Re-imagining congresses: how far have we come?

Pre 2019, physical medical conferences and exhibitions were an established, entrenched habit of our industry. This single point of focus was the axis of our traditional annual engagement model until COVID-19 hit our shores in early 2020. Michelle Collins, Head of Digital Solutions, discusses.

I remember sitting at my desk in the March of that year, feeling a sense of trepidation having to face up to a virtual reality that lay in front of us. That was until I came across the following quote from Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft:

“The world will go through three phases during and beyond the pandemic: Respond, Recover, Re-imagine.”

A feeling of positivity started to creep in and excited anticipation of a virtual world that would transform the delegate experience and democratise data for all healthcare stakeholders. A question came to my mind: how can we re-imagine congresses in this new reality and has this been a question asked in many meetings, workshops, hackathons, and articles?

I personally believe that we, as an industry, have not catalysed this evolution to “re-imagine” the delegate experience to deliver a truly immersive program whether our audience is attending virtually or physically in the near future. I feel we have certainly made steps to enhance the virtual experience, but there is further to go for us to fully transform the delegate experience and democratise data for all healthcare stakeholders.

When looking into our audiences’ perceptions of this new reality, they are missing that glass of wine whilst discussing the data or new approaches with a peer and also the pleasant surprise of an interesting symposium that they have discovered by a chance invite from a colleague that they have just met in the hall. On reflection, we’ve seen a drop off in the uptake of some congress content due to delegates not having the ability to wander around a poster hall and ask an MSL a spur-of-the-moment question or challenge a colleague to a game on a booth but on the other hand, we have witnessed an increase in symposium views across a wider audience. This increase is due to the ease of being able to watch a symposium in the comfort of their study at a time that suited their busy schedule.

We cannot ignore that virtual congresses have extended the reach of our data and this is why the globalised opinion is that “hybrid will be the new normal”, which, of course, is bringing everyone together on one omnichannel program whether they are attending virtually or physically.

If I were to recommend two key steps to providing or enhancing an omnichannel congress experience, they would be the following:

  1. Take a service design approach to congress activities – do not design or ideate tactics for the overall program in silo! The delegate does not need just a positive experience; they need to feel fully immersed and continuously engaged throughout their touchpoints with that product/brand. To do this, we encourage our clients to break down the silos and brainstorm the congress program with medical/commercial/access and all their agencies in one virtual room to create the optimum customer journey that will transform the delegate experience before, during, and after the congress.
  2. Create and facilitate micro-communities – this new virtual reality has provided a catalyst shift in the need for micro-communities and the prevalence of social media in peer-to-peer engagement. A trend predating COVID-19, which is now accelerating, is the rise of Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs), who are Health Care Professionals (HCPs) that create, curate, and cascade scientific information to an engaged peer-to-peer audience following on social media. The benefit of DOLs is that they are a trusted source of information that can be accessed quickly on social media.

In summary, we have made great steps to providing an engaging virtual delegate experience but our mission needs to be to provide an immersive omnichannel experience, whether a delegate is attending from the comfort of their study or attending in person – their level of experience should not differ.

Michelle heads up a digital team that are ready to harness innovation and creativity, and take your communications to the next level! They are ready and waiting for their next challenge.

Click here > https://primeglobalpeople.com/contact-us/ for more information.


Prime GlobalRe-imagining congresses: how far have we come?

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