Unfortunately, we could not get tasty Scotch and nice beer this year at FENS. The city of Glasgow would have given place to FENS this year. But the event got canceled due to the tragic pandemic of Covid19. The organizers decided to go online. They did a great job and many participants came from different parts of the world.
It was great to have the lectures available with keeping the live online connection with the speakers. We could definitely attend more lectures than on a conference offline. We have not experienced any major issues during the lectures, but we could not attend all.
Here we have experienced some communication errors, but overall it was good. It was quite beneficial that even though I missed the time window of a poster, I could get answers from the authors later during the whole conference.
The exhibition section was not as good as in real life. It is good sometimes to take a walk and be amazed by the research tools which are presented at these conferences. All the vendors have different designs and useful or funny promotion gifts. But this year there was not much difference among the exhibitor booths. We still could chat with the representatives of the suppliers, but it was easy to avoid the salespeople who try to catch you for a short pitch.
Companies might reconsider to give the same or similar amount of investment to online conferences than to real offline events. There are many solutions to guide or force online participants to watch marketing materials before a lecture. This year there wasn't such an approach from the organizers, so all the lectures and posters were free of commercials.
It was the first major neuroscience conference in an online arena, and we think it passed the test. But there is still room to develop for the organizers. Virtualization can reach a higher level next year. Unfortunately, it will never reach the same level when we shake hands and exchange business cards. Stronger personal relationships rather form at a conference, which sometimes result in a good collaboration, a new job offer, or finding the right tool with the right deal.
We all hope everything will be back to normal and we will meet soon. :)