Effective congress planning for publications teams


The availability of data, experts for authoring abstracts, posters and oral presentations, and congress activities themselves have all been affected by the pandemic.

But there are still numerous ways that Publications teams can effectively ensure new data is communicated at congresses. For more information on how best to strategically publications plan, please see Publications planning post-pandemic.

A survey by MedPage Today1 of 59 congress organizers unsurprisingly revealed that more than half (56%) have cancelled their event. That number is likely to continue to increase—or at the very least, we’ll see more congresses move to different formats, such as virtual or partial virtual meetings. For more information on virtual congresses, please see Unlocking virtual medical congresses and Communicating trial data in a new era. Nonetheless, these changes to congress format and timings open up a variety of aspects for publications teams to consider, including:

  • Many congresses are publishing abstracts online, so it worth checking before abandoning any plans.
  • Some congresses are still deciding how to proceed, so it is worth keeping in close contact with the organizers to understand the opportunities.
  • Almost a third of organizers in the MedPage survey stated that they would go ahead with a virtual congress, and others are still considering this approach. These numbers are likely to increase over time, because some congresses were cancelled owing due to the travel bans going into place too close to the event to reorganize. Also, as virtual congresses are successfully delivered, confidence in this format is likely to grow. There are some key things to consider around virtual congresses:
    • Many congresses have relaxed their stance on the submission of encore/re-purposed abstracts, and so it is worth considering other virtual congresses in your field even if you have already submitted elsewhere
    • A mix of approaches are being used by congress organizers, so it is important to connect with them to understand the opportunity
    • It is vital to optimize the format of your congress poster or oral presentation for viewing online. Some congresses have issued updated guidelines to help with this, so keep an eye out for these, but some points to consider are making it shorter, more visual, with large font and take advantage of audio options
    • Some virtual congresses are opening up to wider audiences. For example, when the organizer is a professional society, they are allowing all of their members (versus just congress delegates) to access the virtual event. It is good to be aware of any changes to the audience, so this can be taken into consideration for what is presented and who your intended audience is
    • It is important internal teams get more comfortable with virtual congress plans, as it likely to be a while before international travel and face-to-face meetings resume and, even when they do, attendance may be lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If there are no suitable virtual congresses, you could always consider hosting an educational event yourself or going straight to a full publication. For more information on successful educational events, please see How the pandemic provides opportunities to evolve traditional medical education activities into modern learning solutions.

Regardless of which route you take, it is worth thinking about ways to replace the scientific exchange element of congresses. Options that can help to enable dialogue include social media and webcasts. Such options can also increase the reach of publications, for example, a study showed that author-tweets can increase citations 1.5-fold versus non-author-tweeted articles.2

Are you rethinking your congress activities? We’re here to help. Please contact us.

1 Gever, G. https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/85261. Accessed May 2020.
2 Gunaratne K, Haghbayan H, Coomes EA. J Gen Intern Med 2019;doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-019-05454-0.

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We know there are numerous considerations when it comes to the impact of COVID-19 and what this means for your organization. We are here to help.