For the last 18 months, online conferences have been widely adopted by the medical and healthcare community out of necessity – but as we move away from the pandemic and social distancing restrictions are lifted, are online meetings still the best way to host medical conferences?
This article will examine the pros and cons of online events for medical conferences to determine how to host them moving forward.
Pros of online events for medical conferences
1. Online events save attendees time and money
One of the most significant benefits of online events is that participants do not have to spend time or money to travel to the medical conference as they usually would. This can often make events more appealing to some attendees as they only have to cover the registration cost.
2. Online events can feel more inclusive.
Research has shown that medical conferences hosted online are more accessible to everyone.
Since there are no travel or accommodation costs for attendees to consider, medical conferences hosted online are more viable for junior professionals with less income to spend on events and thus making your conference audience more diverse.
Less travel means that medical conferences hosted online may also be more viable to those who have busy schedules and would not usually be able to take the time to attend an in-person event.
3. Online events are better for the environment.
Green meetings and events are integral to the future of our planet and essential in the eyes of the public. The more companies can do to be sustainable in their practices, the better it is for everyone.
With no travel involved when online events are used for medical conferences, there are fewer emissions to pollute the environment as a result of the event.
4. Online events created on-demand content.
Virtual events are often recorded, which means that you can make critical parts of your medical conference available on-demand, e.g., guest speakers and product demonstrations.
This means that you can give your attendees the benefit of watching the event back (which they would not get with an in-person event), attract audiences who cannot attend on the day, and increase revenue through additional registrations.
5. Online events have no physical limits for organisers.
While organising an online event has challenges of its own, it does have the benefit of not posing the same physical limitations as an in-person conference. Online events have no attendance limits based on available space or health and safety regulations. It also removes many physical risks one must account for when organising a conference with in-person attendees and staff.
Cons of online events for medical conferences
1. Online events feel less interactive
A common complaint about online events is that they feel less interactive.
A crucial part of any medical or healthcare conference is the ability to physically engage with simulations and product demos – which cannot be done in the same way online.
Networking is also a popular part of medical conferences, giving professionals of all levels and specialisms the chance to connect and exchange ideas. While breakout rooms and 1-1’s can be organised at online events to facilitate networking, they generally lack the spontaneous and engaging energy you find at in-person events.
Despite these drawbacks, there are a few ways you can enhance engagement at your online event.
2. Online conferences are more liable to distractions.
Attendees will get the most out of a medical conference when they are fully present, attentive, and focused on the subject matter.
While virtual events are more accessible for healthcare professionals, their remote nature leaves them more open to distractions from home or work.
Medical professionals will likely carry on with their everyday lives in the hours leading up to the event. They will not probably take the time to switch from everything else and get into a focused mindset for the conference.
Attending the conference online also means that they could be distracted by a co-worker, family member, or work commitment during the event.
3. Online events can have skewed perceptions.
While online conferences may feel ‘easier’ for professionals to attend, it can also mean that they don’t feel as important or that attendees do not feel as committed to attending.
The perception of your medical conference is vital for your marketing, ability to attract authoritative speakers, and secure valuable sponsors to cover the cost of the event.
Many medical conferences hosted online can be near-identical to those hosted in-person in terms of content and benefit. Still, their nature can leave perceptions from your audience and sponsors significantly skewed.
4. Limited exposure for sponsors
Sponsors invest in your event to get results, but they will only get results through exposure. With fewer physical areas and physical interactions for your attendees to experience, your sponsors may feel that their exposure is limited.
Without proper consideration for delivering value for your sponsors, online events can be less appealing and more difficult to secure funding for.
Related: How to secure sponsorship for online events
So, what should the future of medical conferences look like?
Since there are methods for mitigating and minimising the drawbacks of online events, these could still be an option for organisers willing to go the extra mile to make them work.
However, there is arguably no substitute for personal interaction and engagement in the healthcare industry. This makes us believe that we are likely to see medical conferences return as primarily in-person events – with the addition of hybrid events to maximise the benefits of both mediums.
No matter what format you are looking at using for your conference, our team of professional conference organisers can help you plan and deliver great experiences for your attendees, sponsors and business.
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Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency delivering customised solutions. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings, including the management of hotel rooms and strategic consultancy. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 73’000 delegates. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organisations, and corporations.