19th Oct, 2015

The biennial, now paperless congress of ESOT, the European Society for Organ Transplantation, took place in the capital of Europe at SQUARE-BRUSSELS MEETING CENTRE last September. Themed “From the Heart of Europe to the World of Transplantation”, it was the occasion for the organisation to showcase how innovative it can be, engaging participants from all corners of the globe, and for the main congress centre in Brussels to successfully push its limits in terms of services.
Report Rémi Dévé

Building on the recent successful meetings in Vienna and Glasgow, the ESOT Congress used all forms of modern educational and training aids in use. Besides different State of the Art sessions dealing with several, still burning, questions about organ donation and transplantation, many important European contributions in the field of organ and tissue transplantation as well as procurement were highlighted. Attention was also given to the European view in relation to ethical and legal aspects in the field of donation and transplantation.

Success factors
In a very competitive world when there is a constant need for an association to remain relevant and innovative, Annalisa Ponchia, ESOT Congress Director, has grasped, maybe like only a handful of association executives, that you have to stay on top of your game, working and performing to maintain the reputation of your organisation steady. She says: “Associations have understood the importance of a strategic approach to make their meetings grow, the critical success factors and the impact of technology on the success of their events. Communication is also crucial and the use of social media has become mandatory. My personal experience proves that associations are now setting the trend and dare to taste the waters with regards to technology and new formats.”

And that’s exactly what came to life at SQUARE-BRUSSELS MEETING CENTRE. Firstly, people who could not make it to Brussels were still be able to catch selective bits of content through five interactive online shows, combining the most thought-provoking live performances on stage with more in-depth interviews from a so-called Transplant Live Studio. Then there was the ESOT2015 ePoster Lounge, a feature allowing delegates to request an appointment with poster presenters or join other booked slots in an intimate and relaxed setting, thus boosting the learning and networking experience.

ESOT2015 in numbers
Four full congress days
3,600 onsite delegates
+500 online unique users
181 speakers
1,235 session comments
30,000+ messages
1,650 abstracts
4,587 room nights

In the end - and in the beginning in fact - it was all about creating a level playing field for the 3,600 participating transplantation specialists. A sophisticated bespoke App made none to miss the ‘old’ paper program and abstracts books. To achieve this ESOT and SpotMe developed matchless functionalities to cater for all tastes and need. Attendees brought their own tablets and the organisation provided loaner iPads for the others. And the investment paid off: over four days the participants posted literally thousands of session comments, easily appointments and exchanged dozens of thousands messages. They also used the mobile event app to document their event journeys, saving abstracts, posters and notes to their online briefcases – it was indeed a paperless congress, from top to bottom.

Venue as attraction
All those efforts, from a “content” point of view were of course backed up by the team working at SQUARE, which was instrumental in getting the event to Brussels. SQUARE was more convincing mainly due to Belgium’s and Brussels’ attractiveness as a venue and to a modern, innovative congress format. Professor Jan Lerut, who strongly supported the candidacy of Brussels and SQUARE to host the Congress, explains: "Belgium has established an international reputation for itself in the field of organ transplantation. This is expressed not only in the high number of organ transplants, but also in the excellent results obtained. Besides, transplantation research in Belgium is at the head of this field with a host of innovations and multicentre studies.”

Ariane Deguelle, CEO of GL events in the Benelux, the company behind SQUARE, adds: "Once again, the tried and tested cooperation between SQUARE, the organisers and VisitBrussels played a decisive role here. This was particularly difficult at first, since ESOT thought our venue was too small, especially in terms of exhibition space. But our remarkable and mutual perseverance paid off: if ESOT’s organising committee showed flexibility, we’ve also shown our limits were opportunities. By literally increasing our capacities and pushing our boundaries, we have pioneered the way Brussels can host large events. And the full cooperation between all stakeholders involved also helped tremendously: it is a unified effort that led to the success of the ESOT Congress."

Along with their partners, the idea for SQUARE and GL events is to foresee the needs and expectations of their clients, even be one step ahead of them, working on meeting design, room layouts, and the overall atmosphere of the venue as to make it the epitome of knowledge transfer, whether in the field of science, politics or society. That’s exactly what happened in the preparation stages of ESOT2015: the teams working at SQUARE initiated a certain number of propositions to make things smooth and easy that was welcomed with open arms by ESOT organisers.

Stimulating various economic partnerships and sharing their expertise with suppliers from the corporate, academic and institutional world, SQUARE and GL events are surely moving ahead of many of their competitors.

Antony Jean-Mertens
Director of Business Development
T. +32 (0)2 515 13 21 /

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