73rd annual meeting of the German Society for Urology

Problems 'down under'...

...so to speak, were the theme of the 73rd annual meeting of the German Society for Urology. The congress at the International Congress Centre in Stuttgart was a great success and will be remembered as a superlative event that also rang in a new era.

At long last an in-person congress again. "Even as late as August there were still doubts as to whether such large-scale, in-person congresses could be staged as hoped with the planned number of delegates," recalls Christine Hense, board member and director of People & Operations at PCO Interplan in Munich. "In September we then in fact welcomed participants at not one, but two German locations. We were thus involved in organising and supervising the biggest national congresses currently being held as face-to-face events. What a comeback!" says Hense on behalf of the Interplan team.

One of these events was hosted in Stuttgart: the congress of the German Society of Urology (DGU). Its 73rd annual meeting at the International Congress Center Stuttgart (ICS) was a joyful occasion with everyone glad to be back. Lots of positive energy for Baden-Württemberg's state capital from 15th–18th September 2021.

The atmosphere at the exhibition and congress could be described as "pre-pandemic", according to one DGU staff member. The relaxed mood prevailed throughout the ICS, which convinced its guests by providing plenty of space yet short distances, a ventilation system that matched the air quality of an operating theatre, and reliable 3G checks. It was therefore possible to make contact with old and new colleagues and still feel at ease.

The high standards of hygiene nevertheless raised the pulse rates of the event management teams of the DGU, Interplan and ICS. "In the preparation phase we asked ourselves more than once, 'Is a congress like this still a pleasure?', 'How will visitors and industry representatives take to the regulations?' and 'Which new challenges will the congress team as a whole have to face,'" reflects Tanja Langmesser, head of Project Management at Interplan. She admits that "We started the season feeling slightly agitated."

Superlative DGU Congress

Being the first in-person event at the ICS since the start of the pandemic, and the biggest physical medicine congress in Germany in 2021, are just two of the three coups landed by this congress. With 4,600 registered participants from Germany and abroad, it is also the largest in-person congress for urology in 2021 – worldwide.

In order to ensure that all the delegates at the ICS and at the Mercedes-Benz Museum would be efficiently checked from start to finish according to official 3G standards, the teams engaged in intensive preparation. "We liaised very closely with the Messe Stuttgart trade fair centre," reports Langmesser. "With incidence rates constantly rising and falling, there were many, many phone calls and lots of correspondence on this subject, because it felt as if Covid-19 regulations were being revised on a fortnightly basis."

Only minor adjustments necessary: The 'Safe Expo Concept' of the Messe Stuttgart had already proved its worth with other events. "In cooperation with the Messe Stuttgart, we devised a wayfinding system for vaccinated, recovered and tested participants in order to avoid queues," the project manager explains. "With the hostesses we were able to carry out the admission checks and attendance registration. The delegates were very cooperative." These had been informed in advance of the procedures.

The evening event at the Mercedes-Benz Museum was similarly structured, including the 3G checks. "In the planning phase there were long discussions as to how many guests could be received that evening. We had a waiting list," Langmesser explains. "When it became clear, some 14 days before the congress, that we could accommodate 400 guests, we were fortunately able to let many of them know." There was a seating plan so that contact chains could have been tracked if necessary.

Founded in Stuttgart

On the second day of the congress, the DGU celebrated the anniversary of its founding. It was phenomenal to meet in the very place where the DGU had been founded in Stuttgart exactly 115 years ago, enthused the DGU Secretary General, Prof. Dr. med. Maurice S. Michel, at the plenary session 'Digital Urology'. He thanked Prof. Dr. Dr. Arnulf Stenzl, the president of the congress, for the excellent implementation of the event.

With the motto of the congress, 'eUrology', Prof. Stenzl placed the focus both on European cooperation and digitisation in everyday urology, and on '€urology' – the field of tension spanning medicine and economics. He had symbolically had the flag of Europe hoisted over the ICS. And as if this weren't portentous enough, Prof. Dr. Margit Fisch succeeds him as president of the DGU.

A saxophone player accompanied the historic moment when Germany's first female chair of a urology department took over as head of the DGU exactly 115 years after the society's foundation. This means that she will preside over the 74th DGU congress in 2022.

What a Comeback!

Interplan's project manager, Tanja Langmesser, tells of a young team colleague who previously had had no regular on-site assignment because of the pandemic. Returning to the office with a big smile on her face, she described her assignment at the ICS Stuttgart as follows: "It was cool. The participants could hardly wait!"

And neither could Baden-Württemberg's state capital. SCB representative Katharina Bitterle put it in a nutshell: "We are ideally positioned here. Within the given limits, we can stage wonderful, safe, in-person events that gladden visitors' hearts. This congress has proved it."

"Fluctuating incidence rates…"

Tanja Langmesser, head of Project Management at Interplan Munich, describes the planning of the largest in-person urology congress worldwide in 2021 in Stuttgart, its hygiene standards and personalised advice for all 4,590 delegates.

Which additional measures augmented the hygiene concept of the Messe Stuttgart?
We liaised very closely with the Messe Stuttgart in accordance with fluctuating incidence rates ... There were many, many phone calls and also written correspondence, because it felt as if the Covid-19 regulations were changing on a fortnightly basis.

We put up posters at the location, which were also screened in the halls during breaks and of course sent to all participants in advance, so that they were well-informed as to our precautionary measures.

In cooperation with the Messe Stuttgart we also devised a wayfinding system for vaccinated, recovered and tested visitors in order to avoid queues. With our hostesses we were able to cope very well with the admission checks and attendance registration. The delegates were very cooperative. We had provided plenty of information in advance about the procedures. In all, there were eight Interplan employees and 12 hostesses in Stuttgart, and this was just for the routing, admissions, attendance lists and registration of the 4,590 visitors.

For the 100 to 140 guests daily who were required to produce an up-to-date test result, a tent was provided in front of the ICE. Most of the work was done in advance at our office, such as the registration of participants. Before and during the congress our telephone service answered visitors' questions patiently and on a personal level.

How did the procedure differ at the evening event at the Mercedes-Benz Museum?
At the museum it was similar, including 3G checks for all staff and technicians. In the planning phase there was much deliberation as to how many visitors could be hosted. There was a waiting list. When it became clear, some 14 days before the congress, that we could accommodate 400 guests, we were fortunately able to let many of them know. There was a seating plan so that if necessary we could have ascertained who had been in contact with whom. As it was impossible to offer a buffet meal under corona regulations, there was a set menu.

How was the work distributed between the individual teams or team members? Was it necessary to recruit additional service providers?

There were a great many discussions, both within the team and with others. We exchanged opinions, shared experiences and deliberated strategies and work processes. The focus was on topics such as how we could comply with all the various requirements – both from a technical and from a staffing point of view. For example, for the 3G checks we were able to register the attendance of all those present using our own technology, such as scanners, despite the fact that two congresses, DGU and VZM, were taking place at the same time.

Many thanks, Frau Langmesser.

Tanja Langmesser, Head of Project Management, Interplan Congress, Meeting & Event Management