The past 15 months have been by no means what we expected: all of us were thrown into a virtual world, not knowing what was ahead.
Here at the Foundation it took us a couple of months to find our feet before hosting our first virtual event, on Covid-19 and its effects on the environment in May 2020, and since we have hosted ten webinars, and the first annual Foundation Future Leaders Conference. Over the course of these 11 events we welcomed over 3,000 attendees to listen to our excellent speakers, including Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Advisor, and take part in the Q&A sessions led by Lord Willets, Chair of the Foundation.
The number of attendees at each of our events has almost doubled in the past year. Our regular physical events in the Royal Society had 100- 140 guests, whereas now we have (online) space available for all who want to join. Social media have drawn a wider audience in, both watching live and viewing the recording from the website subsequently. Similarly, our regular podcasts and blogs continue to draw new visitors to our website.
Our virtual presence has demonstrated a notable shift in our attendee locations. Whereas before guests would have to travel to London for the evening, with the freedom to tune in from any location across the world, we have had an increase in attendee from those based in the North of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland than before. We are not just benefiting from more diverse audiences but speakers too, Professor Rob Jackson from Stanford University was able to join us from the US to speak last May.
Here at the Foundation, we are embracing this increased outreach, and are putting plans into place to hybridise all future events. Guests will have the option to attend in person or online, starting with our first in-person event in late June on a Systems approach to Net Zero. We hope that this will encourage even more people to attend our events and contribute to the discussions, whether they are sat in the lecture hall on a train, desk or sofa. We are committed to continuing access to our events, and although we are looking forward to getting back in person, we will continue to apply the lessons learnt over the past year.
Alana Cullen is a MSc student at Imperial College London studying Science Communication, and is the Social Media and Communication's Officer for the Foundation for Science and Technology.