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This year, VSE’s annual conference took place on May 19th and 20th in a new format: spread over two days, with interactive networking sessions built into plenary sessions on both days, and with six simultaneous side events on the second day of the conference. The event was held on Zoom and had a registration fee of 10 euros, and all members had a right to attend free of charge for one participant. 

With 90 registrations for the plenaries, 85 participants attended the plenary sessions. Average registration to attendance rate for webinars and similar online events stands at 40%¹, while this conference’s attendance rate stands at nearly 95%. Such a high rate could be explained by a) the fact that this year’s conference was heavily focused on VSE members who have a personal relationship with VSE and were thus more likely to attend and b) existence of a registration fee, which, while small, could have encouraged participants to attend. 

Side events had lower attendance than the plenaries. Side event A, “Setting up and developing victim support services”, had 15 participants. Side event B, “Specific groups of victims”, had 10 participants. Side event C, “Supporting victims across sectors”, was attended by 8 people. Side event D, “Victims in an international context” had 12 participants. Side event E, “Communications in victim support sector”, was attended by 21 people. Finally, Side event D, “An Interactive Game on Victims’ Rights”, was attended by 10 people. These numbers are extracted from screenshots taken during the events (also held on Zoom) and therefore include the presenters and VSE staff who attended. 

During and after the conference, participants were asked to fill out a short evaluation form to share their thoughts on the event. The survey received 8 responses, which is on the lower end of the normal range of 10-30% response rate for this type of surveys.² 

Despite a relatively low number of responses, the survey provided plenty of valuable and consistent information. Overall, respondents reported high levels of satisfaction with the event. All respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “The conference was well organised”. Similarly, all respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statements “The content was interesting to me” and “The speakers were knowledgeable and presented professionally”. Responses on the statements related to the online platform (Zoom), time management, and the sufficiency of breaks were more mixed, with some neutral responses, but positive overall (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Satisfaction with the event

The fact that the conference took place over two days instead of one to allow more time for interaction as well as more sufficient breaks received overwhelming support from all respondents. Participants greatly appreciated the newly introduced networking sessions but pointed out that the time allocated for them was not sufficient.

Further, participants enjoyed the broad range of topics and speakers presented to them during the conference. They also praised the ability to learn about topics they are usually not confronted with as well as addressing some basic, specific challenges in working with victims. The side events received overwhelmingly positive feedback (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Satisfaction with side events

When asked which aspects of the conference they enjoyed most, multiple respondents stated they enjoyed the whole event, while others specifically pointed out the presentation by Slachtofferhulp Nederland during Side event A and the presentation by Dr Michael Duffy during the session on innovative therapies and methods to help victims to recover.

Finally, respondents expressed gratitude towards VSE staff for organising the event and pointed out that while many may feel tired of online events, it was executed well, and splitting the event into two days helped maintain participant engagement.