Fertility 2021 – Reflections on an On-Line Adventure
Fertility 2021 On-line may not go down as one of the biggest conferences of the joint fertility societies in terms of delegate numbers but it will be remembered as the first conference to be held via a digital platform. The need to switch to on-line was, of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The original plan of the conference organising committee was to hold the conference at the ACC in Liverpool, the decision to switch the conference to virtual was taken in August when it was still uncertain what the situation in terms of social distancing would be. In retrospect this was a well timed decision allowing enough time to prepare for the switch to on-line. We had at this stage, confirmed virtually all speakers for the ‘Live’ event and our first objective was how to convert the live event to virtual and still maintain the cutting edge programme of high profile speakers delivering the very latest in their respective fields of expertise. My huge thanks for the efforts of the joint programme committee and Profile Productions in creating a framework which allowed us to maintain the speakers for all the plenary and update sessions and also provide 8 short paper sessions allowing clinicians and scientists to present their own research.
We had a great response to our call for abstracts resulting in the submission of over 250 high quality abstracts. This led to intense competition for the short paper sessions and a great number of high quality poster presentations which were presented via a new digital format which was extremely popular with both presenters and those viewing the posters alike and will probably be used as the preferred format in future conferences.
In terms of registered delegates, although the numbers were down on the previous years conference in Edinburgh, this was an exceptional year, and with over 780 delegates of which over 60 were international – this compares very favourably with other joint conferences. A really great outcome considering the difficulties created getting time away from the work place during the pandemic. The availability of the presentations for up to 3 months after the conference was also a great advantage in terms of allowing delegates to access their CPD at a time of their choosing.
So, onto the conference itself, we had extended the conference by an extra day which allowed us to follow the familiar and popular format of plenary and update sessions as well as the short paper sessions. The posters were available for viewing for 2 days prior to the official start of the conference and, like the oral presentations, will also be available for viewing until the end of April 2021. My sincere congratulations to the oral and poster prize winners from all of the societies – truly well deserved.
I guess everyone will have their own particular favourite sessions but as a clinician I particularly enjoyed the update sessions on endometriosis and adenomyosis and also the presentations on maternal and fetal outcomes following ART. I also found Cindy Farquhar’s presentation for the Howard Jacobs lecture particularly memorable. I also particularly enjoyed Amander Clark’s presentation on differentiation of the human germline which, as a non scientist, I felt was delivered in an extremely elegant and understandable way. The session on ‘Lessons learnt from Covid’ also provided a platform for some excellent discussion about the effects of the pandemic from a patient, counsellor, clinic and regulatory perspective.
However, I would have to say the absolute highlight for me was the closing presentation given by Dr Jane Goodall DBE. This was an eagerly anticipated session and it certainly lived up to the billing. Dr Goodall’s presentation was done without slides and given in such a gentle and engaging presentation style that she kept the on-line audience rivetted throughout – a truly great end to the conference.
Looking forwards, those disappointed in not being able to travel to Liverpool this year fear not – Fertility 2022, currently & Covid permitting, is planned to be a live event at the ACC, Liverpool form 6-8th January 2022.
I would like to finish by offering my sincere thanks to all members of the joint organising committee for the huge amount of time and effort they put into initially organising the programme for Fertility 2021 and then transforming the programme to an on-line format. In this respect I have to mention Profile Productions Ltd, the Conference secretariat, who put in a truly enormous amount of work without which the conference would not have been the success that it was. Their organisational ability and technical support were truly awesome allowing the conference to run with barely a hitch.
Finally, it has been an absolute privilege and pleasure for me to chair the BFS Meetings subcommittee for the last 3 years, my very best wishes for the future to Stuart Lavery and the rest the BFS sub-committee who I know will do an outstanding job in planning for future Fertility joint conferences.
Chair, Programming Committee