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How One Medical Conference Went Virtual After 24 Years—And Doubled Attendance

The ISITDBT 25th Annual (and first ever virtual) Conference: November 19, 2020

How one medical conference went virtual after 24 years—and doubled attendance
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The Event

  • 1 Day - 9 Sessions
  • 17 Presenters
  • 17 Poster Sessions
  • 15 Social Rooms

The Results

  • 2x Increase in Attendance
  • 1,200+ Advance Custom Registrations
  • 1,200+ Live Attendees
  • 3,800+ Page Views and counting (on-demand views)

The challenge

Going virtual after 24 years of in-person annual conferences—while keeping the same level of high value and engagement for attendees

The solution

Expert support every step of the way, smooth-sailing Greenroom features, and smart solutions for meaningful digital connections

The impact

More than double year-over-year attendance, increased global reach, and raves from presenters and viewers alike

Starting from scratch on the virtual stage

The International Society for the Improvement and Teaching of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (ISITDBT) is a volunteer organization dedicated to bringing DBT clinicians from around the globe together once a year to learn, network, and advance their field.

After 24 years of successfully hosting their annual conference in person, ISITDBT faced an all-too-common problem in 2020: go virtual or bust. To fulfill their mission, the conference organizers would have to transition their tried-and-true in-person gathering into an online event—one that delivered a meaningful experience for attendees.

Program Chairs Dr. Alison Yaeger and Dr. Nick Salsman began the hunt for a platform and production partner, exploring which of 10 contenders could successfully launch them from the conference hall to the digital spotlight.

Enter Brandlive

Dr. Yaeger experienced Brandlive’s above-and-beyond service from the get-go: “My first impression of Brandlive was refreshing—I was dealing with impersonal replies from other companies. On our first call, a storm cut my power. I thought, ‘Oh no, how do I get this person back?’ But Rachel emailed me within seconds. That first foot forward was everything. It was a lovely presentation of the company.”

Having never run their conference on a virtual platform before, Dr. Yaeger naturally had a lot of questions—how it would look and feel, what the process would be like for partners and presenters, how much support they’d have. And Brandlive had answers. “Rachel knew the product inside and out, was easy to connect with, present, kind and patient,” Dr. Yaeger reflected.

I expected to be stressed, as one might be before any big event. Here is the beautiful piece—we were calm that week. The dress rehearsal was seamless. We had been working with Dustin at Brandlive for three months, and he instilled confidence that we were ready to go live.

-Dr. Alison Yaeger, Program Chair, International Society for the Improvement and Teaching of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

That stand-out support was the clincher for Dr. Yaeger: “Brandlive’s quote was inclusive and fully transparent—including full support, a production crew, and a Greenroom tech and dress rehearsal. Other companies offered these as add-ons. I liked that it was all part of the Brandlive package, so I knew I had all the support I needed.”

Challenges Solved

  1. New to virtual.

    With ISITDBT’s first foray into a virtual conference, Dr. Yaeger and her team needed a crew who could transform a long-standing in-person event into a seamless online experience. Dr. Yaeger said, “I let Rachel know a virtual conference was new territory. We’re psychologists, not techies! I didn’t want to deal with tech out of my control. She, Luke and Dustin were so helpful throughout the process. None of my questions were too ‘newbie’.”

    Dr. Salsman added, “The tricky part was translating what we usually do into a virtual event. We learned they are very different things, and Brandlive helped us there. For example, we prepared presenters differently than how we’d prep them for a traditional in-person academic conference.”

  2. Third-party integration.

    A crucial aspect of the event was providing continuing education (CE) credits for attendees—which called for careful coordination with an external party.

    “Rachel was willing to talk to our CE partner, and they had their own call. Then she went two steps further! She sent me screenshots of how Brandlive has done this before,” said Dr. Yaeger. “It was an extremely thorough solution, and she handled the whole thing. It also gave us such confidence in the product.”

  3. Meaningful professional connections, virtually.

    Poster Sessions are an integral part of ISITDBT’s scientific conferences—a chance for junior clinicians to share their research findings for the first time. Paired with a cocktail hour, these sessions are valuable professional networking opportunities. Dr. Yaeger explained, “In the virtual world, we didn’t know how we could recreate these kinds of interactions.”

    Brandlive helped the society create 17 breakout rooms within the conference. “The presenters said it was wonderful,” Dr. Yaeger reflected, “and it felt like the real thing—but even better, because they met people from different countries who would not have attended if it were an in-person event.”

  4. Deepening social connections, digitally.

    “How do you do a virtual conference with over 1,000 people and still socialize with people in the room?” Dr. Yaeger asked. “Sometimes you want to chat with your old research advisor. We wanted to capture that.”

    The solution: incorporating 15 Social Rooms, each named after an aspect of DBT clinical work to highlight the mission of ISITDBT. The social rooms were a huge success; Dr. Yaeger reported, “One social room even turned into its own session! That spoke to how hungry people were to continue dialogue, and we were able to provide that for attendees around the world.”

How do you do a virtual conference with over 1,000 people and still socialize with people in the room? Sometimes you want to chat with your old research advisor. We wanted to capture that.

-Dr. Alison Yaeger, Program Chair, International Society for the Improvement and Teaching of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Big wins

  1. Over 2x attendance.

    The society’s in-person conference usually draws about 400 people, but the organizers had no idea if attendees would make the move to a digital gathering. Turns out, they came in droves. 

    Dr. Yaeger said, “Over 1,000 people attended—more than double what we expected!” An added bonus of the virtual platform was increased accessibility. “We had more first-timers than ever before. Twenty countries were represented. How lovely! They would never have traveled from Japan for a one-day conference, yet there they were online.”

  2. Seamless presenter experience.

    Making sure the 17 presenters could take the virtual stage with confidence was a top priority for conference organizers. Greenroom made it easy for the organizers and smooth as silk for presenters.

    “Presenters were very happy with it,” said Dr. Yaeger. “Everything went from presenter to presenter, topic to topic, so smoothly. Presenters knew when they’d be on the screen. There was no ambiguity for them.”

    “Using Greenroom was novel—not your typical academic conference experience. It felt more like we were going on TV,” Dr. Salmsan observed. “Not only was it cool to be part of, it also put in perspective that this is different than what we’d do at a usual conference. With the Brandlive team, we knew that no matter what happened, we had competent people dedicated to coaching us.”

  3. Engaged and delighted audience.

    Attendees enjoyed the immersive online experience on Brandlive’s platform. “They said it was cooler than Zoom!” Dr. Yaeger reflected. “They could download slides, go into various breakout rooms, see the program, interact with each other, and more.”

    Unlike plain-old online meetings, the virtual experience felt dynamic and engaging for viewers. Dr. Yaeger said, “There was a fluidity to it, a dance—movement, if you will. And that was well-received for folks sitting and being part of the event for several hours.”

  4. Increased reach.

    Dr. Salsman acknowledged the online interface as a new and unique opportunity to have vital dialogue. He said, “Our event delivered impactful, timely content to a broad and diverse audience. This reach wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”

    The virtual format also produced content that ISITDBT can use to make a difference long-term. “We had a panel called ‘Path to Antiracism’ that evoked a lot of emotion for people,” Dr. Salsman said. “It was part of our live event and recorded, and I think will have a lasting effect in our world of DBT. I’m proud that we got this content out into the world in a way that has a high impact.”

  5. All calm, no storm.

    Dr. Yaeger and Dr. Salsman followed their usual practice of taking time off work the week of the conference, expecting that there would be much to do. “I expected to be stressed, as one might be before any big event,” said Dr. Yaeger. But they were taken by surprise: “Here is the beautiful piece—we were calm that week. The dress rehearsal was seamless. We had been working with Dustin for three months, and he instilled confidence that we were ready to go live.”

    Relying on Brandlive’s combo of smart tech and superstar support made life easy for the conference organizers: “We were blissfully peaceful that week, and that is a function of Brandlive and Dustin. This was Brandlive’s gift to us. They created a platform that made it so we could truly enjoy our conference.”

Rachel and Luke were responsive and present. The product demos were great. I didn’t know a conference could even look like that! I said, this is a company I can get behind.

-Dr. Alison Yaeger, Program Chair, International Society for the Improvement and Teaching of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

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