The medical communications world has experienced many revolutions in 2020. One of the most significant being the move to online congresses. We are still in the early stages of virtual congresses, but successes this year point to a change in how these meetings will be approached in the future. This new format will take time to perfect, but there are many benefits compared to a large in-person congress.

Online meetings offer significant cost savings for attendees and organizers

Jet-setting around the world comes at a steep price point and prevents many people from attending. Online congresses can reach a wider audience, increasing access to important presentations, and facilitating conversations. Eliminating travel costs also improves diversity and makes meetings more equitable for those in smaller labs, companies, and countries.

Additionally, attendees do not have to take as much time off work, increasing the chances that more key opinion leaders (KOLs) and medical agency experts will attend.

On-demand content gives access in any time zone

Many conference attendees have faced the familiar dilemma of having to choose between two simultaneously scheduled talks, lamenting that they cannot be in two places at once. On-demand content eliminates this quandary by providing 24/7 access to recorded talks and increases the speaker’s reach compared to a one-time-only appearance.

Real-time conversations without interruption

Online chat options allow people to have conversations during a presentation without interrupting the speaker. Turning the audience from passive consumers to active participants.

Having a chat feature is also a wonderful way to gauge an audience’s attention during a presentation. Many web conferencing platforms now include a built-in engagement monitor that will indicate if the audience has clicked away from the talk and is starting to check their email, for example. This gives the presenter an opportunity to re-engage the audience with quick polls or multiple-choice questions.

Online chats can also take place behind the scenes, allowing moderators and organizers to discuss how a talk or discussion is going and quickly adjust to improve the flow of conversation. This also permits moderators to screen questions, allowing them to prioritize the most relevant questions and ensure that one person does not dominate a session.

Pre-recorded sessions reduce unknowns and increase access

We have all experienced the dreaded technology glitch during a meeting. Pre-recording sessions not only allow you to edit content for quality but also takes out many of the unknowns. Greatly reducing the chances of sound or video issues.

Increasingly, we are seeing examples of how the online congress format is creating collaborations and connections that would not have happened otherwise. Recorded presentations increase access around the world, allowing scientists to “attend” talks given across the globe.

Tips on how to host a successful online congress

  1. Test all web-streaming platforms, software, and A/V setups before the event
  2. Have tech support standing by
  3. Make sure presenters are familiar with the platforms before their talk. Prepare document guides for presenters to ensure their lighting, sound, and backgrounds are optimal
  4. Consider break-out sessions to facilitate in-depth conversations between attendees