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How to host a virtual festival

How to host a virtual festival

The event

The Economic and Social Research Council has held a 5-day Festival of Social Science (FOSS) every year since 2002.

The challenge

November 2020 saw another period of nationwide restrictions in the UK due to Covid-19, and further limitations on international travel. With over 37 countries and 18 universities involved, it was impossible to continue with an in-person event.

The solution

A new theme – Society from your Sofa – and an all-virtual approach made the 5-day festival not only possible, but a vibrant and inclusive success.

Soceity from your Sofa: FOSS 2020

Here’s how the Academic Conferences and Events team at the University of Birmingham helped to make it happen:

  • Meetings with local organisers to establish goals and plans
  • Technical support for academic leads and participants, including rehearsals
  • Attendee registration
  • Zoom and Facebook Live session management, including Q&A/chat management
  • BSL interpretation and live captioning

The Academic Conferences and Events team supported the delivery of 10 events over 5 days, in conjunction with other university teams.

Sessions included panel debates, presentations, interactive quizzes and pre-recorded material. In total, the team supported 70 speakers and panellists, and managed over 1100 attendees.

“The Academic Events and Conferences team provided excellent support for this year’s Festival of Social Sciences: Society from your Sofa… they oversaw practice run-throughs, provided nuanced support depending on the event requirements and the technical expertise of the speakers, and generally made everyone feel a lot more confident!… Feedback from all the events has been excellent and the academics and panellists running them were extremely grateful for the team’s support. We have found the process of working with Academic Events and Conferences extremely smooth and appreciated the fact that at every point they went the extra mile, whether that be by staying on late for an event or providing zoom reports swiftly for our evaluation.”

Dr Helen Ackers, Impact Development Officer, University of Birmingham College of Social Sciences

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