A New Cure for Medical Conferences

by Phil Waknell

Most conferences are fairly boring. Even well-known tech conferences fail to engage their audiences all the time. But medical conferences can be among the worst. Check out this quick interview between Ideas on Stage, new partners with Doctors 2.0 & You, and Denise Silber to find out how to take medical (and other) events to the next level.

Our friend Ross Fisher, a paediatric surgeon based in the UK, has had enough of poor medical communication, and when he’s not operating, he spends time educating doctors about a better way to present. There is a clear need, and Ross is making progress.

Ideas on Stage has worked with many health-based conferences and events over the years, from internal events for pharma companies to open industry events in nephrology, oncology and other therapeutic areas. It’s clear that our approach to better presentations works very well in this field, and we’ve helped to design several very successful events.

Now we are adding an extra string to our bow thanks to our partnership with Doctors 2.0 & You, run by Denise Silber, an experienced bilingual (English/French) event planner and Master of Ceremonies, who is specialized in healthcare communication, and helps organizers to build next-generation events and conferences with patients at the center.

We asked Denise some questions about medical conferences, and how our new partnership can help bring them to the next level.

1. What is wrong with most medical conferences?

DENISE SILBER: To start with, few physicians say they’re attending their conferences because of the content. They’re going to see their colleagues, to take a break from their routine, to visit a new city.

It’s a bit like going to the theater for the intermission. And when they do get in the conference room, it’s often “same old, same old”, with slide-based presentations and panels on usual topics or poster sessions…

The scientific committee that produces the agenda is likely not following what’s happening in communication and audio-visual techniques. The programs are often not addressing the big shifts in medicine with new technologies and the rise of start-ups, the new role of professionals and patients, the new ethical challenges. And to top it all off, much of the content is available to participants without physically attending.

2. But surely people expect to sit there and receive lots of top-down detail - how best to meet their expectations while producing a 2.0 kind of conference?

DS: Yes, people want to receive lots of top-down detail, but, as you know at Ideas on Stage, scientific content can be presented in an engaging or even captivating way.

My suggestion is not to change everything at once, but for organizers to go beyond the typical post-conference satisfaction survey and sit down and talk with participants to understand what they did and didn’t like, and then to run with some of the suggestions, to experiment on the least successful parts of their event.

3. How important is it to include the patient’s point of view in medical events?

DS: Inviting patients in from the beginning of the planning can make a huge difference. When physicians become patients, they are often very surprised by the experience in their own hospital.

The patient reminds us of the real-world viewpoint and of the basic mission of medicine, to help people. They bring irreplaceable testimony to the table. And their presence, both in the sessions and at the breaks, makes for a feel-good, human moment.

4. What does Doctors 2.0 & You bring to medical conferences?

DS: Doctors 2.0 & You brings new life to medical conferences, thanks to our extensive experience in producing exciting digital health events.

Each of our clients’ conferences will have special needs and requirements, so we don’t have a formulaic approach. Services include: program and speaker consulting where we bring in novel topics, new speakers, formatting recommendations; creating engagement through a “challenge” or other activity that begins before the event, original demos, and social media articles and deployment. We can guide the conference to a « Patient-Included » certification, which can be transformative. This involves inviting patients to the organizing table, as part of the agenda, and in the room.

5. Why partner with Ideas on Stage to help transform medical events?

DS: This partnership is quite easy to understand. Ideas on Stage has extensive experience in business events, in presentation creation, and coaching public speakers in any industry. Doctors 2.0 & You is focused on healthcare, where we are recognized for producing quality programs related to the latest in digital innovation and involving patients. We each have an expertise that needs daily practice to stay in shape. Together we can make medical events even more original and powerful.

6. Finally, if you had one piece of advice for event organizers, what would it be?

DS: Advice for an event organizer in healthcare? Let’s grab a coffee or set up a videocall and tell me your painpoint!