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Pharma conferences – will a hybrid version become the standard in 2021 and beyond?

by Paul Blackburn

Yes and no. That is, assuming we can all travel freely, the conference will either be hybrid or virtual. Audience experiences will drive the future. There is an inter-related set of personal and corporate factors that will be the five key drivers of future behaviour: value, engagement, behavioural psychology, technology and economics.

1. Value: Pharma conferences are finished if the audience can’t get the educational information they need. Both physical and virtual conference formats enable this. Networking drives physical attendance along with the protected learning experience and research shows a small majority of HCPs prefer to attend future physical events. Hybrid offers the greatest potential for increasing audience attendance, combining physical and virtual.

2. Engagement: Virtual conferences have significantly increased attendance, but questions remain over how engaged the audience is with the content. They may attend the major sessions, but visits to pharma booths are largely down. It’s essential that information is easily found and accessed.

3. Behavioural psychology: Being greener, managing time pressures, having the flexibility to use your time as you wish are all wrapped up in the pros and cons of physical or virtual conference attendance. As the world unlocks, we need to observe and measure how our audience behaves, and importantly continue to ask for and listen to their views on how best to meet their needs.

4. Technology: In five to six years virtual reality could well transform the conference experience with widely available, affordable virtual reality (VR) glasses providing an experience only prohibitively expensive, bulky VR headsets can match today.

Virtual reality is important because when you wear a VR headset, you’re engaged. In the meantime it’s essential to use tech in the simplest way, making the user experience easy, fast and compelling.

5. Economics: Companies must decide the balance of online versus physical activity levels, maximising access to information they want audiences to receive, within budgetary constraints. Budgets may have to increase.

Hybrid is here to stay. Plan accordingly – know what your audience needs and, paraphrasing Steve Jobs, ensure they easily find valuable, engaging content that they wouldn’t have thought of looking for, then they’ll visit you again.

Paul Blackburn is Founder and Managing Partner of Certain Health

In association with

25th June 2021

From: Marketing

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