[Event Name] 17WCEE (17th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering)
[Dates] September 27 to October 2, 2021 ※Available physically on-site
Extended conference period: September 20 to December 24, 2021
[Location] Sendai International Center, Sendai, Japan (hybrid conference)
[Attendance] 3,123 altogether (including 271 onsite)
Overcoming many challenges and insecurities, the 17th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering (17WCEE) was at last held on September 27, 2021, a year after it was initially scheduled for, in a hybrid-style conference format. It ended successfully on October 2, leaving conference organizers with many insightful takeaways and tips for future events. Following the successful hosting of the 17WCEE, we interviewed the Organizing Committee Chair Professor Kimiro Meguro, the University of Tokyo, to learn more about the benefits and challenges they experienced and his tips for future conference organizers.
■17WCEE: The highlights
■Safety first: Impeccable countermeasures
■Embracing the benefits of hybrid-style conferences
■Local Support and Flexibility are Key to Success
■Reinforcing the value of in-person meetings
While lessons from hybrid conferencing demonstrate that organizers are likely to increasingly opt for this modern format going forward, with or without the presence of Covid-19, the value of in-person attendance at business events remains widely accepted. Hybrid events open up attendance to a larger pool of people, potentially giving all attendees an even more excellent international experience, but in-person meetings provide an irreplaceable sense of accomplishment for both organizers and participants.
While the hybrid conference was highly successful, face-to-face style conferences will continue to remain significant in the field of association meetings as people need to see places on the ground that are closely related to the topics of discussion — such as the site of earthquake reconstruction in Sendai, or other areas that could potentially experience damage from earthquakes in the future, and the prevention measures associated to them. Furthermore, as Professor Meguro argued, in-person meetings provide young scholars with the rare opportunity to meet and interact with experienced professionals in the field, essentially facilitating the possibility of joint research.
The new features implemented at the 17WCEE, including video conferencing and data submission in advance, could be replicated in future WCEEs, regardless of their format. As an event held successfully with stringent Covid-19 countermeasures, the 17WCEE also has lessons to offer event organizers during the pandemic, but it also served as a reminder of the importance of hosting in-person meetings in the future, even if hybrid meetings continue to be widely implemented.
Sendai International Center is located in the middle of the abundant nature of Sendai, close to academic cultural facilities such as the Sendai City Museum, the Miyagi Prefectural Art Museum, and Tohoku University, serves as a base for conventions and the promotion of academic culture in Sendai. It has a conference building and an exhibition building with a 3,000 m² exhibition space. Both buildings combined have a capacity of approximately 6,000 people.