Outside the Echo Chamber

For insights on how stakeholders want to participate in future events, we’re seeking out unusual sources.

Author: Michelle Russell       

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Our daily curated newsletter, News Junkie, shares articles from science and medical journals and a range of industry trade publications for insights on how potential attendees view in-person, digital, and hybrid events.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell

“Straight from the horse’s mouth” is an expression that grammarians think came from horse-racing circles in the early 1900s: A tipster has inside information so good that it comes straight from the horse. That’s the tack we’ve been taking with our daily curated newsletter, News Junkie, searching for articles from science and medical journals and a range of industry trade publications for insights on how potential attendees view in-person, digital, and hybrid events — to help you design your events and bring them successfully along a new course and down the home stretch.

Here are some recent takeaways:

Chemistry World touched on familiar arguments against in-person events among scientists, including the environmental impact of travel. But it also highlighted how face-to-face events are irreplaceable for making connections: A chance meeting between two researchers at a conference in Puerto Rico led to a Nobel prize-winning collaboration around Crispr gene editing. Hybrid events give the scientific community, according to the article, “the best of both worlds.”

Making those connections is especially critical to early-career physicians. In an article in health-care publication Healio, one oncologist shared how she met her future boss at a networking reception at the 2019 ASH Annual Meeting & Exposition.

A recent study published in ScienceDaily found that scientists who interact with others during assigned sessions at conferences are more likely to form productive collaborations than scientists who do not. And unlike the conclusion drawn in the two previous stories, virtual conferences were just as effective — if not more effective — at encouraging interactions and sparking collaboration than in-person events. One plausible explanation: Scientists did not have the same opportunities for informal interaction at digital events as in-person events (at networking events and over meals, for example), so they were more intentional about it.

A two-part article in Pharmaphorum explored the benefits of in-person, online, and hybrid medical conferences and predicted that in 2030, descriptions of medical society congresses may read: “A virtual, nearly carbon-neutral, multi-hub, multi-lingual, patients-included, AI-assisted congress offering state-of-the-art medical education and CME options.”

Industrial Supply Association president Brendan Breen described in an Industrial Distribution article how learnings from their 2021 virtual event led them to reimagine their upcoming April annual trade show in Houston as a leadership retreat for business execs, with mini-summits of related work- shops held online in the weeks following for the rest of their staff. “We have all had to find new ways of connecting with each other these past few years,” Breen said, which left “a permanent impression on our members. As a result, we could not simply snap back to our old model of a traditional trade show and expect everyone to return just because they missed each other. We had to provide a different experience.”


From Within

Of course, we need to learn from our own business events ecosystem to help reimagine events. In this issue, we talk to an attorney about rethinking the force majeure clause; a trade-show producer who is using data to reengineer the in-person and digital experience; convention center operators, CVB sales and marketing execs, and architects about how the venue model has changed around new expectations as a result of the pandemic; and an event director and tech provider about the use of holograms.

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.