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BNA2021 Festival of Neuroscience: Virtual Event Management

Project: BNA2021 Festival of Neuroscience
Location: Virtual Event hosted on Swapcard
Dates: 12-04-2021 — 15-04-2021

Outsourced Events successfully supported and helped pioneer the first virtual BNA Festival of Neuroscience and produced an abundance of virtual-event converts for the British Neuroscience Association (BNA). Across four days, from 12 – 15 April, the 1,500+ delegate event was triumphant in delivering an outstanding replacement for the usual live-event predecessors.

‘I have to say #BNA2021 is hands down the best organised online conference I’ve attended in a while.’ – BNA Festival attendee on Twitter.

Outsourced Events was appointed as the Festival of Neuroscience’s official event management partner in December 2019. Providing end-to-end event management services which included: registration, email communications, delegate management and production, supporter* sales and supporter* management, event consultancy and reporting and financial management.

*A supporter can be sponsor or exhibitor at the BNA Festival of Neuroscience.

Contingency Planning

It was hard to imagine in March 2020 that we really needed to consider the need to move from live to virtual for an event scheduled to take place in April 2021. However, in an industry where we always should be expecting the unexpected, contingency plans were made throughout the process. A significant amount of research was done on how to run a live event safely, one-way systems around the venue and exhibition, sanitising stations, screens in appropriate places and more.

The realisation that moving online might need to be given serious consideration came in autumn 2020 when there was still talk of, and hope for, face-to-face events opening in October. There were several elements to consider: the legal situation as dictated by the Government lockdown rules, any venue specific requirements imposed by the venue or the Council managing the venue, the impact of social distancing on capacities and delegate movement and last, but very far from being least, the feeling and preference of the BNA membership.


Guided by the membership, the Festival team decided that the best plan of action was to move to a virtual event. The Outsourced Events team has a list of vetted platforms and deduced that Swapcard would allow the Festival to stay as true to its in-person form as possible. Swapcard simplified what could have been a bombardment of information and a complicated schedule for attendees into an easy to navigate, personalised agenda specific to each attendee with the ‘My event’ function. This allowed the multiple streams to run smoothly and coherently for those attending.

Membership Engagement

Engagement was also a key factor and one that is considered more difficult in the virtual space. The platform allowed delegates to interact directly through discussion groups and chat functions and socialise in an exclusive showing of Disney’s Inside Out for the ‘film night.’ The opportunity to win prizes with the ‘Brain Quest’ was also a way to increase engagement of attendees through gamification.


Sponsorship comes in the form of supporters at the BNA Festival, those supporting organisations play a key role in the running of the event and it was therefore crucial that those sponsoring virtually were maximising their opportunities. To adapt to the virtual sphere we developed a new sponsor package format: Annual, 6-month, 3-month and Festival supporter. This gave the supporters opportunities to deliver extra thought leadership content for targeted talks and networking, and the opportunity for branding and visibility throughout the entire year if desired. We ensured the sponsors fully utilised the opportunities for networking available at all stages before, during and after the event to help them achieve the most value from their participation.

Feedback from Supporters

This has honestly been the best online festival I’ve attended and exhibited at, I’ve had lots of engagement with other delegates (much more than I’ve had at other events) and everything has run so smoothly. Huge congratulations to you and the team, your hard work really has paid off.

Working with the BNA {event} team in the lead up to, and during, the event has been a pleasure – the staff were extremely helpful and responsive to all queries as we acclimatised to using the online platform…Additional features such as being able to comment on relevant talks and discussion boards to advertise our work and activities was particularly useful and has driven much more engagement than the usual passive approach of waiting for delegates to visit the stand. It’s evident that a huge amount of work went into delivering this conference and it really paid off.

To find out how Outsourced Events Ltd can assist in achieving your tomorrow, get in touch today via info@www.outsourcedevents.com or calling us on +44 (0)330 460 6007


Virtual 4-day event with access to platform 4-months post event

1,500+ Attendees

250+ Speakers

9 Concurrent Streams

200+ Posters

26 Supporters

2950+ Connections Made

175+ Requested Meetings

179 Career Speed Daters

100% Positive Sentiment across social media

“They say, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life”, which must explain why working with OE to deliver BNA2021 felt less like a work project, and more like a getting together with friends to combine forces, share goals, overcome challenges, celebrate successes, and thoroughly enjoy the process along the way.”

Chief Executive, British Neuroscience Association

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