Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

Selling exhibition space for a virtual conference


  • Membership


  • Commercial


  • Media sales

The client

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK’s 60,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and support workers. 

The CSP was awarded its Royal Charter in 1920 and is now the profession’s leading membership organisation in the UK.

The challenge

In March 2020, CPL won a competitive pitch to become the media sales agency for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

CPL was due to officially take over the contract in August 2020, three months before CSP’s two-day annual Physiotherapy UK (PUK) conference at the ICC Birmingham, in November. 

In the intervening period, however, the Covid-19 pandemic sent the UK into its first lockdown, and, by the end of March 2020, most of CPL’s 50 employees – including our media sales team – were having to adapt to working from home.

By May, CSP had to accept that its annual conference could not go ahead as a physical event. Unlike other organisations, however, it was determined any online alternative would not simply be a glorified webinar or Zoom meeting. 

CSP wanted, as far as possible, to recreate the full conference experience for its members and deliver a unique, engaging, inspiring event that would have everyone talking about it.

The solution

CSP’s solution for Virtual Physiotherapy UK (vPUK) was an avatar-based, immersive online experience created by US-based specialist Virbela, which produced a virtual venue for the conference containing seven auditoria, two poster halls, three networking halls, and an exhibition space.

After creating their avatars, speakers, delegates, exhibitors and sponsors could move through the venue virtually to listen to talks, visit trade stands, or meet with each other in different groups and in a variety of locations – including on a beach with speedboats, at a lighthouse, and in a park. 

A working version of this platform was not available until mid-August, however. So CPL’s media sales team, led by Andy Shields, had just 10 weeks to learn the system, sell this new virtual world to exhibitors and sponsors, and ensure they understood how to take full advantage of the technology.

Andy sold the final stand at midnight the day before the event opened to delegates!

The results

More than 100%

of target revenue achieved in 10-week timeframe


of exhibitors said they would like to exhibit in 2021 whether the conference is physical or virtual – up from 75% after the 2019 event

In 12 years

this was the second-best attended CSP conference

CPL’s media sales team did an amazing job – only 10 weeks, with a new client, trying to sell this strange new world to exhibitors and sponsors when the only effective way to do this was to show them round the virtual world, at all hours of the day and night. The results were as good as they could possibly have been.

Steve Mann, Head of events
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

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