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Behind the scenes at Annual Meeting — What does it take to put the meeting together?

Each year AOCS hosts more than 1,500 attendees at its Annual Meeting & Expo where those attendees can see more than 650 oral and poster presentations. It’s more than any one person can see in four days and regularly requires the work of more than 100 volunteers to succeed (135 volunteers this year to be exact!). How does it all come together?

The process starts long before the meeting — in fact, it starts at the meeting the previous year. Each of AOCS’ 10 Divisions meet in Technical Session Development committees to brainstorm topics for next year’s program. These committee discussions are where Division members can share what topics they’d like to see at next year’s meeting. After that, it is up to Division Vice Chairs like Fabiola Dionisi to lead the charge.

Fabiola Dionisi Fabiola, as Vice Chair of the Health and Nutrition Division, is responsible for developing the Annual Meeting program for her Division. This includes selecting session chairs and co-chairs, helping them to find speakers, ensuring the scientific rigor of presentations, and delegating the budget for financial support of speakers, as well as several other tasks.

Finding volunteers to act as chairs and co-chairs, finding speakers, keeping everyone on deadlines, and raising funds are the biggest challenges. Sessions include anywhere from 1–3 chairs and 5–12 speakers, which makes for a lot of wrangling. Fabiola notes that finding volunteers and speakers is easily solved by having a large network: “you need to know people and engage with them.”

She tackles deadlines by keeping a close relationship with chairs and co-chairs, which includes regular phone calls and emails. Raising funds, however, proves to be the most difficult, especially if companies are in a period of budget restriction.

All in all, putting the technical program together for a Division seems like a daunting task. So what motivates Fabiola to take on this role?

“As a lipid expert, I am proud of being part of AOCS. It is a form of recognition from the scientific community. It is also a way to enlarge my network. I believe AOCS is an extraordinary platform of exchanges between academia, government and industry. Personally, I am strongly interested in being part of the exchanges between those three actors. Therefore, I am committed to making the AOCS meeting more attended, increasing its reputation and being considered as a reference in the field.”

When asked if there’s anything else she’d like to share about her volunteer experience, she adds, “I think AOCS has much larger possibilities to evolve and I will be happy to contribute to that.”


To celebrate the hard work and dedication of our volunteers, like Fabiola, AOCS will be hosting a Member and Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday, May 8, at 12:30-2 p.m. in the America's Center Convention Complex. Both members and non-members are invited to enjoy free food and fun. There will be a special AOCS Volunteer Raffle and Giveaway for those who have volunteered with AOCS in the past year. We hope you'll join us!


Division members hard at work discussing topics for next year’s technical sessions during the 2018 Annual Meeting. Want to learn how to get involved in planning sessions for the 2020 meeting in Montréal? Check your program at this year’s meeting for locations and times of the development discussions — they are open to everyone.


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