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The conference is dead. Long live the conference.

April 25, 2023

Conference season is upon us and 2023 feels like the year when in person international healthcare conferences are roaring back into our lives.

Despite the progress in tackling COVID this time last year, we were still preparing for many ‘hybrid’ conferences, and several conferences remained largely or entirely virtual – 2023 feels very different, and we are sharpening up to be ready for the return of these in person international events!

At Enzyme Communications we are supporting our clients in preparing for international conferences in oncology, haematology, rare disease, pathology, and more… here are our 3 top tips for conference planning.

1. Be clear on your purpose and story

Exhibiting at conferences and/or releasing new data is expensive, but it also has the potential to be a cornerstone of your yearly plan. The key is to be clear on why you are there, what story you are telling, and crucially what your call to action is. Many companies invest a lot of time preparing new data for conferences in the form of symposia, posters, abstracts, etc., but forget to sit this new data within the wider strategy. If you only have time to focus on one aspect of this – I would suggest focusing on the ‘call to action’, i.e., here is our new evidence, and based on this we are asking you to do this…

This call to action can then take on many guises (here are a few thought starters):

      • Set-up a meeting with a representative of our company to discuss this evidence in more detail
      • Sign up for email updates so we can share the next wave of evidence with you
      • Visit an online resource for more information and tools

2. Take advantage of having everyone in one place

A big part of the cost of conferences is getting everyone in one place, i.e., travel and accommodation. It is important to think strategically and creatively about how to get the most value from this investment.

Here are some thought starters (based on activities we know work well at/within conferences):

      • Build insights and seek advice – can you plan an evening/dinner advisory board? There often isn’t a better time to ask for advice than during a conference when healthcare professionals are already deep in the latest evidence and thinking critically about their own practices
      • Capture content – if you are paying speakers to present on your behalf, how else can they help you? If they have 15 minutes, can you get quotes that can be used in materials moving forwards? If they have 30 minutes, how about recording a short interview and creating a podcast? If they have 60 minutes, can you get your hands on a camera and film a Q&A? If you do capture content, remember to prepare, and take release forms with you! There is nothing more frustrating than having great content you can’t use because the contributor has ignored your last three emails with the release form attached – get them to sign it as you are capturing it!
      • Describe a communications challenge – we all enjoy thinking about challenges and producing solutions. At the start of the conference, can you give a selection of customers a one-page summary of a key communications challenge you are facing, e.g., diagnostic accuracy, treatment compliance, patient education, and ask them to consider it throughout the conference. Put 15 minutes in with them at the end of the conference to share any ideas that they have had. This is a great way to get new ideas, but in the absence of any breakthroughs, it still supports relationship building and shows you value their input

3. Have some fun and focus on building relationships

Conferences can be stressful. They can be stressful for you; they can be stressful for your speakers and wider customer group. Everyone recognises that they matter and are high profile (for them as well as you!). It is important to protect the time and space to have some fun and build relationships. Remember to support your speakers and other contributors in the build-up, let them know you are there for them and consider offering them more support this year as we all return to the full blow in person format.

Here are two thought starters with this in mind:

      • Run throughs and presentation training – can you offer your speakers the time to do one or two extra run throughs? This extra rehearsal time often pays dividends. For someone a bit rusty, can you offer them some time with a professional presentation trainer?
      • Protect some informal time together – can you include time in your customers conference agenda for a bit of a break and some relaxed time to chat and build your relationship? Take the time in advance to research a nearby landmark or sight worth seeing and take a short trip/walk to see it with some of your key customers. A 30-minute break from the hustle and bustle is often welcome!

Congress or conference?

These two words often get used interchangeably – so what is this difference? Well, a congress is usually a formal meeting including representatives from different organisations. A conference is a gathering of people around a specific topic or set of discussions, so for us the right word is usually conference. That said, it can often be a good idea to arrange a congress within a conference – and that’s saying nothing about conventions!

Adam Goodband
Co-founder and Science Communication Director

About Enzyme Communications

Enzyme Communications is a science communication agency, with expertise in healthcare and medial communications. We support companies with products sitting in complex scientific environments to build clear strategies and compelling narratives. Conferences are often a forum for bringing these to life.

If you are looking for support with conference planning or other aspects of your communications, then get in touch today by dropping us an email at hello@enzymecommunications.com 

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