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The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) is the nation’s largest non-profit organization devoted exclusively to funding lymphoma research and serving those impacted by this blood cancer.
For its patient education programs, LRF conducts year-round conferences to connect patients and caregivers to doctors and specialists. These conferences also serve to update participants about ongoing research, treatments, and clinical trials.
Jesse Brown, Associate Director of LRF’s Patient Education Division, talks to vFairs about their shift to a virtual event platform.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread in the beginning of 2020, hosting in-person conferences in a safe manner became impossible. Like several of their counterparts, the LRF was forced to take their patient programs online.
This change was rather involuntary. LRF was concerned about their events losing traction online, harming their cause of increasing Lymphoma awareness and improving the lives of Lymphoma patients.
Here’s a deeper look at the three main challenges that LRF had to face by going virtual.
The chief reason why the LRF was wary of virtual conferences was the lack of the human-to-human element. The NGO had delivered webinars in the past but they had seen their audiences gravitating towards their in-person conferences more.
Why was this? These webinars failed to offer networking opportunities, one of the most crucial reasons for participants to attend. With these webinars, participants had a hard time connecting with the speaker and they couldn’t interact with other attendees to talk about their experiences with the disease.
When LRF had to shift to a digital model, they believed they’d be unable to engage their audiences in a remote setting. Could the interaction features in virtual applications ever be at par with in-person interactions?
Since Lymphoma is more prevalent among older age groups, LRF’s education programs tend to cater to an older audience. This brought on the question of how user-friendly virtual events would be for an older audience.
LRF knew that getting their audience to adapt to a new technology wouldn’t be easy. They had to ensure that the user interface was easy enough and their target audience wouldn’t have a hard time becoming familiar with a new platform.
LRF also knew that their speakers would also have to find their way around a virtual environment. Most speakers are used to delivering sessions via commonly used video-conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet.
Worried that a virtual event platform will require speakers to learn new video conferencing technology, LRF had their doubts. Being a charitable organization, a difficult learning experience for speakers would be detrimental to the success of all future events.
While Jesse knew the only way forward was to go virtual, she wanted to migrate to a comprehensive virtual conferencing tool that would tackle the challenges of inaccessibility, disengagement, and complicated technology.
LRF’s two main objectives with their virtual events were:
With these characteristics guiding Jesse, she looked up for solutions that could best imitate their in-person events.
A colleague swiftly provided a recommendation – they had attended a similar non-profit virtual event that fit Jesse’s requirements, prompting her to get in touch with the service provider – vFairs.
Upon evaluation, LRF was amazed by how user-friendly vFairs was. The platform offered a collection of sleek 3D event venues that could easily be customized to imitate LRF’s in-person events. This enabled attendees to feel connected with the digital space and still find a sense of familiarity in a new environment.
With the patient programs split up by plenary and breakout sessions running at the same time, the lobby design provided an easy way for patients and caregivers to navigate through the different sessions and areas.
vFairs also had a bevy of accessibility features, like font magnification and text-to-audio features to assist those with vision impairment.
As for the exhibitors, the booths were extremely easy to set up and customize. The platform was also integrated with Zoom, ensuring that speakers wouldn’t have to learn a new video conferencing tool.
With their concerns put to ease, LRF was able to execute a seamless virtual conference for Lymphoma patients and caregivers. They also noticed that their virtual events were able to hit higher attendance than their in-person events.
One event in particular, the three-day Educational Forum in October, got LRF three times the attendance as their conventional events! Several people who couldn’t attend due to health, financial or geographical reasons in the past, were finally able to make it to LRF’s patient programs.
The key purpose of LRF’s program is to improve the life of Lymphoma patients by imparting treatment and new research information. Participants attend their conferences to hear about new treatment options, ongoing clinical trials, breakthroughs, and general tips to manage the disease. The speakers are mostly doctors and Lymphoma specialists.
With this in mind, learning is the number one objective of LRF’s programs. LRF was able to further facilitate this goal by:
The exhibitors at these events are pharmaceutical companies and other NGOs. A major aspect of LRF’s patient programs is the interaction between these exhibitors and the patients.
LRF was concerned about hosting a disconnected virtual conference that didn’t let people freely engage with one another. Contrary to their perception, vFairs offered a number of engagement options to make the event worthwhile.
The booths in the exhibit hall offered attendees a chat option that they could use to connect with exhibitors and ask them questions. The Q&A feature also enabled patients and caregivers to ask questions during the live speaking sessions.
A lot of people come to meet other lymphoma patients and caregivers at the conferences. vFairs enabled these participants to connect with another with their private chat engagement tool.
The Lymphoma Research Foundation saw that their older audience was quickly able to get comfortable with an easy-to-use, comprehensive virtual event platform like vFairs. They also observed that longer programs, like their three-day Educational Forum enabled attendees to familiarize themselves with the new interface.
These factors, coupled with the timely customer support, enabled LRF to nail their patient programs – even in a virtual environment. The programs received positive feedback from attendees, several people appreciating the fact that they could attend the event remotely. This helped the organization further their goal of disseminating Lymphoma news, improving the lives of those impacted by the disease.
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