'Conference Industry looks at Evolving Medical Meetings'


INCON, the partnership of the world’s leading conference, association and event management companies met in Gothenburg 3-6 November for its annual University and Leadership retreat which focused on the changing landscape of Medical Meetings. The meeting gathered a broad group of key international and local stakeholders to discuss recent trends in the organisation of medical meetings.

It was broadly agreed by those participating at the Gothenburg meeting, that conference and event firms need to play their part in helping create medical meetings, which respond to the new challenges and opportunities posed by new compliance standards and of the needs of a new generation of healthcare professional delegates. Stefano Remiddi, Head of International Operations for AIM Group International posed the question about how conference organisers can play a role in ensuring that traditional medical education does not become a thing of the past.

As delegates become more selective, all of the stakeholders involved in creating meetings need to look for ways to attract delegates by focusing on creating meetings that deliver a return on delegate’s investment and time. Conference organisers need to focus on creating a dedicated journey that is specific to each delegate to attract them to congress and ensure that they return. Technology needs to be harnessed to give delegates a seamless experience and a holistic service before, during and after the meetings.

Medical Meetings Landscape

Some of the major changes to the medical meetings’ landscape that provided a focal point to the meeting included:

  • Future of Education and Certification
  • Changes to compliance
  • Delegate attendance
  • Market Saturation
  • Technology, Digital Life & Social Media

The role of meetings in the HCP’s overall learning journey

Martin Jensen, Co-President of the International Pharmaceutical Congress Advisory Association (IPCAA) explained compliance means a multi layer approach needs to be taken into consideration when planning medical meetings, where the company operates, where it is based and with whom it interacts. What used to be a logistical task has now developed into a complex challenge requiring a different approach and skill set.Martin Jensen, Co-President of the International Pharmaceutical Congress Advisory Association (IPCAA) shared his perspectives on compliance and the interaction between industry and medical societies.  He outlined the various pharmaceutical industry codes of conduct and the impact these are having on the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare professionals and on the way medical meetings are being run and funded. IPCAA is playing an instrumental role in enhancing the dialogue between all the major players in medical meetings, clarifying new compliance rules, determining future congress formats and jointly defining policies. It also sees itself as having an important function to promote the importance of medical education to regulatory bodies.


Source: White Paper: The Future of Meetings www.ashfieldhealthcare.comMartin referred to recent research by Ashfield Healthcare which found that healthcare professionals are demonstrating a preference to attend fewer meetings thus larger meetings covering a broader number of therapeutic areas should also be explored by all meeting stakeholders.  With the advent of new compliance measures across the medical sector, there is also less funding available to support delegate attendance and congress development. The Ashfield Healthcare study reported that medical meetings are still the second most important means of keeping healthcare professionals (HCPs) abreast of innovation (see figure above). The role that congress and medical meetings play in providing face-to-face education to vast numbers of healthcare professionals can therefore not be underestimated.


Role for Conference Organisers

Stefano Remiddi, Head of International Operations for AIM Group International, remarked with the advent of new compliance measures pharmaceutical companies are investing less in educational events or at least the opportunity for investment is much more narrowed to specialty niches. This gives rise to a significant risk for the critical mass of medical doctors who are briefed on innovation in their field.Conference organisers also need to play a role in getting the balance right between the need for great onsite and virtual education. The onsite experience must go beyond just providing excellent education; technology needs to be leveraged to create successful networking opportunities and great experiences. Creating opportunities to involve patients in the congress in a compliant way is also an increasingly important aspect of medical meetings. In terms of the future of the exhibition, the pharmaceutical industry is moving away from investing in large promotional booths, preferring to invest in other parts of the conference program. Exhibits are becoming more scientific rather than promotional, with a renewed emphasis on education so this is having an impact on the size of booths and on the level of investment in exhibition space.


Another important learning is that the conference industry needs to keep abreast of the constant compliance changes so that it is informed and can continue to offer innovative services to clients. Conference organizers also need to establish closer interactions with healthcare professionals and organizations to understand and respond to their needs and deliver advice and consultancy support that goes beyond conference organization services. For instance in Key Opinion Leader (KOL) management, the conference organizer can offer research, administration, communication and technological solutions to help manage contracts and communications with this important medical meeting stakeholder. With the pharmaceutical industry moving to engage with Medical Societies throughout the year and not just at the annual conference, the conference industry may also be able to support this relationship in other ways for instance in the organisation of advisory board meetings or at other touch points in that relationship.


Attendees at the INCON University who represented INCON Partner Companies across the globe were tasked to brainstorm how a medical meeting in 2030 will be different to today. The categories below capture some of the concepts that were presented:




  • Holographic exhibit booths, changes depending on delegate
  • More involved in content of science
  • Collaboration & legacy
  • Post congress collaboration


Digital Life:

  • Virtual Reality
  • No language barrier for sessions & no SI Costs
  • 100% e-posters
  • Technology allows doctors to be with patients and at event
  • Tailored technology per delegate



  • Holographic exhibit booths, changes depending on delegate
  • More involved in content of science
  • Collaboration & legacy
  • Post congress collaboration



  • Futuristic and high end meeting space
  • Relaxing - natural lighting & ventilation
  • Sustainable & eco-friendly is the norm
  • All-on-one including accomodation & transportation
  • 100% free and high-speed wifi


  • Virtual workshops, surgeries/procedures
  • Science not promotional
  • To include patients
  • Hands-on session, interactive and simulators
  • Cultural experiences & legacy

Lior Gelfand demonstrates Astra Zeneca’s Virtual RealityDuring the INCON meeting in Gothenburg, the venue also demonstrated how it can be an important stakeholder in the delivery of thoughtful and relevant meetings. Gothenburg and Co. demonstrated their commitment to the group by providing access to leading local medical specialists like Professor Olle Larkö, Professor in Dermatology and Venereology at the University of Gothenburg and by providing access to demonstrations by leading medical innovators: Medfield, Cellink and Astra Zeneca. This demonstrates yet another role for the conference organiser to ensure that all meeting stakeholders, HCPs, Health Care Organisations (HCOs), patient groups, sponsors, the destination and the venue work in collaboration to deliver truly excellent medical meetings and experiences.

INCON delegates at the 2017 INCON University Gothenburg

Beyond Conference Organization

The meeting in Gothenburg demonstrated that there are many areas where the conference industry can play a role to support the continued evolution of medical meetings. Moreover with the changes ahead there are also opportunities to provide new and innovative services.

  • Managing online & hybrid meetings
  • Development of local & regional meetings
  • KOL management and support
  • Harnessing new technologies to provide seamless service
  • Ensuring a holistic delegate experience and engagement
  • Support of HCOs and HCPs
  • Advice on destination and venue selection
  • Clarification on the impact of local compliance rules
  • Fostering a collaborative approach with all stakeholders


INCON would like to thank the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre with its hotel Gothia Towers as well as Gothenburg & Co for hosting the meeting. Photography courtesy of Gothenburg & Co.

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Angela Guillemet

Executive Director, INCON

T: +353 86 311 40 67