With increasing experience, young scientists will also be involved into new tasks. Postdoc Silvia Mariotti organised tandemPV 2021 in April together with Lars Korte and Steve Albrecht. This was a four-day online workshop with a total of 600 participants from all over the world. Here she reports on how it went:
Did you have any previous experience with organising conferences?
Silvia: No, I had never done it before and it was really much more work than I could have imagined. Especially since we had hoped at the beginning that we could organise it as a face-to-face workshop. The experience was very nice and gave me the opportunity to see a new side of the scientific world and meet a lot of people.
When did you start with the preparations?
Silvia: The first preparations were already in September 2020, but then came this heavy second wave in winter and it was clear to us: this is not possible as a face-to-face workshop. So, we had to rethink everything. The invitations, the website, the platform, many decisions had to be made. Luckily, we had support, Sophie Spangenberger from KOM really took me by the hand and showed me many things.
The online poster exhibition was your main focus. What was special here
Silvia: We came up with some playful elements to motivate people to get involved. For example, we asked everyone to rate the posters along the criteria of scientific excellence and visual representation and we took their votes into account for the best poster awards. We encouraged everybody to ask questions too and we gave the possibility to use a web chat or video to get in contact with the author of the poster. We gave even an award to those who were particularly engaged.
The interesting part was that people could choose the poster to visit by checking the title and poster and then, if they were interested, they could check other slides/videos/additional data that the author put on their poster page to get in depth information about their research.
What tips do you have for online posters?
Silvia: There is less space online, so we sent around a template in advance. Online, you have to limit yourself even more than usual so that people really see the most important message.
You need a meaningful title, and I also recommend not using body text, but rather bullet points. Also, for the conclusion.
The poster should arouse interest and invite questions. You can’t and shouldn’t put in everything that’s in the paper. You can always add information later.
Were there good discussions during the poster sessions?
Silvia: Yes, definitely. People are not shy at a poster session; you can ask anything that interests you. That’s actually better than at lectures. And there was an offer for video chats, which was really popular.
What is your conclusion? Will online conferences stay?
Silvia: Many people like online conferences because you avoid travelling and it’s much better for the environment! And also, for the families, if you have children and don’t want to be away for so long.
But actually, meeting face to face is different again. I miss conference dinners and parties with colleagues, for example, because different conversations arise and the bonding is stronger. It’s easy for new collaborations to happen, people say: “I’ll send my samples to you for measurements and then we might write a paper together.”
So, I will be very happy when face-to-face conferences will be possible again. I am looking forward to meet my former colleagues and discuss science with them in fancy places.
A nice possibility, would be to have hybrid conferences: face-to-face and online, so that everyone can choose what it is best for them.
Silvia Mariotti studied industrial chemistry in Bologna, Italy, did her doctorate in Liverpool, UK, and after working in Bordeaux and Tokyo, she is now a postdoc working with Lars Korte and Steve Albrecht at HZB in Berlin, focussing on the optimisation of silicon/perovskite tandem devices.