Vets Now, the leading emergency & critical care providers for pets in Europe, faced a roadblock when COVID-19 struck the world and their ECC UK Congress, usually held in Yorkshire, England, could not go ahead live as planned. They didn’t want to just host a series of webinars without any interactivity. So what were they to do? Move forward with Vets Now Virtual Congress. PURPOSE OF VETS NOW VIRTUAL CONGRESS 2020 ECC UK Congress aims to bring together staff members who are vets and vet nurses. This congress is focused on giving them continued professional development (CPD). This CPD is essential for vets and vet nurses to continue their practice, focusing on emergency and critical care for pets.However, with COVID-19 disrupting their initial plans for a live congress, Vets Now quickly readjusted and began looking for virtual event platforms. They were clear in their vision for their first virtual event; it should be more than just a series of webinars. Why vFairs? vFairs was recommended to Helen Batten, the Events Lead at Vets Now, through LinkedIn. So after browsing through the reviews and going through a couple of videos, the team decided to go ahead with vFairs. Additionally, the reason that vFairs was considered to be the best fit for Vets Now Virtual Congress was because of the level of interactivity it offered in its exhibitor booths. Exhibitors could have their own booths, and the exhibit hall resembled their actual hall. Additionally, the gamification feature added an element of competition that really helped boost interactivity. EXHIBITORS & ATTENDEES30 of the profession’s leading suppliers joined the ECC UK Congress to exhibit, including headline sponsor Woodley Equipment Company and media partner Vet Times. Sponsors used their booths to showcase products and services in the veterinary industry. The attendees consisted of vets and vet nurses who were seeking CPD. There were 1,227 attendees in 2020’s congress, participating from 37 different countries, including Kuwait, Hong Kong and Australia. This is a huge increase from previous events, which enjoyed around 800 attendees. This was a purely networking and learning event. However, the virtual event platform did provide an option for attendees to add items to their cart and buy offline via the exhibitor’s own website. The exhibit hall provided a setting for networking and the auditorium was utilized for learning and educational purposes. A two-day live event became a four-day virtual event. Starting from November 4th, 2020 to November 7th, 2020.Vets Now Virtual Congress was deemed a huge success owing to the number of attendees and the positive feedback from exhibitors and attendees alike. Let us take you through the winning features that contributed to Vets Now’s success. EYE-CATCHING LOBBYThe lobby was attractive and colorful, to match the setting of the in-person event. The Vets Now team wanted the page to be interactive and appealing from the get-go. In addition, they specifically incorporated the brands’ colors and logos, staying true to the brand guidelines. They placed their banners and exhibitor logos to give the look and feel of the actual event. EASILY NAVIGABLE EXHIBIT HALLThe exhibit hall was laid out so that each of the 30 exhibitors were clearly visible, including the headline sponsors. They were even numbered. An exhibitor directory was also provided to guide attendees through, again matching the exhibitor name with the stand number. The exhibitor directory could be downloaded or printed. The exhibit booths featured information on each exhibitor, plus links to social media channels, websites and even chat timings – so attendees could see when representatives were available to chat. MAXIMIZING INTERACTIVITY IN THE AUDITORIUM The virtual auditorium also featured banners of ECC. This was in line with their agenda to keep the branding on point throughout the event, inspired by their previous live events. There were 31 live and 19 pre-recorded sessions over the course of four days, conducted by internationally renowned speakers, specialists in their veterinary field. The keynote speaker was Miles Hilton-Barber, an inspirational blind adventurer. Other speakers included Kieran Borgeat, Megan Brashear and Daniel Fletcher.EASY NETWORKING A chat room was set up, to facilitate networking among attendees and exhibitors. Here, attendees could choose the exhibitor they wished to interact with. The lounge also served the same purpose. Here delegates could chat with other delegates. They could even view the leaderboard here. A stand was set up in the lounge which offered to help the delegates and support them, or answer their questions.The leaderboard was also set up in the lounge. Attendees could view what they needed to do to win points. For instance, viewing a document or a video, or attending a yoga session helped them gain points which would give them a chance to win exciting prizes. ACCESSIBLE RESOURCES FOR DELEGATES The Vets Now Virtual Congress hosted a number of resources that helped the delegates. For instance, the delegate bag contained the EVECCS 2021 flyer. The agenda tab laid out the detailed course of events and sessions for the four days. The course notes presented details on speakers and written information on areas such as “creating a culture of psychological safety” and “trauma resuscitation” among many other notable topics. Another tab labelled “Programme” featured detailed information on the agenda, speakers, and event platform. This made everything easily accessible for the delegates to view, download or print. BENEFITS REALIZEDThe team at Vets Now gauge the success of their event through the feedback they receive. The initial feedback was great. Delegates said they had a great overall experience. Moreover, they said they are likely to attend a future Vets Now Virtual Congress. With regards to the platform, delegates found vFairs easy to use, and were happy with the access to support. Positive feedback came pouring in. “I thought the entire format was revolutionary. Less environmental impact with travelling and hosting, less waste. Much more flexible. Love that I can watch the lectures back for 30 days” James Wright – Vet surgeon“A great event, very well organized and run and exhibitors are valued as much as delegates – much appreciated” -PetPlan (2021 exhibitor)“2020 has obviously been the year where live events have changed all over the world. The challenge for event organizers is to try to deliver an innovative and safe interactive learning experience for our delegates, and according to our feedback, we’ve achieved that and more” Daniel Lewis, National ECC Lead at Vets Now Vets Now found the platform to be interactive, providing ample opportunities for delegates to network and learn; “We loved the interactivity of the platform, especially the leaderboard elements with the scavenger hunts and quizzes.”As a result of this success, the Vets Now’s parent company IVC Evidensia has booked two events for 2021 already. Helen expressed her excitement with the success of the event too. “To run 41 live sessions, 19 pre-recorded sessions, have 1227 delegates, 30 virtual stands and 31 speakers, all from 37 countries and the event to run was absolutely fantastic. Initial delegate and exhibitor feedback has been extremely positive.”Vets Now heavily praised the customer support and project management team. They expressed their delight with “Muhammad and Bilal were professional, reliable and available for constant support” . PRO TIP FROM VETS NOWWhen targeting delegates from 37 countries, marketing was a challenge. However, Vets Now soon cracked that code.They found working with influencers from the USA, Australia and Europe worked wonders for them. The influencers shared information with their followers and gained almost a 100 registrations just through this. The social media manager at Vets Now worked with them and even gave them a discount code to share with their followers. So if you are looking to market your event, give influencer marketing a try.