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Because of the measures around corona a lot has changed: we work from home, students follow online classes. Events are also shifting to the digital world. Event coordinator at Marketing & Communication Inez de Ridder explains how she experiences these changes.

Inez has been organising medical congresses at the AMC for over 13 years before she joined the UvA through an intermediate step at the Joep Lange Instituut. She organises information events, such as the Bachelor Day, Master's Day and Trial Studies. But she also organises faculty meetings, such as the faculty colloquium that was recently held online for the first time. 

Did you have to take care of a lot before you could work from home?

'In the attic, we speeded up a renovation and created a workplace. My husband and I alternate. The kitchen table is also a workplace, but that's a lot more restless.'

What's your biggest challenge? 

'The biggest challenge I think is that work and private life merge into each other. Of course I sometimes worked outside working hours before the coronary measures as well, but now I find it more difficult to distance myself from work. I used to get on my bike after a working day and disconnect from work during the bike ride. I started exercising and had other appointments. That's very different now.'

How have events shifted from 'physical' to online?

'When the Bachelor day was cancelled, I realised: live events are no longer possible. For how long? We didn't know. But we had to think of other ways to reach out to college voters. I worked a lot with Monique Jongerius, our marketer for the bachelors, and with UvA Central. It went pretty fast and well. I went straight to competitors to look at their actions. Moreover, the youth is already online and most events already had a digital component. In addition, a lot of new actions were started: vlogs, WhatsApp calls, Zoom meetings, all together with students. The feedback we get from students is that they regret that they don't feel and see the location. "Where do we end up, what do those classrooms look like, what's the canteen like, what's the library like?" You can show it on screen, but how do you convey the feeling? I find this complicated. After all, there are no more tours now. An event is also about the experience, it's not just about gathering knowledge.'

In addition to knowledge transfer, experience will become even more important at events, both online and offline.

Has your role as event coordinator changed?

'As coordinator I arranged the location, the catering, the speakers, the technology and I held a helicopter view. I directed people and was physically at work on location. Suddenly that changed. Now I'm still making sure the right information gets to the right people, but the way is different. When do you choose a certain type of event, what is the added value and what do you have to pay attention to? Organizing online is a profession in its own right. If I am going to be able to organize something on location, it will have to be done in a different way. Think of smaller meetings, creating 1.5 meters distance, more separate sessions, separate walking routes, hygiene measures: the list is long. 

This prompts me to think about innovation, but also about the interpretation of events within the UvA. Online is here to stay, that's clear. In addition to knowledge transfer, experience will become even more important at events, both online and offline. That too is a new challenge as far as I am concerned. I will always keep looking for ways to reach people. The advantage of what is happening now, is that I am forced to think. I thought we were already working in such a modern and advanced way with all our different communication channels. But now it turns out that there is still a lot to learn here. How about all those AVG rules? What are we allowed to broadcast? What do we have to comply with? In addition to organizing, I've suddenly been given a lot of research.'

What helps you work from home?

'I block my calendar between twelve and one for a long walk in the Diemerbos. New in my life is a daily meditation by Deepak Chopra. This meditation offers ways to control stress and stay motivated during this pandemic. After the walk I go to a meditation bench, in the forest behind my house. Nature, the sounds of the birds combined with the voice of Deepak make me feel completely "zen".'

What recent event are you really proud of?

'I'm proud of all the events we've created over the last few months together with the students, student advisors and teachers. For the two bachelors we made two great Q&A sessions, among other things. These were well attended by study voters. There was a lot of interaction with the students live, via polls and via chat. 

I am also a bit extra proud of the first online faculty colloquium. Fantastic to see that almost 170 colleagues were present via Zoom to follow the program. For me, this means that we all need to connect. That really touched me.'