ELMI 2022, Gunilla Sjöberg, Pasi Kankaanpää, photo Mika Okko
ELMI (European Light Microscopy Initiative) is a network that was founded in 2001 with the aim of promoting collaboration between researchers and equipment developers in light microscopy. The international ELMI conference brings together various experts in the field of bioimaging: researchers, equipment developers, staff working with the equipment and company representatives, and it is held annually in different European countries. The conference features, for example, microscope and laser technology as well as virtual reality solutions.
The ELMI 2022 Conference was held at the Logomo event centre in Turku, Finland, 7–10 June 2022. The original event had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Turku was not the only applicant for the conference, and it competed with EMBL, for example, a leading international biology laboratory whose headquarters are located in Heidelberg, Germany.
“The steering group that decides the conference location is very critical, so the application must be carefully prepared. The arrangements must also meet a long list of criteria,” says Pasi Kankaanpää, who organised the ELMI 2022 Conference in Turku with his colleagues.
Kankaanpää is a Research Manager at Turku BioImaging, which is jointly operated by the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, and he coordinates the Euro-BioImaging Finland network consisting of imaging facilities from six universities and three university hospitals in Finland. The successful application process in 2019 was carried out by Markku Saari, a former colleague and current collaborator of Pasi Kankaanpää at Immuno Diagnostic Oy.
"The organising committee did not organise the event by itself, as we had help from the experts at Aboa Congress and Event Services. We were in close collaboration right from the start,” Kankaanpää says.
Equipment exhibition played a key role
Equipment exhibitions, the booths of international developers and various workshops play a key role at ELMI conferences in achieving the goals set for them. The main objective is to promote collaboration between academic research and equipment developers. Transporting the expensive, multi-million-euro microscopes and presenting their technical features demand a lot from the location and its technology in particular.
“We are extremely pleased at how the conference in Turku's Logomo turned out. In the feedback survey, 85 percent of the participants rated Logomo as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ as a conference venue. How the exhibition and the numerous workshops were implemented received special praise, as did the audio and acoustics,” Pasi Kankaanpää says with a smile.
“In addition to an exhibition, ELMI conferences also feature a large number of scientific posters, and there are various morning lectures. All parts of the conference must be held in the same building, and all exhibitors must have a central and visible location,” Kankaanpää emphasises.
Investing in hybrid production paid off
Organising conferences has been on a hiatus during the pandemic. ELMI, too, was once cancelled and once held fully virtually. In Turku, all scientific presentations were also presented online, but a remote connection cannot fully replace the concreteness of the exhibition and workshops.
“We knew that the equipment exhibition was going to be a key and large part of the conference, but I have to admit that we, the organisers, and the exhibitors were anxious to see how many would sign up. Fortunately, we received plenty of registrations right until the start of the conference."
“The situation in Ukraine naturally increased the stress levels, as its impact was difficult to predict, similar to the pandemic. The visitors were happy with the flight connections, and most of the delegates used trains or buses to get to Turku from the Helsinki Airport. Our goal was to have 300–400 delegates on site, and we surpassed it: there were 420 registrations in total. Roughly 100 people also took part online. As much as 190 of the participants worked for companies.”
“I'm especially glad that there were only a few last-minute cancellations. It is clear that the participants value being on site when it comes to ELMI. It is common to make key purchase plans and decisions for the future in terms of equipment at the event, to get to know the offering, and this is also what we did,” Kankaanpää says.
Approximately half of the program of the ELMI 2022 Conference was streamed online, and the recordings were available on the event platform for two weeks so that they could be revisited after the conference trip. Most of the lectures can also be watched on Turku BioImaging's YouTube channel.
“We wanted to provide a high-quality event experience also for the online participants, so we invested in the hybrid production model. We designed it together with Aboa, and it will lead the way for the next ELMI conferences. The ELMI Steering Committee has outlined that all future ELMI conferences should implement a hybrid system similar to ours in Turku.”
Delicious food to fuel long hours
“The food at Logomo received great feedback. Our coffee breaks were also hour-long to ensure that there is enough time to network. Food is essential after long travels and intensive workdays,” Pasi Kankaanpää stresses.
And the investments paid off: the food at the Turku conference was described “better than ever”, which pleased the hosts.
“93 percent of the conference participants rated the overall experience as 'excellent’ or ‘very good’. The next ELMI conference will be held in the Netherlands, and before leaving, the Dutch said that we set the bar scary high,” Kankaanpää says with a smile.
“I can definitely recommend both Turku and Logomo for organising a conference.”
Text: Sari Ruusumo
Photos: Mika Okko
Event agency assisted from planning to implementation
Aboa Congress and Event Services was the event agency for the ELMI 2022 Conference, and they were in charge of the practical arrangements and hybrid production at the conference. They also created the graphic look for the conference as well as the website and the event platform. Aboa’s other responsibilities included
- participant management and communication
- financial administration
- practical arrangements for sponsor visibility and the exhibition
- abstract management
- the travel and accommodation of guest lecturers
RajuLive Oy, a partner of Aboa, was in charge of streaming the event.
For more information on Aboa’s services, please visit aboaservices.fi