Following the release in 2016 of a research-backed white paper titled The Future of Meetings and a 2018 follow-up report titled The Science of Healthcare Professional Meetings, medical-event-focused Ashfield Meetings & Events released in mid-May a third paper titled The Science of Healthcare Congresses. Although the most recent paper is based on survey research from more than 200 physicians who had attended at least four congresses over the previous 24 months, some of the findings could inform planners in other industries on how to make their annual events more desirable, and able to attract repeat attendees or new attendees from the same organization in subsequent years.
Given that Ashfield's 2018 white paper found physicians' ideal meeting length is 2.25 days and the maximum number of days they want away from the office is 3.25 days, the 2019 paper looked at how the congress experience needs to evolve to best meet physicians' needs in that time frame. In particular, "what role healthcare companies should play in the congress attendance experience, and how Industry can serve the educational needs of healthcare professionals attending congresses as well as support those who attend less frequently."
This objective is critical because physicians consider the quality of their interactions with healthcare companies on the show floor as a strong factor in their overall educational experience, which they said is their primary reason for attending. While 98 percent of respondents said that healthcare exhibitors positively contribute to the congresses they attend, they want their interactions to be more educational than sales-focused, specifically mentioning poster sessions and interactive or hands-on demonstrations as preferred formats. When such formats are used throughout an exhibit hall, physicians said they're willing to spend more time there than the 11 percent of total event time they presently dedicate to the exhibit hall. One responding physician said the measuring stick is this: "Has what I learned changed my thinking or changed my practice?"
One other way physicians said exhibiting companies can contribute to the educational experience: Sponsoring symposia that offer high-quality presenters as well as new data and study results. Specifically, 87 percent of respondents said they would like to see a balanced panel of key opinion leaders from different specialties delivering symposia. What's more, providing a symposia synopsis, identifying key topics of conversation, and providing access to supporting materials on the subject matter not only facilitates a more productive session, but it also allows physicians to return to their practices better able to educate their colleagues—a key factor in physician attendance at events.
The entire 30-page white paper can be found here.