Learning at the Forefront

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How EANS2018 put ideas, like ‘science slams,’ and easy-to-navigate event space into action to ensure knowledge was top priority at annual congress.

By Boardroom editors

By creating a streamlined experience with an easy-to-navigate event space, attention-grabbing breakout sessions, and innovative sponsorship models, planners can help congresses reach their full potential by ensuring an event’s emphasis is on powerful learning

Those ideas were put into action at last month’s EANS2018 conference in Brussels —a key event for the medical community. More than 1,500 neurosurgeons gathered at The European Association of Neurosurgical Societies’ “Neurosurgery — Facts, Fiction and Future” event held Oct. 21-25.

“The ever-changing landscape of events organisation, communication technologies, and sponsorship strategies [are behind the push] to innovate the way exhibition areas are planned and designed and the attendees are offered useful experiences,” said Kristofer Herlitz, managing director USA for AIM Group International, which organized the congress. “Today’s exhibitors need more than just an exhibit hall and strong attendance.”

AIM Group wanted to ensure participant engagement at EANS2018 and planned 99 scientific sessions (based on 1,100 selected abstracts) over the course of the event. Twenty-three intimate, interactive master classes were held with prominent surgeons, giving small groups the opportunity to interact one-on-one with these experts. A new featured format was “science slams.” Young physicians were given short time slots to present their research, which was then evaluated and voted on by attendees.

Because networking is a highlight at medical congresses, EANS2018 proposed programmes for attendees that mixed modern and traditional attractions in Brussels. For example, networking dinners were held at Autoworld Museum Brussels and at Egmont Palace, and the international closing dinner was at Brussels Town Hall.

On the tech front, user-friendly touch screens were just one example of the way technology was woven into EANS2018. These touch screens helped attendees navigate the event space, while scanning stations allowed for evaluation for continuing medical education (CME) credits. Exhibitors could also track the number of visitors and length of visit with beacons and Bluetooth technology, creating a heat map of where attendees gathered (and where they didn’t).

Another conference objective was to increase sponsorship, creating partnerships by attracting new — and more — sponsors. Building on work from previous congresses, EANS2018 increased sponsorship and exhibition revenue by 26 percent — and increased the sold exhibit area by 30 percent.

“You build relationships over time, but eventually your contacts change; a new generation is moving in and what excited your previous contact may not speak to your new contact — find out what they are thinking,” AIM Group advises planners.

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