Client: The Medical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge.

Type of event: Hybrid Workshop and Lecture

Date: November 2021

Venue: The Pitt Building

Each year the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge holds a Workshop and Lecture which honours the immense contributions of the brilliant statistician, Professor Peter Armitage CBE, who was at the Unit from 1947 to 1961. In 2021, the Unit decided to organise its 18th Armitage Workshop and Lecture as a hybrid event at the Pitt Building in Cambridge, allowing for both in-person and virtual delegates, with a contingency plan of running it all online if required.

Accessibility and engagement

The key drivers for choosing a hybrid format were not just the COVID-19 pandemic but also environmental and accessibility factors, providing the opportunity to reach out to a much broader audience geographically but without any travel required. In previous years, attendees were UK-based but this time, people from all over the world participated, including from Australia, Canada and China. 

Alison Quenault, Communications Officer at the MRC Biostatistics Unit, who organised and delivered the event said: "We had a record number of audience members, with 118 virtually and 28 in-person, as well as 159 views on YouTube to date."

Content and planning

"The workshop programme focused on the theme of statistical decision-based inference and included presentations from researchers at the Unit, finishing with a keynote lecture from Professor Gianluca Baio at the University College London. All of the presentations were streamed to a virtual audience via Zoom."

"To allow for interaction between the in-person and the virtual delegates in small groups, we organised a networking session for all attendees, using the online platform Wonder."

"Planning a hybrid event requires a lot of work, as there are many more elements to consider and organise compared with an in-person only event. I was continuously having to think about the needs of both the in-person audience and the virtual audience." 

Venue and hybrid expertise

"The Pitt Building was a brilliant venue for holding a small-scale hybrid event. All the staff were extremely helpful and accommodating, particularly when there were last-minute changes. The venue also had excellent COVID safety measures, including individually packaged lunch boxes and hand sanitiser throughout the building."

"I would also highly recommend working with AV Xpert, who provided the equipment and expertise needed to run the workshop as a hybrid event."

"Throughout the planning process, I was in regular contact with both the Pitt Building and AV Xpert to ensure we were all fully briefed and knew what to expect on the day of the workshop."

In summary

"Running our Armitage Workshop and Lecture as a hybrid event was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to bring together audiences from all over the world. The increased engagement and assurance that we were running a COVID safe event, made all the work and planning worthwhile. A key highlight was that Professor Armitage himself was able to participate from his home."

"Using the lessons learned and delegate feedback, we look forward to running more hybrid workshops and conferences in the future."

Read more about the 18th Armitage Workshop and Lecture - MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge.

Image credit: MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge.

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