It is Saturday , the 9th of April and with a glass of red wine I am settling on the sofa in my living room in Surrey, pretty drained but also happy and satisfied with an exciting day.
With the help of many friends and of some incredible characters we managed within 5 weeks to register nearly 4000 colleagues for an online CPD event and we raised over £ 33000 while learning a lot and having a lot of fun at the same time…..
So how did this all come about?…..
As already mentioned in one of my previous blogs I had been (and I still am) pretty upset about the war in Ukraine and the return to a new Cold War reality.
When – after my return from the North – I made a short detour to Belgium, I had a drink with some of Europe’s finest speakers in veterinary dentistry and we started to circulate the idea of running an online “Life-Aid” style event to raise funds for the relief effort for both the people and the animals from Ukraine. My colleagues – Ana Nemec from Slovenia and Jerzy Gawor from Krakow in Poland – immediately offered their support, providing that I would set it up……..
With some hesitation I agreed to look into this, but it clearly was one of those moments where you ask yourself : “Oh my God, what have I done?!……”, because I realised that it wasn’t such an impossible task, but that I had just committed myself to several sleepless nights and a lot of work. The rest of the evening including one of the first parties since the start of the COVID pandemic, in the historic mining company head quarters in Genk was lost on me as I had to think…..
Thanks to my somewhat restless existence at the moment, I had all the necessary contacts, but now it had to call in a lot of favours.
For the biggest favour of all, I needed the help of one man and on his support hinged the decision to go ahead or to drop the whole idea at once:
Off I sent a message to Anthony Chadwick, better known as “The WebinarVet”.
In 2020, when the pandemic started, Anthony, just a “normal” vet like me, had – almost single handedly – introduced the whole veterinary profession in the UK to webinars and to online meetings and he kept many of us both sane and entertained during this difficult time.
Thankfully Anthony came back to me right away and we fixed an online meeting a few days later. That gave me the necessary time to put “meat to the bones” of my idea and while heading State-side, flying over the Southern tip of Greenland and seeing landscapes I will never be able to set foot on,
I worked on my pitch:
21 world class speakers, not more than two on a clinical subject area, from as many countries as possible, all just for 20 minutes plus 5 minutes for questions and answers, plus a team of moderators who were all great communicators and who were already known as veterinary influencers.
Fundraising through an established platform which channeled all funds directly to the chosen charities and which updated us in real time on the amounts raised. Once the idea had some traction, possibly also the involvement of the veterinary industry to raise more funds. Only Online advertisement but through all channels available to FECAVA, the Webinar Vet and the contact lists of everyone involved with the event.
At the end of the flight three pages of tightly written notes and names were lying in front of me and I had a plan that could work…..
Thankfully that view was shared by Anthony the next day and within a matter of hours I had the whole Webinar Vet organising team plus the help of my colleague Andreja and her marketing team in Ljubljana at my disposal and – with an 8 hour time difference – e-mails and text messages started flying through the internet.
My task now was to set up the scientific programme and to recruit all the speakers and the moderators for the event.
Kersti Seksel, a well known Estonian veterinary behaviorist agreed to join the event from her home in Australia. Heads of university clinics and of surgical departments in Hanover, Vienna and from my neighborhood in Surrey joined the effort. Ana managed to get in touch with some of her colleagues from UC Davis who also agreed to lend a hand, but with the caveat to insist on an early morning slot (in California) to be able to go surfing right after the presentation.
Once the news had got out, offers to help came flying in and at the same time we started with the fund raising.
As fellow moderators I was extremely lucky to get the support of my friend and colleague Julian Hoad and his partner in crime Mike Bramble, who are running a very successful You Tube channel and podcast series called “Veterinary Ramblings”.
Joining the effort as well were Cat Henstridge, better known as “Cat the Vet” from Yorkshire and from Ireland Pete Wedderburn, known as “Pete the Vet” in numerous TV and online appearances.
Whenever I opened my inbox over the following few weeks as we were progressing towards the event, there were new messages of support and encouragement and with the tireless help of the Webinar Vet team (ignoring graciously several set and passed deadlines, mostly due to my restless lifestyle….), the whole event started to take shape and several days before the conference, we already passed the ambitious fund raising target of £ 20000.
Then – finally – came the 9th April and following some final technical instructions from the team, I could start this crazy event that took its first step not even 5 weeks earlier over a glass of wine in Belgium….