The First Pharmacy to Add Drones for Delivery
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A drone holding a small UPS package flies in front of a CVS Pharmacy

CVS, in an effort to ensure proper medication is easily available to those who need it the most, has been utilizing in-store pickup, drive through services, and free delivery to distribute their prescriptions. But for the first time in history, in partnership with UPS, one CVS pharmacy will start delivering medication in a new way—by drone.

The Villages, the largest retirement facility in the United States, located in central Florida, will begin receiving their prescription medications from CVS via drone delivery starting in early May and is expected to continue until the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Drone delivery will enable more social distancing of especially susceptible members of the community and decrease the chances of infection on both sides. The drones will only be flying a half-mile distance to a separate location and transported by truck from there.

Though this technology is rarely used presently, this isn’t the first time that drone delivery has been tested. In fact, drone delivery was first utilized by UPS to make deliveries to WakeMed’s flagship campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, and at UC San Diego in California. These deliveries, as well as the ones that will be made in Florida, adhere to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules and have permission to be utilized during the pandemic.

Deployment of delivery drones during the pandemic could potentially open up to possibilities of drone delivery in the future and among other CVS pharmacies.

To read the full press release, click here

NASA astronaut has a message for Latinx STEM students: ‘We need you’
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Ellen Ochoa training with NASA

By Penelope Lopez of ABC 

Astronaut Ellen Ochoa has a message for the next generation of Latinx students who are aspiring to work in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields: “We need you.”

“We need your minds. We need your creativity,” she told ABC News.

Ochoa, a first generation Mexican-American, made history in the Latinx community as NASA’s first Hispanic astronaut. She took her first space flight aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She was also the first Hispanic director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and spent nearly 1,000 hours in space during four shuttle missions.

As the chair of the National Science Board, Ochoa is constantly championing a more inclusive work environment.

“Look at the demographics of our country. They are changing … we have to involve the people in our country. And increasingly, of course, that is people of some kind of Latino or Hispanic heritage,” she said.

For young Latinx students, working in the STEM fields is no longer something out of reach.

“STEM fields offer a unique opportunity to change the world, one person at a time,” said India Carranza, a first generation Puerto Rican and Salvadorian high school junior who aspires to be a physiotherapist. “And being able to help people through their paths and different journeys is one of the unique opportunities of the STEM field.”

Today, Latinx individuals make up nearly 20% of the U.S population and yet just 7% of the STEM workforce.

Continue to ABC News to read the full article 

How LGBT+ scientists would like to be included and welcomed in STEM workplaces
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A group of diverse scientists studying a skeleton

‘Invisible’: that is how many scientists from sexual and gender minorities (LGBT+) describe their status at their institution, laboratory, classroom or office.

Sexual orientation and sexual and gender identity are not common topics of conversation in many science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workplaces, and these scientists argue that they should be. They say that cloaking an important part of their identity at work can have dangerous consequences for mental health and career advancement, both for individual scientists and for the disciplines that could drive them away.

Surveys back up this sense of invisibility. Beliefs that being cisgender and hetero-sexual are the default or ‘normal’ modes — known as cis-heteronormative assumptions — often silence conversations about the wide spectrum of sexual and gender identities1. In a 2019 survey of more than 1,000 UK-based physical scientists, nearly 30% of LGBT+ scientists and half of transgender scientists said that they had considered leaving their workplace because of an unfriendly or hostile climate or because of discrimination2. And nearly 20% of LGBT+ chemists and 32% of transgender and non-binary scientists across all disciplines had experienced exclusionary, offensive or harassing behaviour at work in the previous year. About half of the respondents agree that there is an overall lack of awareness of LGBT+ issues in the workplace. And a 2016 study found that LGBT+ undergraduate students are 7% less likely to be retained in STEM fields than are their non-LGBT+ counterparts3.

Many institutions and funding agencies do not collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity. For example, the US National Science Foundation is still considering whether it should include such questions in its Survey of Earned Doctorates, years after announcing it intended to test the feasibility of doing so.

Nature spoke to six LGBT+ academics about the effects on their careers of fighting prejudice, assumptions and bias; how colleagues can be effective allies and advocates; and what policies institutions could have to make STEM workplaces more inclusive.

Hontas Farmer: Break with Convention

Hontas Farmer (she) is a Black, transgender theoretical physicist and a lecturer at Elmhurst University in Illinois.

I haven’t followed a conventional academic career path. Between the ages of 18 and 33, I took out staggering amounts of government and private student loans to get my undergraduate and master’s degrees in physics and, like many trans women my age, supported myself with sex work. We do that to survive.

Scientists should be aware that colleagues can have vastly different backgrounds and experiences. I’m 40 now, and still in debt. For now, I can make it as an adjunct — a part-time, contract faculty member — in physics, while I research theories to unify general relativity and quantum mechanics on the side. I’m also a part of the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a volunteer-powered collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency researching gravitational waves. I don’t get paid for this work.

If I weren’t so driven, I might have quit physics and returned to being a sex worker. Or I might be dead: many trans women of colour wind up dead before the age of 35. Given that working as an adjunct was financially precarious even before the pandemic, I might still go back to my earlier job. The ability to pay your bills can determine whether or not you have a career in science.

Professors also help to shape your career path. Allies should offer interested students similar academic and professional opportunities, irrespective of their gender identities or backgrounds. I could not get the recommendation letter that I needed to apply for a PhD programme. The professor said that they did not think I could get a job. “You’re too eccentric to be you, and be a physicist — you have to be overwhelmingly great, and you’re not,” they told me.

That made me angry at the time, but now I think in some ways they were right. Not everyone gets to be a full-time tenure-track professor, especially in today’s job market. But I still wish that I’d had the option to get the degree.

I’ve given up on pursuing a PhD, but I still get to do work similar to that of PhD physicists. When I applied to join LISA, they accepted me because of my research in general relativity. And they treat me just like anybody else. That is the most inclusive thing allies can do.

Teaching has been less ideal. I wish I could have had realistic and frank discussions with some of my former school administrators and colleagues about what I faced as a trans faculty member. For example, when I asked questions to engage my classes, some students complained to the dean’s office that I did not know the material. They thought I was asking them questions because I needed their help solving the equations. I wish the school had expressed more confidence in my qualifications — why they hired me in the first place — when they addressed the students’ concerns. Supportive employers show respect for your work and credentials.

In academia, people often assume that all students are open-minded and accepting. Not everyone under the age of 25 is liberal. Some students expect to see an LGBT+ person teaching gender studies or social work, but not Newton’s laws. These days, students have a lot of power over faculty members, whose part-time numbers are increasing, through their evaluations. If too few students sign up for your classes, the course gets cancelled and you don’t have a job. This is why it is so important for institutions to make space for conversations about how students’ biases can affect LGBT+ teachers.

This August, I started teaching at Elmhurst University in Illinois, in a small community that I’ve found supportive despite its politically conservative reputation. It’s sort of counterintuitive, but I’m confident that a conservative school will stand behind me, because they hired me for my credentials. Be open to finding acceptance anywhere.

Continue to Nature.com to read the full article.

Raising Our Voices for Diversity in the Geosciences
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A geologist working underground

By Lucila Houttuijn Bloemendaal, Katarena Matos, Kendra Walters, and Aditi Sengupta

Almost 50 years ago, in June 1972, attendees at the First National Conference on Minority Participation in Earth Sciences and Mineral Engineering [Gillette and Gillette, 1972] held one of the first formal discussions on the lack of diversity in the geosciences.

Unfortunately, despite the many conversations since then addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), the geosciences still face many of the problems cited in that meeting. These problems include, for example, difficulty recruiting youth from marginalized groups into a field that is often hostile to them and scientists from underrepresented backgrounds routinely needing to go above and beyond their peers to prove their professional value and right to belong.

Clearly, drafting statements in support of diversity—as many institutions have done—is not enough to effect change in the geosciences. Individuals and institutions must engage deeply and with a long-term mindset to ensure sustainable efforts that translate to real, personal success for geoscientists from a diversity of backgrounds. In addition, the community must continue to create spaces for conversations that highlight and share best practices focused on improving DEI.

As members of AGU’s Voices for Science 2019 cohort, we learned several effective methods of science communication. For example, we learned that by sharing lessons learned and blueprints for action with broader audiences, we can more effectively use our voices and power to demand real, tangible goals to make the geosciences inclusive and accessible. From among the 2019 cohort, a small team of scientists from a variety of fields and career stages thus convened a town hall at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019 to discuss improving DEI. At the town hall, titled “Power of Science Lies in Its Diverse Voices,” panelists highlighted their approaches and work to increase diversity in the geosciences for an audience of roughly 100 attendees.

To make the town hall an example of a diverse event, invited panelists represented a wide array of fields, nationalities, ethnicities, genders, and career paths and stages. Below, we highlight the advice and work of the panelists, Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Sujata Emani, Heather Handley, Tamara Marcus, Bahareh Sorouri, and Robert Ulrich, to provide avenues for readers to promote diversity, incentivize DEI work, and enact change in their own fields, institutions, and lives.

Continue on to EOS: Science News by AGU to read the full article.

Scientists Have Discovered a Genuine Room-Temperature Superconductor
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Superconductor stock image

By Joel Hruska

The search for a truly room-temperature superconducting material has been one of the great Holy Grails in engineering and physics. The ability to move electricity from Point A to B with zero resistance and hence no losses would be a game-changer for human civilization.

Unfortunately, until today, every known superconductor still required very cold temperatures. Today, scientists announced they’ve achieved superconducting at 59 degrees Fahrenheit/15 Celsius. While this is still a bit chilly, you can hit 59F in a well air-conditioned building. This is a genuine breakthrough, but it doesn’t immediately clear the path towards easy deployment of the technology.

At extremely low temperatures, the behavior of electrons through a material changes. At temperatures approaching absolute zero, electrons passing through a material form what are known as Cooper pairs. Normally, single electrons essentially ping-pong through the ionic lattice of the material they are passing through. Each time an electron collides with an ion in the lattice, it loses a tiny amount of energy. This loss is what we call resistance. When cooled to a low enough temperature, electrons behave dramatically differently. Cooper pairs behave like a superfluid, meaning they can flow through material without any underlying energy loss. Tests have demonstrated that current stored inside a superconductor will remain there for as long as the material remains in a superconductive state with zero loss of energy.

There are two problems yet standing between us and a more effective exploitation of this discovery. First, we aren’t sure exactly why this combination of elements works in the first place. The research team used sulfur and carbon, then added hydrogen, forming hydrogen sulfide(H2S) and methane (CH4). These chemicals were placed on a diamond anvil and compressed, then exposed to a green laser for several hours to break sulfur-sulfur bonds. This much is known. Unfortunately, determining the exact composition of the material has proven impossible thus far. The diamond anvil prevents the use of X-rays, and existing technologies that can work around that problem aren’t capable of locating hydrogen atoms in a lattice. The team’s efforts to characterize and understand its own discovery are still ongoing.

Continue to ExtremeTech to read the full article.

2 Scientists Awarded Nobel Prize In Chemistry For Genome Editing Research
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Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna at an event together

By Nell Greenfield Boyce and Mark Katkov

The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded this year to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their work on “genetic scissors” that can cut DNA at a precise location, allowing scientists to make specific changes to specific genes.

“This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true,” the Nobel Committee said in announcing the prize.

Already, doctors have used the technology to experimentally treat sickle cell disease, with promising results.

While some research advances take decades for people to fully appreciate how transformative they are, that wasn’t the case for this new tool, known as CRISPR-Cas9.

“Once in a long time, an advance comes along that utterly transforms an entire field and does so very rapidly,” says Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, which has long supported Doudna’s research. “You cannot walk into a molecular biology laboratory today, working on virtually any organism, where CRISPR-Cas9 is not playing a role in the ability to understand how life works and how disease happens. It’s just that powerful.”

Since scientific papers were published in 2011 and 2012 describing the work, Charpentier says people had repeatedly suggested to her that it was worthy of a Nobel Prize.

“It was indeed mentioned to me a number of times, maybe more than what I would have liked, that one day this so-called discovery may be awarded the Nobel Prize,” Charpentier said in a press briefing.

Still, even after winning other big awards, she says, that possibility didn’t completely hit her until Goran K. Hansson, the secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, called to tell her the news.

“I was very emotional, I have to say,” says Charpentier, who added that she had been told that winning a Nobel is always a big surprise and feels unreal. “Obviously, it’s real, so I have to get used to it now.”

There’s been an ongoing feud, including a fight over lucrative patents, over who deserves the most credit for the development of CRISPR-Cas9.

“It’s a big field and there’s a lot of good science being done in this field. But we have decided this year to award the prize to Charpentier and Doudna, and I can only say that,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, when asked if the committee had considered including anyone else in the prize.

Continue on to NPR to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: Peter Barreras/Invision/AP and NPR

Eli Lilly requests emergency approval for its Covid-19 antibody treatment
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Hand with a medical glove, working with a syringe and a bottle of medicine.

Drugmaker Eli Lilly said Wednesday that it has requested an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its Covid-19 monoclonal antibody treatment.

Lilly’s medication is similar to the Regeneron antibody treatment President Donald Trump received after his Covid-19 diagnosis. Regeneron has not yet applied for such an authorization.

Lilly’s request comes nearly a month after the company announced partial results from a trial of the drug, which suggested it could help keep patients with mild to moderate forms of the illness from progressing to a point where they would need to be hospitalized. Those trial results have not yet been published or peer-reviewed, however.

The company’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, said the company’s data “provide sufficient evidence” that the therapy “may be effective to treat COVID-19 in patients with a high risk for serious outcomes.”

Lilly’s drug is currently being studied in National Institutes of Health-sponsored clinical trials both as a treatment and for prevention in people who have been exposed.

If the FDA authorizes the treatment for emergency use, it would help physicians access the drug outside of clinical trials.

Lilly is already manufacturing the drug, and expects to have 100,000 doses available this month. The supply could reach as many as 1 million doses by the end of the year.

Continue on to  NBC News to read the complete article.

How Engineers are Contributing to the COVID-19 Fight
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software engineers hands typing on keyboard with abstract technology background

By Trevor English

Around the world, there are a plethora of engineers, physicists, scientists, and otherwise just normal people making superhuman efforts at fighting back against COVID-19. From 3D printed masks to mechanical ventilators, the STEAM community is putting up a solid fight.

Let’s take a look at a few of the top engineering projects:

3D Printed Solutions

With 3D printing practically in the mainstream, it’s been a primary tool for engineering to fight against the coronavirus. One notable project is the NanoHack Mask. While there have been a number of 3D printed masks, this mask design offers up versatility in just what you use for the air filtering portion.

Designed specifically for use with a polypropylene filter material to fit in the bottom, it can provide filtration for up to 96.4 percent of microorganisms the size of one micron and 89.5 percent of microorganisms of .02 microns.

Notably though, due to the way that the interface of the mask was designed, it allows for you to replace the filter material with any other found material if you don’t have access to the specific filter required.

Source: Copper3D

Robotic Solutions

While there have been a plethora of companies and individuals that have hacked robots to create ventilators for seriously ill patients, we’re going to focus on another robotic innovation helping patients’ well-being: Robot doctors.

Researchers at Chulalongkorn University have rolled out three new telemedicine robots that can aid the doctor-patient relationship while sparing the regular human interaction. The robots can easily be used by hospital staff to communicate with COVID-19 patients remotely.

The robots were initially designed by the university team to help care for patients that were recovering from strokes, but they are now being repurposed to supply world-class leading medical care during a time when intense quarantine and isolation is needed.

These robots not only maintain a strict barrier between doctor and patient, but they also help one doctor quickly and easily talk with multiple patients. Seeing multiple patients after one another in hospitals often requires stripping and reapplying medical garb, whereas telemedicine robots can easily avoid that.

The robots are capable of assessing the patients’ conditions as well as helping the medical staff to easily track the patients’ symptoms.

Sanitation Solutions

Sanitation has become of a big concern in the overcrowded medical systems where coronavirus outbreaks are peaking. In many places, there is a serious deficit in medical supplies that is forcing doctors and nurses to reuse their surgical masks.

This presents a need for a device that can quickly and easily disinfect surgical masks with a 100 percent success rate. That is exactly what Prescientx, a company located in Ontario, Canada, has tried to create.

They have engineered a device that can disinfect N95 masks utilizing ultraviolet, or UV light. The device is situated overtop of the masks and a UV-C light is shone on the mask at different angles for differing amounts of time. That said, it doesn’t take very long to disinfect just one mask. In fact, the device, called the Terminator CoV, can disinfect up to 500 masks per hour. This can be life-changing for medical staff across the world as they battle the need for safe and clean protective gear.

The machine isn’t just specific to one kind of N95 mask, either. Thanks to the way that it is built, it works practically universally with a variety of mask types and sizes. The masks are driven through a reflective aluminum tunnel for disinfection. While in this tunnel the UV-C light is shone, being sure to hit the masks at all angles, as UV light rays cannot pass through the N95 grade mask material.

How You Can Get Involved

At the end of the day, we’re all in this fight together as we engineer against the coronavirus. Sharing ideas and collaborating is the first step. Check out our map that showcases the most notable engineering contributions to fighting the COVID-19, as well as the latest and most accurate statistics, at interestingengineering.com

Source: https://interestingengineering.com/how-engineers-are-contributing-to-the-fight-against-the-outbreak

Empowering Women in STEM at Stanford
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Stanford women in stem pose together with arms around each other shoulders smiling

By Taylor Kubota

Although women are graduating with science degrees in increasing numbers, their representation diminishes by the time they reach more senior levels.

To give women a sense of belonging in STEM departments—and ultimately ensure the world benefits from their ideas and insights—over a dozen groups at Stanford University are pushing their communities to amplify and encourage the influence of women in STEM.

One such group, led by Margot Gerritsen, professor of energy resources engineering in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, runs an international network of data science conferences that feature woman panelists and speakers called the Women in Data Science Conference (WiDS).

“We do not just want work with women at the exclusion of others. We do want to promote outstanding work by outstanding women, and show women they are not alone in this field.” Gerritsen said.

A Vision for Stanford

As part of Stanford’s vision, the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Environment (IDEAL) initiative is working across the entire campus community to advance the university’s commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion.

“Promoting diversity at Stanford is critical for ensuring our intellectual strength and ability to contribute to our communities in meaningful ways,” said Provost Persis Drell. “The number of women undergraduates in STEM subjects at Stanford is increasing—which is great—but there is still a large disparity for women entering these fields professionally. And women leave their STEM-based careers at a much higher rate than men. These campus organizations help call attention to these issues.”

Centering Women, Welcoming All

Stanford’s Women in STEM groups focus on supporting women, but are open to anyone who shares the goal of promoting a supportive and encouraging environment for all.

“The default is for men to feel more wanted and for women to doubt whether they should attend an event or speak up during a discussion. It’s important to have some spaces where we reverse that expectation and explicitly tell women that they belong here,” said Julia Olivieri, a graduate student in the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering who is also co-president of Women in Mathematics, Statistics and Computational Engineering (WiMSCE).

Olivieri founded WiMSCE with her co-president, Allison Koenecke, also a graduate student in the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering, inspired by Gerritsen’s efforts to elevate women in their institute.

As with many similar groups, they aim to create an environment where women don’t have to worry about being the spokesperson for their gender or about bringing up issues specific to being a woman in STEM.

“Oftentimes you’re the only woman in the room, so you’re scared that if you say something wrong, not only will they think you’re stupid, they’ll think that all women are stupid,” said Koenecke. “These women-centric groups, like WiMSCE, are a place for women to gain experience in asking questions and not be afraid to fail.”

The Women in STEM groups at Stanford support many activities, bridging professional, personal and cultural enrichment. They host networking and career development events, where attendees can find mentors, meet with industry professionals and learn how to ask for raises. They have informal community-building events, like paint nights and hangouts, to discuss the week’s highs and lows.

The groups do delve into specific issues that tend to go hand-in-hand with existing as a woman in academia, such as the imposter syndrome (the idea that you don’t deserve your success, even in the face of clear evidence that you do) and the “mom effect” (the expectation that as teachers, they should be more nurturing than teachers who are men).

“I went to community college before transferring and was fortunate enough to learn about programs that encourage women and minorities in science,” said Priscilla San Juan, a graduate student in biology and president of Stanford Hermanas in STEM. “We can make an impact just by being present, so that these young students can see that there’s more than one kind of scientist.”

Elevating Others

Many of Stanford’s groups supporting women in STEM are having an impact outside the campus community. Stanford’s Womxn in Design had over 350 people attend their conference last fall, and hosted their first makeathon in February.

“As we were searching for a diverse lineup of conference speakers, we were faced with the harsh reality— the rest of the field isn’t really elevating womxn of color. So, we are really pushing to be more inclusive,” said Nicole Orsak, a management science and engineering major and co-president of Stanford Womxn in Design. “We’ve also changed the ‘e’ in our name to an ‘x’ to make it clear that we welcome all womxn and, really, anyone who is an ally to womxn.”

Stanford’s Hermanas in STEM is also considering a name change in order to reinforce that their membership goes beyond women and Latinx people.

“Everyone is welcome in Hermanas in STEM. All we ask is that people advocate for Latinx folks in academic spaces because we don’t always feel welcome or that we belong,” added San Juan.

Gerritsen, too, acknowledges that the success of WiDS sets the stage for a more complex effort to promote other minority groups in data science, such as women of color and gender non-binary people.

For now, she’s focused on how to make the WiDS network as strong as possible.

“What I’m hoping is someday these conferences are totally unnecessary. That would be great,” said Gerritsen. “We just want to normalize that there are women out there doing outstanding work.”

Source:  https://news.stanford.edu/2020/03/02/recognizing-empowering-women-stem/

What the World Needs Right Now
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Dr. Sanjay Gupta

by Kat Castagnoli – Editor, Diversity in STEAM Magazine

While there are many uncertainties in our current coronavirus climate, there’s one thing that’s for sure: The focus on STEAM has never been more crucial. Across the globe, scientists, engineers, medical professionals and corporate innovators are working on everything from researching and testing for a viable COVID-19 vaccine to printing 3D face masks to creating robots that can act as ventilators and communicate with infected patients.

The united efforts of the STEAM community to keep us safe and healthy and get us closer to a future without face masks or quarantine is pivotal.

In the wake of so much data, information and opinion on the pandemic, it’s difficult to discern fact from fiction. On the frontlines as a ‘beacon of truth’ is our cover story and 2020 Person of the Year—Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This highly respected neurosurgeon and medical correspondent has been providing credible information on COVID-19 through his platform on CNN, on his podcast titled, Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction, and even on Sesame Street to
answer children’s questions and concerns. Read more about Dr. Gupta and his thoughts on the race to find a vaccine on page 22.

It only makes sense that careers in healthcare are more in demand than ever page 12, that it’s important to create a healthy workspace at home page 30 and keeping your team’s morale up is significant page 40 during these difficult times. Staying the course on diversity and inclusion is just as crucial, as our interview with the National Society of Black Engineers’ Executive Director Dr. Karl Reid reflects page 66.

By now, many of us are wondering when we are going to defeat this invisible enemy and resume normal life. While the answer is yet unknown, Dr. Gupta says it best: “We don’t know when it’s going to be over—I wish we did, but that’s the honest answer. But it is going to be over. It’s not going to last forever.” Stay positive and stay safe.

Virtual Events Take Center Stage
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young woman on tablet outside

By Innovate Marketing Group

As the live events industry awaits COVID-19 regulations, guidelines, and phase rollouts; innovations and digital opportunities arise, virtual events take center stage, and the importance of an events agency and planner sustains.

Why go virtual? Virtual events have proven to be an effective and efficient way to convey content and engage attendees. Experts shared that future events will incorporate a digital aspect as a hybrid-type model as the events industry seeks to widen their audience and maintain contingency plans. Events will see more virtual aspects embedded into their programs moving forward.

Going virtual also brings market share and new opportunities.
“Some companies that were previously on hold to wait out COVID-19 have either pivoted to virtual or seriously considering since the recovery is so uncertain. Business still needs to go on. Leadership conferences, educational and training are still vital for companies,” said Amanda Ma, chief experience officer of Innovate Marketing Group.

All of the different elements of a virtual event need to be coordinated into one impactful and engaging experience. The event agency’s role includes helping guiding businesses to pivot to the new normal, advising and adjusting contract changes, applying event strategies to help meet goals, vendor coordination and recommendations, program management and managing multiple tracks, marketing and communication, incorporating sponsors and stakeholders and the guest experience.

Some of the many benefits of pivoting to virtual include:

  • Cost savings and lower cost per guest attending
  • Access to a wider audience and reach, and not limited by location
  • Replay capabilities and reusable on demand content
  • Lower carbon footprint and less impact on the environment
  • Attendee engagement
  • Opportunity to get creative and engage viewers in new ways
  • Metrics, instant data tracking and capture, and gaining new insights
  • Virtual events eliminate the need for a venue, catering, rentals, stage, décor, photographer, videographer, transportation, etc.
  • Taking action – calls to action link in right away; connect, survey, polling, Q&A and donate

Some challenges in comparison to a live event include emotion and energy, stimulations such as touch, taste and smell, memory and recall, networking, and viewer attention span.
Innovate Marketing Group also shares top best practices in going virtual, such as setting your goals on information, education, message, attendee and sponsor engagement, networking, etc.

Format: Determine your virtual event format – webinar, webcast, pre-recorded sessions, simu-live, live streaming, networking, exhibitors.

Registration: Reconsider the registration process, including number of users who will be accessing the website, personal data, payment processing safety, and customized questions per data you would like to collect.

Keep Your Audience Engaged: with tools such as live polling, question and answer sessions, networking opportunities, gamification, live leader boards, rewards and social media feeds. Maintain your event experience by making your guests feel involved and connected to your program. We are in the planning stages of a 3,000 people walk/run event, and one of the ideas is on the day of the event to have a virtual DJ play during the walk and the organization lowers the volume if messages need to be communicated. The music is based on what the organizers want. This way while people are walking, they can stay connected as part of the program.

Pre-Event Communication & Marketing: Communication and marketing are key. Unlike an in-person event where they must get dressed up, drive to the event, and spend more time to prepare for the event, a virtual event is simply a login to a platform. Therefore, it is very important to send out reminders and build up the anticipation of the event. In a recent virtual event, we advised the client to ask for the attendee’s cell phone number.

So, in addition to email reminders, the week of event and day of, a text notification was sent out to all attendees. We received great feedback for putting that in place. It reminded folks the virtual event is coming up and to tune in. Digital marketing, promotion, advertisement, and video content is still very important for a virtual event, before broadcasting on your event day.

Surprise and Delight Before the Event: Sending a swag bag prior to the event with items relevant to the event. For an upcoming conference, we are sending a box with a blue light blocking glasses, candle, custom door handle, notebook, T-shirt, and a coffee tumbler. We have a special note to go along with this kit to kick off the conference mindset. On the day of the conference, we asked everyone to wear the shirt provided. One less worry about what to wear on “top.”

Content is King: Offer educational, relevant, timely and meaningful content that people will want to hear. It is vital to create content that captivates guests, sparks their creativity and results in productivity.

Do Not Try to Replicate Your Live Event: Instead, look for new opportunities but stay true to purpose of your event. Keep principle of why your guests were coming together, and make it part of the equation.

Test, Test, and Test Again: Technical difficulties may occur, and it often distracts from your event. Have a run through with your speakers and moderator in advance and test the virtual release on your platforms.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Robert Half