Women in Science Symposium was designed as a meeting where women from the scientific community could meet and share experiences with other participants, mainly students, graduates and researchers – people at different career levels and with different experiences," says Małgorzata Figiel, organiser of the symposium. "In addition to sharing how to overcome difficulties, ways of dealing with them, and experiences, we also wanted to show the different career paths that are available in the scientific world. Many of us think of the academic path straight away, but there are also a number of other careers that you can choose from in science. That was one of our goals. In addition, we also wanted to give a broader spectrum from the point of view of sociologists who focus on the occupational gender balance," she adds.
Initially, the plans were different. Like many events, the symposium had been planned as a traditional conference as the organisers wanted to enable the scientists to establish relationships and exchange experiences in person. The pandemic thwarted these plans, however, so we had to start looking for fresh, new solutions.
- "Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to change our plans very drastically. At first, we thought about holding a traditional conference here at our Institute, but due to the restrictions and the unstable situation, at some point we realised that we would have to move it online," Małgorzata Figiel says. "We had to make arrangements with the ministry that sponsors our conference and that took a lot of time. So as a result we had a very tight schedule at the end. Nevertheless, with Lively's support, we were able to achieve all our goals. After the conference, we got very positive feedback from our participants. People contacted us or approached us saying how much they had liked it and that it was one of the best events of its type they had attended," she remarks.
Was there any stress? Sure! The organisers had counted on having a traditional form of the event, which is understandable, but we feel best working in an environment and on projects that we know well. The online version of WiSS was a leap into the deep end, prepared at an express pace, so was it worth the risk?
- "It turned out better than we had expected! It was stressful, for sure. We had all organised many traditional events before, so we knew what to think about with the conference, but we didn't know how the online version would turn out," Almudena Ponce Salvatierra says about her initial doubts. "Would people like it? Would they participate and get involved, for example in the scientific speed dating? Or ask the speakers questions? We had doubts about these things, and I think that was what we stressed about the most. However, it turned out really well!"
"Now I am much keener on participating in and organising this type of online event as a supplement to traditional events that also have their advantages," adds Małgorzata Figiel.
After the conference, the participants and speakers shared their feedback, which was a moment very eagerly awaited by all concerned – the upshot was that they liked the subjects of both the lectures and the workshops, as well as the opportunities offered by the online platforms proposed by Lively. The simplicity of navigation and the aesthetics of execution were also praised.
- "We had very good feedback, and we were really pleasantly surprised. The participants liked the line-up of the speakers, and they were very pleased and inspired by what they had to say. They asked us to organise WiSS again next year. They also liked the platform, commenting that it was simple to navigate and beautifully made. We agreed as we also liked it very much," says Almudena Ponce Salvatierra.
We also hope that there will be another edition of the WiSS symposium next year, just as many participants requested. We value projects with demanding clients who know what they want, and we know how to best implement it. Good communication is essential – with online events, at work and in life. The implementation of this event brought us a lot of satisfaction, and also joy from our work. We greatly appreciated the possibility to carry out a project that is socially important, and we feel strongly that the values that guide the initiators of the conference are also very important to us. Girls, you guys are great! #girlpower