Shorouk Elkobros is Europlanet Magazine’s columnist on science communication topics and tools.
Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.
Summer 2021 was busy for my team at the Europlanet Society and our colleagues from the Copernicus team getting ready for the largest planetary science meeting in Europe, the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC). The annual event that typically sees more than 1000 participants from around the world was again held online. The ethos for EPSC2021 was to create a simple, flexible, and inclusive virtual meeting that provides multiple opportunities for interaction, scientific discussion and networking.
For the first time at EPSC, we decided to use Slack to complement Zoom sessions. Being the platform’s main administrator, it is fair to say that I spent more time on Slack this summer than on any other app. Is your scientific conference suddenly going virtual? Fret not. In this issue’s column, I share with you our successful case study to help you plan an engaging Slack workspace.
Slack management is not exactly a piece of cake; we had to streamline every process to ensure nothing got out of line. Four months before the event, we created a timeline of pre, during and post conference checklists. We designed Slack channels to match the needs of a busy attendee: an announcement channel for news, a helpdesk for support and a coffee break channel for networking. I loved using the Slack Block Kit Builder, a clean and consistent user-interface framework for Slack apps. It helped me to customise organised and visually appealing posts. Scheduling posts and integrating apps were great tricks to save time. For example, an app such as the Direct Memo can send messages to all Slack members with one button. During EPSC2021, we helped participants navigate the large mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions by providing a daily schedule and reminders for each activity. Our conveners played an excellent role in this by managing their sessions’ channels. They directly engaged with attendees and answered their questions. Finally, we offered a unique space for networking activities. My favourites by far were the EPSC2021 early-career events (page 18).
During EPSC2021, we welcomed 795 participants from 47 countries, 734 of which joined Slack. Despite hurdles around sending participants invitations, checking working links, and facilitating communications, the feedback shows we held an engaging digital EPSC2021. Using an online platform for a global meeting was challenging, but we did it! And you can too.
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