Things You Should Consider When Organizing a Medical Conference 2022
What has become apparent since the pandemic is that transitioning to a virtual medium is working out better for medical conference organizers than previously imagined. For medical conferences and events, this means quickly rethinking aspects of the physical event to create an effective online experience. Many medical societies and associations have been able to quickly and successfully transition their meetings to virtual platforms, finding new opportunities for dialogue with attendees. As more organizers approach their annual events in the coming months, there are many lessons learned from the virtual medical conferences that have taken place so far that should be used to inform plans and inspire new ways to connect with members and attendees. Faced with the challenge of not hosting in-person events in the coming months, many see it as an opportunity to transform the annual conference and scale virtual capabilities in light of a new normal and discover innovative ways to engage participants and the next generation of healthcare professionals, while expanding the reach of the company’s brand. This blog offers insights into trends and best practices for medical conference organizers to transition smoothly to the virtual format and do so successfully.
Unsurprisingly, there were apprehensions about hosting an online conference of the same caliber as their in-person events, as well as concerns about replicating the interactivity, networking, and engagement aspects of the in-person meeting. Despite these initial concerns, numerous medical conferencing companies worldwide have found great satisfaction among attendees with the sort of content they’ve presented at their online events. The following are suggestions that all medical conference organizers should take note of to organize stellar virtual medical conferences 2022.
Getting A Good Mix Of Live & Pre-Recorded Content
- An early trend with virtual medical conferences was the use of a live virtual event experience that offered both live-streamed and pre-recorded sessions.
- This combination creates the feel of an in-person event with a set program and schedule of presentations while providing flexibility for presenters and organizers with the ability to pre-record presentations.
- Most healthcare conference organizers transitioning to the virtual space these days provide a mix of live and pre-recorded content in their virtual meetings and attest to the fact that pre-recorded sessions offer benefits by providing greater control over the user experience while live sessions offered greater immediacy and increased opportunity for interaction.
- Another benefit of pre-recording presentations, sessions, or discussions is that they allow presenters and panelists to fully participate in live chat conversations and Q&As while the recordings air.
- Organizers have witnessed that the pre-recorded sessions with live Q&As are being well received by presenters and attendees.
- One large medical company followed the live format combined with a pre-recorded format for their annual conference.
- This included over 800 pre-recorded sessions and presentations that were posted and streamed live during the five-day conference, then made available on-demand for viewing anytime after the event.
- The company had over 12,500 registrations and 54,000 unique visitors to the virtual meeting portal.
Offering Participants The Sort Of Enhanced Flexibility They Crave
- Virtual medical events have shown their ability to broaden the reach of an organizer’s annual event and provide flexibility for attendees who typically don’t attend when held in person. Including a virtual component in future meetings will be key to keeping this audience engaged post-pandemic.
- A lot of medical conference organizers globally attest to the fact that their virtual events allowed those least likely to attend in-person to join in – including international attendees and junior employees from institutions and labs.
- In one instance, a society’s virtual annual meeting brought together practitioners from North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
- This global representation would not be likely if the participants had to travel to the event in person.
- The capacity to reach out to a much wider audience base than an in-person meeting is the success most often cited by organizers of healthcare events.
- An overwhelming number of organizers also attest that attendance at their virtual meetings was either similar to or higher than attendance at their in-person meetings.
- Some organizers indicate that higher attendance translates to increased organizational exposure and prestige, larger marketing lists, and a potential increase in membership.
- When on-demand components are offered, attendees have even more flexibility as they can watch sessions when they are first available or access them at another time that better suits their schedule, especially if they are in another time zone.
- As virtual conferences continue to grow in the coming months and years, planners should consider offering events in a variety of time zones and over a longer period to increase the accessibility of the meeting and its content.
- Offering medical conference alerts that notify potential participants and registrants of updates regarding upcoming events is also something healthcare conference organizers should consider seriously.
Making It Easier For Participants To Access CME
- Continuing medical education is a priority for physicians, and many seek to achieve CME through their professional medical associations and societies.
- Physicians rate CME as an absolutely essential or very important role for associations.
- Annual meetings are a reliable vehicle for CME year after year. Virtual medical conferences are no different and make it easier for physicians to get even more CME hours than in-person meetings.
- Adding an OnDemand component to virtual conferences allows attendees to view training sessions after the meeting ends at their own pace and earn CME credits they might have otherwise missed due to scheduling.
- One medical conference organizer that used an OnDemand component with its virtual live event saw 72,000 hours of member participation.
- For another specialty medical conference organizer, CME was an important aspect of their virtual event.
- The organizer offered a pre-meeting course and symposium as part of its CME program, as well as an OnDemand component, making sessions available online for a year after the event ended.
Coming Up With & Implementing Novel Social Engagement Tactics
- Instead of physical, face-to-face interactions, many medical conference organizers use chat rooms to foster participant engagement and connection.
- In one organizer’s example, the chat function was used extensively throughout the conference, with over 2,300 attendees joining chats and nearly 20,000 messages sent during the event.
- Participants often shared their location in chat and connected with peers in the same geographic area.
- Chat windows also allowed attendees to interact directly with presenters even while sessions were being broadcast if they were pre-recorded.
- Respondents shared that they would revisit the chat feature in future virtual meetings and make it more visible to attendees to drive higher engagement.
- A lot of organizers also adopt innovative ways to promote peer-to-peer engagement, including –
- evening networking sessions,
- sessions focused on specific topics,
- informal breakout rooms that attendees could drop in and out of, and
- watch parties.
- Adding more opportunities like these for attendees to interact with each other and also with presenters is a strategy medical conference organizers should follow for future meetings.
Not Overlooking Industry Sponsorships
- There are a number of viable financial sponsorship options in the online healthcare conferencing space.
- Many approaches from live conferencing can be adapted to a virtual space, although there are some virtual domain-specific opportunities to explore.
- When closely studying current virtual medical conferencing best practices, one can see how the process adopted by a medical conference organizer has to be consistent with the values and past experiences of the organization and members.
- During live conferences, industry sponsors typically have physical booths with allocated opportunities in the conference schedule to interact with attendees and share product and contact information.
- This approach can be easily recreated during a virtual healthcare conference. In most virtual conferencing platforms, there are options for breakout sessions that can be entered from a common conferencing page.
- These breakout rooms can remain live during conferences or can be open during breaks or other specifically allocated networking time to allow attendees and sponsors to interact in a virtual setting.
- These virtual rooms may also be hosted on separate channels to avoid conflicts or issues with CME accreditation of the conference’s educational content.
- Additional conventional options used in other venues include the inclusion of banner ads or other marketing strategies in verbal materials during day-to-day logistical communications or the provision of industry-sponsored conferences at the start or end of conference days.
- Outside of medicine, some targeted marketing options have been adopted as part of virtual medical conference sponsorship.
- A highly desirable avenue for sponsors is access to conference attendee contact information for marketing purposes.
- Care should be taken if considering this approach to avoid violating the privacy of virtual conference participants.
- While this is also a potential risk during live events, it may be easier for sponsors to access user data during online interactions or user email lists and attendee data during the setup of a virtual medical conference organization and exhibit environment.
- Some variations of this tactic include an “opt-out” approach where participants can choose not to receive marketing information at the time of registration or an “opt-in” approach where participants can choose to receive information from specific sponsors.
- Although the most restrictive, the opt-in approach allows for the most targeted marketing and increases the likelihood of attendee engagement with the sponsor before or during the conference.
- Other sponsorship strategies include pop-up ads (windows appearing above the main content that must be viewed and clicked to remove) during the event or the use of “bumper” ads (video segments not skippable for six seconds) provided either before or after curating materials for later online viewing accreditation for continuing medical education to avoid bias in presentations and clearly separate advertising content from CME content.
- Like one-time in-person CME events, one-time virtual CME events must comply with the same regulations of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.
Facilitating Extensive Online Networking
- Networking is an opportunity to meet and develop a relationship in order to promote mutual interests.
- At a time when many functions of in-person conferences can be replaced by other formats or approaches, networking is an essential component that remains difficult to recreate.
- In-person medical conferences provide opportunities –
- to meet employers’ potential,
- to develop mentoring and relationships,
- to build friendships and professional relationships.
- Students, residents, and young faculty have all been significantly impacted by the reduced ability to network during the pandemic.
- In planning for their medical conferences, most organizers choose to focus primarily on delivering educative content.
- However, feedback from participants after these events will make it clear that the main element that members are missing in the virtual format is networking opportunities.
- Since physical distancing policies will persist for the foreseeable future, it is important for organizers to provide viable forums for networking within a virtual conference.
- Several potential options are worth consideration.
- Many virtual meeting platforms offer features that allow participants to message each other or chat privately during the meeting.
- Some also allow attendees to create or link a profile that includes keywords or topics of interest so that they can be searched by other attendees with common interests during the conference.
- These feature sets have a learning curve, and many participants may not be familiar with them or may not want to learn how to use them.
- So, if incorporated, they should be heavily advertised, with tutorials offered ahead of time and live technical support provided during the meeting.
- Breakout sessions can be orchestrated to create opportunities for discussion and promote small, network-oriented group interactions.
- A combination of the two approaches can allow both elements to occur.
- Focus groups can be moderated or left unstructured with a moderator present to spark discussion on topics.
- It is also possible to organize targeted individual or small group meetings between the members and the management of the organization.
- At in-person conferences, organizers have accomplished this with a reception where board members each sit at a table, and society members can choose to join in a conversation with them for a pre-set period of time before they turn to meet another board member.
- This approach can be recreated in the virtual setting with breakout rooms hosted by board members or senior members of the organization that allows for company members to join in at predefined intervals.
- More medical conference organizers should look to incorporate this approach to ensure continued member contact with management despite current restrictions.
- With these possible approaches, time should be allocated within the conference structure to encourage interactions.
- Having several specific time segments set aside for networking will encourage participants to view this as an essential part of the conference and engage more fully in this important activity.
Weighing Registration Costs & Revenue Generation
- Virtual conferencing platforms are available in a wide range of costs based on a one-time or monthly payment structure.
- Platform costs vary depending on the number of attendees, selection of registration options, technical support requirements, and use of virtual breakout rooms for vendors or networking.
- Production support, including audiovisual expertise, should be available both during the preparation phase and during the conference.
- Technical issues should be anticipated during the conference and should be resolved immediately by designated support people who may be onsite for in-person meetings or remote for virtual meetings.
- However, significant savings can be realized over traditional in-person conference expenses with the reduced need for onsite staff and associated costs.
- Some expenses are common to all conference formats.
- For example, some speakers will charge fees for their services.
- Also, in order for CME credits to be offered, there is usually a fee to be paid to the credentialing body for this service.
- Everything from conference brochure and updates to the parent organization’s website to social media advertising will have to be devised, produced, and distributed.
- This can be done by volunteers within the company but can also be contracted out to other professional organizations for a fee.
- Finally, the conference registration platform often has a small associated fee for each billing transaction.
- Like traditional in-person conferences, virtual conferences rely on registration fees and sponsorship to generate revenue for the parent organization.
- An important distinction between the two conference formats is the cost of participation.
- Hosts of virtual conferences may choose to charge a lower registration fee than traditional conferences, as the cost of delivering a virtual conference can be much lower.
- Despite the fact that content from virtual as well as in-person events can be recorded and archived for viewing later on, this hasn’t been the common practice for in-person events so far.
- These on-demand recordings have the potential to generate additional revenue.
- Recorded content may be made available to meeting attendees at no cost, while non-attendees may pay a separate fee to access educational content.
- Alternatively, to increase membership in the medical association, recorded content could be made available to paying medical association members on the medical association’s website.
- For smaller conferences (fewer than three hundred attendees), there are several virtual platforms that cost less than a few thousand dollars.
- Some of the costs of in-person conferences, such as hotel space and food, do not occur with the virtual form, allowing savings to be passed on to conference attendees.
Although the transition to fully virtual meetings seemed like a daunting task for many medical conference organizing companies at the start of the pandemic, digital capabilities have helped turn these vital events into virtual successes and introduced new ways to engage attendees and members by taking advantage of technological innovation. As medical organizers approach meetings in the coming months, tips are drawn from best practices, and lessons learned throughout the pandemic should be utilized fully towards improving the virtual experience. One such opportunity is adding content curated specifically for a virtual healthcare conference. Early on, many companies adapted content planned for in-person meetings to accommodate the virtual format by recording presentations. But in the future, it will be important for companies to design content around the virtual platform. This will give meeting hosts and presenters the freedom to experiment with new ways to share information and engage the audience.
The emergence of hybrid meetings is a trend that will continue in the coming years. These conferences will take the form of a modified face-to-face meeting with a virtual component that creates a new type of experience for attendees with the ability to connect both face-to-face and virtual participants. Hybrid meetings will still provide the flexibility of a virtual meeting for attendees and presenters while providing the traditional in-person experience.
Virtual conferencing solutions provide new and unique ways for attendees to engage with content and information that would not have been possible at in-person events. The longer digital life of a virtual medical conference allows participants to get even more out of the experience. While in-person healthcare events will always be kings for face-to-face networking, recent medical virtual events demonstrated how technology is opening up new ways to connect and that it must be integrated in the future for medical conferences are reaching the next frontier.
For medical conference organizers, there are many benefits associated with modernization. These include things like –
- Using interpreters/subtitles for live or recorded content and thereby reaching a diverse and global audience.
- Implementing VIP ticket tier management (including chat groups or on-demand bonus content, for example).
- Getting to pay valuable speakers more due to reduced budgets in other areas.
- Improving the video hosting technology and digital marketing associated with hosting a world-class medical conference.
- Facilitating conference recording for people to watch back for greater retention (which can also be monetized as part of an enhanced virtual conference revenue generation strategy).