Postpone, cancel, or go online with your healthcare event?

gail watson

Having spent more than 14 years in the Events Industry, five of which heading up the Events delivery and strategy for an International Pharmaceutical Company, Gail set up Elementary Events, an independent Events Agency specialising in the Healthcare Sector. Gail holds the Level 3 Diploma in the promotion of medicines from the ABPI, which ensures all elements of her work is undertaken with compliance in the forefront of her mind.

Elementary Events Offers a wide variety of services such as: event strategy, event management, delegate management and in-house ‘implant’. We offer bespoke packages to cover all requirements.

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Postpone, cancel, or go online? These are the options facing the healthcare events sector currently.

This unprecedented period we are now in could never have been predicted, and the decisions the industry makes in the coming weeks and months will impact not only the events sector, but the wider industries such as travel and tourism. Most notably it is going to impact small businesses and freelancers, who contribute to the £70bn UK events industry and without whom many events would not be possible.

There is a lot of discussion on numerous professional platforms regarding the need for face to face events, and about the potential for utilising virtual meetings instead. Although I agree virtual events definitely have their place, congresses – which have seen the biggest impact – are not the same online.

A number of congresses have been offering virtual platform opportunities for a number of years now, and when I worked as an Event Manager for an international pharmaceutical company, I livestreamed a few symposia. The technology worked well and it was promoted well, but the numbers who actually logged on were not ground breaking. The virtual element of congresses have never been well ‘attended’ in my experience. Maybe the fact there is no other option at present will impact this in a positive way, and it is definitely better than nothing. But with all of the HCPs currently stretched as it is dealing with the crisis, who will be logging in?

Postponing events which can’t go ahead at present seems like the most sensible option if Congress organisers work together to collaborate. However,  we still risk becoming saturated with events in the later part of the year. Also, there is a big question mark around NHS study days even being granted in the short term. Even when the pandemic has died down there will still be resource issues, with the day to day ‘business’ such as clinics trying to catch up with routine appointments, and trying once again to reduce the routine operations waiting list which has swelled with all the postponed procedures. I am sure all countries will have the same issues. Therefore cancelling may be the only option at present for some events. This leads us back to the impact this will have on the medical events industry and the domino effect thereafter. There is no easy answer to this.

One thing is certain, and that is that congresses are more than just symposia and workshops. They are: networking opportunities with peers; a chance to take time out of the usual ‘day to day’ to really focus on education, to sit in workshops and read abstracts which aren’t directly linked to current clinical practice but may trigger a memory in the clinic in years to come; a chance to broaden knowledge by discovering new products and services in the exhibition halls. These things you simply can’t do without being physically present.

In the meantime, this is an ideal opportunity to utilise the event professional’s transferable skills for other activities. Some activities we are offering clients:

  • Events Processes and Procedure writing.
  • Contingency planning for when (!) something like this occurs in the future
  • Developing more robust Transfer of Value (TOV) procedure and documentation.
  • Reviewing meeting and event SOP’s and Policies.
  • Event Strategy reviews.

By utilising the events community in this way, you can ensure they are still around when you need them to deliver your next congress. This will happen – we are just not sure when that may be!