Taking the International AIDS Conference Online

Three months before the curtain was to go up on the five-day, 20,000-attendee International AIDS Conference, COVID-19 forced the International AIDS Society (IAS) to cancel the in-person program. IAS retained MCI USA to transform AIDS 2020 into a virtual event — designing, building, and running the whole show, which brings together physicians, patients, researchers, activists, policymakers, industry partners, and media from around the world for scientific and education sessions, workshops, poster presentations, exhibits, performances, demonstrations, and even protests.

Knowing that we needed to create an online experience that captured the unique energy of IAS’s event, which mixes medicine and advocacy, MCI USA took an existing virtual event platform and completely customized it for AIDS 2020, designing a virtual environment that fit IAS’s ambitious program. Often that meant communicating with IAS’s Geneva-based team as well as global sponsors and partners at all hours. When the conference launched, in addition to producing and managing the show, we provided round-the-clock tech support for speakers and exhibitors and staffed a 24-hour help desk to answer attendee questions.

Results:

  • Factoring in pre-conference programming, AIDS 2020 ran for 11 days and offered more than 250 content sessions and 124 exhibitions in 21 virtual rooms.
  • During its five peak days, the conference drew more than 13,600 unique attendees.
  • MCI USA’s 24-hour help desk responded to more than 2,200 tickets submitted during the course of AIDS 2020.
  • According to an IAS representative: “MCI was by our side and it truly felt like a partnership. We never felt deserted when we encountered problems."

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