shows the way


When the NWU had to host the annual National Autism Symposium during a global lockdown, the organisers had to pioneer an innovative formula for online conferencing. And they succeeded.

eish! asked Hanlie Degenaar about the benefits of an online event, and for tips on how to present a successful conference.


“Arranging the symposium in an online format at short notice was a challenge but we are grateful that it turned out to be a big success,” says Hanlie, who is a senior speech-language therapist at the NWU’s Institute of Psychology and Wellbeing, and head of Care2Kids.


Themed “Emotional regulation”, the NWU hosted the annual Autism Symposium in conjunction with Autism South Africa and the South African Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions from 25 to 27 June.


Benefits abound


Hanlie says the online format had numerous benefits.


“We were able to include exceptional speakers and reached more people to share in the information, as they could easily join the event from anywhere in the world.


“Another benefit was that we could present more practical workshops, because there were an unlimited number of virtual classrooms. Also, networking opportunities increased and were easier to access, according to feedback from the attendees.”


Hanlie says she and her team learned a lot. “The best advice we received was not to duplicate the format of the face-to-face event but rather to use a fresh format and keep it simple.”


For Hanlie’s advice on presenting a successful online symposium or conference, see the text box “Seven tips for online success”.


“With careful planning and the NWU’s exceptional infrastructure, the seemingly impossible can be achieved. Change is difficult but it does provide wonderful opportunities for innovation and growth,” says Hanlie.

 Hanlie Degenaar led the team that recently pulled off a hugely successful online symposium on autism.

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