Back in 2018, MCI The Netherlands won the mandate for the WOC2020, planned to take place in Cape Town, South Africa. But just as things started to come together, COVID-19 hit globally. And so, the client had to make a difficult decision. Come March 2020, MCI The Netherlands advised the client on the different scenarios for the congress, from cancellation or postponement to going virtual. And after many talks, the WOC2020 was officially going virtual as of 1st April.

Thus, the preparations began

Picture this. The client had no prior experience with virtual. A platform and possible suppliers needed to be sourced. The team had to figure out the best way to turn a physical congress programme into something that would work online. And they had to convince the client, sponsors and speakers that this was the way forward. Considering the timeframe of fewer than three months, and the size of the event, with its extensive scientific programme, a large number of delegates, stakeholders to manage, and various time zones to accommodate to, the WOC team had many challenges to overcome. All while doing this for the first time: learning by doing!

So, MCI The Netherlands got to work on creating a new product, which they had envisioned for the future but hadn’t found the opportunity to start yet. The product? An AI-driven educational platform developed in collaboration with Filtered, which is now available to far bigger global audiences not possible to reach by a physical meeting.

The team had much to do. Convert the scientific programme from physical to virtual. Have one-to-one talks with industry partners to keep them on board. Hold webinars for faculty and exhibitors to facilitate the experience. Create a tutorial video for delegates, explaining how to use the platform. Develop an overall marketing campaign to create online engagement and excitement. And create daily newsflash videos during the live days to showcase highlights and what was to come.

The go-live day arrived

With resounding success, 7000+ delegates from 157 countries attended the virtual congress, which held 130 live sessions, 111 on-demand sessions, 800 e-poster presentations, 450 oral presentations, 35 instructional courses and four wet labs. Next to that, there were 19 industry symposia and one virtual exhibition with 33 exhibitors. ICO became the leading organiser of the first global online gathering in Ophthalmology. And to keep up the momentum during development, communication towards stakeholders was key.

WOC2020 virtual exhibition

The platform remained open until three months after the congress ended. The client has and will be using the content for further dissemination. And of course, planning for the next World Ophthalmology Congress in 2022!


To create a new product together as one team, in such a short amount of time and with no prior experience in setting up a virtual congress was a proud moment. The client and MCI The Netherlands took a risk together, working towards something unique. And together, we came out stronger the other side. The team received positive feedback from the client, the delegates, the faculty and the industry partners.