The Future of Medical Conferences is Digital

4 min read
First Published: 
Sep 2020

Key Learnings contained in this article:

Medical writers and researchers alike are well versed in the excitement and rush of work that comes with conferences. For many years, these meetings have provided a way to share and access new research from around the world, a chance to exchange ideas with our scientific and medical peers. Today, we are rapidly seeing a shift from in-person to digital meetings.

While many will miss the opportunity to explore new cities and bump into colleagues and friends around the world, digital options are increasingly seeing larger audiences and greater engagement than their in-person counterparts.

Virtual formats give researchers the chance to deliver their latest work without the inconveniences that are inherent in travel. And talks are no longer limited by the number of people who can fit in the room. Additionally, all of this knowledge can be gained from the comfort of home, without the expense of jet setting around the globe.

Some of the largest and most well-known conferences are embracing the virtual format this year. The Drug Information Association, or DIA, is one of the longest-running medical conferences of its kind. For over 50 years, attendees have had the opportunity to present new research, bringing regulators and researchers together to address the healthcare challenges of today. In 2020, DIA went virtual. “In a time when we are more isolated than ever before, we must break down silos and collaborate to develop solutions. The virtual Global Annual Meeting provides professionals across the drug development continuum an opportunity to come together, learn and innovate,” Barbara Lopez Kunz, Global Chief Executive of DIA, stated in a press release about the new virtual format.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology, ASCO, has also joined the new trend. This meeting, typically attended by thousands of oncologists every year, offered on-demand videos, slides, and speaker sessions from researchers around the world. The new format allowed attendees to view at their own pace, no more rushing off early from one talk to ensure you had time to attend the next. Speakers also offered downloadable content of their presentations, giving others a second chance to review their work in detail.

ISPOR’s 2020 meeting was originally scheduled to take place in Orlando, FL USA, but also changed to accommodate a virtual format. Over 1,300 attendees joined from more than 50 countries. Many of the presenters chose to make their slide decks available on ISPOR’s database for continued access.

For medical communication agencies, this new format means that the communication pieces we make are changing. Instead of having to make sure a slide can be seen from across the room, we now only need to accommodate a computer screen, allowing medical communicators a little more freedom in how research is presented. Figures and graphs that will be made available for download can contain more detail and new formats such as interactive posters allow further audience engagement.

With the success of virtual conferences so far in 2020, it seems this new format may be here to stay. No doubt medical writers will be seeing some new innovations entering the space as the world adjusts to the new virtual format.

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Dorothy Keine
Dorothy Keine is an experienced medical and scientific writer with experience at med comms agencies, pharmaceutical companies, medical start-ups, and academic research. She loves to explore the fields of science and medicine.
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