October 9, 2020: A new template for international lead conferences is being shaped following the success of last month’s 17th European Lead Battery Conference — the first in its history to be conducted as a virtual, online set of meetings.
The conference, which ran from September 22-24, was followed by a wave of approval from delegates who said they admired the professionalism of the organizers’ product, the technical content of the presentations and ELBC’s ability to bring the industry together.
But it also showed a new way forward for industry gatherings even when the international impositions caused by the coronavirus epidemic have been lifted.
“We see several new positive results of the conference for future events,” said Andy Bush, head of the International Lead Association and organizer of the event.
“One is the way that we were able to reach out to a much larger audience than a traditional event,” he says. “University academics, research institutions and those in related industries such as automotive, for example, wouldn’t necessarily have the budget or want to spend it to participate in the full event but were prepared to join us online without the burden of flights, hotels and other expenses.
“We were pleased to see a leap in the number of attendees like these — it adds another dimension in allowing us to fulfil part of the mission of the ILA, which is to promote the positive role lead can play in society and in particular, the energy storage industry.”
Bush said that the recordings of the technical presentations, which could be viewed a week before the event went live and three weeks afterwards, enabled it to broadcast the many innovations in lead battery technology more efficiently.
“This is a format where we can see many other potential avenues to explore,” he says. “Some of the workshops that the CBI holds, for example, could well be adapted to this. It could be possible to combine actual and virtual presentations in the same conference.”
Attendance was far better than many had expected given that the Covid crisis had forced a rapid change of ILA’s plans early in the summer and a travel lockdown across Europe.
There were more than 50 exhibitors, some 600 delegates and strong representations by gold sponsor ENTEK, and silver sponsors Batek, CMW Tec, Microporous, Sorfin, Sovema and Wirtz.
“From a technical viewpoint it was quite some achievement,” says Steve Barnes, a vice president at Hammond Expanders. “The quality of the presentations was high as were the live sessions discussing issues raised. But the most important thing was that it brought the industry together.
“There was a feeling of solidarity by even having such a virtual gathering. 17ELBC must be regarded as a success, if a success in a rather unexpected fashion being more or less a first for our industry.”
Barnes’ sentiments were echoed by Claudia Lorenzini, vice president for sales and marketing at Microporous
“The technical presentations were probably the best we’ve had at a conference for some time,” she says. “They were condensed and weren’t padded out with the regular presentations from suppliers endorsing their firm or products.
“The live sessions were excellent too. I found the comments by Dong Li, Stuart Mackenzie and many of the others well worth listening to. In all the presentation of the whole event was very professional. It’s been a difficult year for all of us; it was important for us all to show that we were still there and still working.”
Attendees were far less enthused by the exhibition side of things — something that future organizers will almost inevitably struggle to compensate for,it and Bush acknowledges may be something virtual events can never give.
“Networking is as important a component of a conference as is the technical program,” one exhibitor told BESB.