2021 marks 100 years since the formation of CIGRE and as a result, CIGRE planned a special centennial session in Paris, though the continuing global Covid-19 situation forced some reorganization.
Following on from the e-Session in 2020, CIGRE planned a special centennial session in Paris to mark the milestone to reunite those involved in CIGRE back in Paris. However, earlier in 2021, it became clear that the ongoing global situation would restrict numbers that could be physically present, so CIGRE decided to host it as a virtual event, held over eight four-hour days between August 18 – 27.
To provide a more interactive and immersive experience for the audience and participants, the session was broadcast professionally from a suite of five state-of-the-art broadcasting studios in the Palais des Congrès in Paris. Study committee chairs, secretaries and special reporters who were able to travel to Paris led the discussions from the studios, supported remotely by those unable to attend physically and an on-site team managing the broadcasts.
The technical program included 16 Group Discussion Meetings (GDM), 16 new tutorials, four workshops and forums including ‘Women in Energy’ (WiE) and ‘Next Generation Network’ (NGN) from younger members. In addition, CIGRE TV broadcast before and after the technical program each day, providing interviews, news, remote tours of Paris and updates to participants.
In typical CIGRE session style, as many as 500 contributions to the GDM were prepared and submitted in advance, responding to questions raised in each of the GDM Special Reports. There were also invited presenters to facilitate a lively technical debate. Prior to each GDM, contributors and remote participants joined via a link to assemble virtually in a room awaiting their turn and for questions at the end. Studio staff monitoring the program and available participants were then able to show a live feed of each contributor in turn with their presentation in a virtually seamless manner.
The result of months of planning and preparations by all involved was clear to see, with contributors from around the globe interacting in each session as though they were all physically in the same room. For those of us in Europe, the time of the sessions was during a normal working day, but for many around the world, it was an early morning or a very late night.
The whole of the program was recorded and registered delegates can still log in and catch up with sessions that they may have missed live and watch sessions up until the end of this year, something not normally possible after a session. Additionally, anyone that did not register prior to the event can still register and watch the recordings before the year-end at https://session.cigre.org/.
The one thing that is very difficult to replicate online is the networking side outside of the discussion sessions; just talking to like-minded individuals over a coffee or wandering around the exhibition, but that time will return again. However, on the flip side, virtual conferences do allow those that might not be able to physically attend to do so and also answer a modern dilemma about whether we should be flying around the globe so often in an age where there is more focus on the environmental impact. Maybe a hybrid-type event with delegates in person and remotely online will be the new norm for conferences?
We’re now preparing for the 2022 Session in Paris, with abstracts currently under review, and once again, we say that we all hope to be able to physically attend in person at the Palais des Congrès from 28 August to 2 September next year!