Mathias Posch is president and partner of International Conference Services, Ltd., a full-service meeting planning company based in Vancouver, and one with a strong track record in international medical meetings. Posch is also vice president of the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO), a leading international organization for professional meeting planners. No stranger to the world of digital/hybrid events, Posch has been helping clients create these types of meetings since 2009. DEI reached out to this thought-leader to get his perspective on the role digital meetings can play in furthering the strategic objectives of medical associations, particularly those with an international scope.
What advice would you offer to a medical association considering a digital or hybrid event?
The first question is why do you want to do it? Most associations will say something like “to grow our membership,” but that should be the result not the reason. Better reasons might be: “we want to be the education headquarters for our profession,” or “we want to be the year-round service, information, and education touch point for our profession.” Goals like these require a long-term strategy and appropriate investment. Digital/hybrid programs should be part of a long-term strategy. The value they bring is built up over time and results in an expanding membership. If you just do a series of digital programs to drive growth, you’re going to give up too quick.
Can you give some examples of how your company has worked with medical and healthcare organizations to implement online or hybrid conferences?
I’ll give two examples that speak to very different needs, scope, goals, and budgets. We work with a medical association on the group’s annual international conference involving participants from over 100 countries. We will capture 500 sessions from the live event, which draws about 6,000 attendees. Then we create region-specific live events, showing select recorded sessions and identifying local speakers and sponsors to host the event. Global rules and regulations on physician activities and pharma compliance are very complex, and this type of approach gives the association a chance to present material that is in compliance for the specific country or region.
On the other end of the spectrum, we work with another association to create an online education conference for lactation consultants — the cost and time-away to attend an in-person conference being prohibitive for this group. The online conference is a half-day program that runs for five days total over almost a month. This works well because the audience spans over 50 countries, so people can access the program when convenient. There is a registration fee, and registrants can earn continuing education credits.
The important thing is to customize the online or hybrid strategy to the particular needs and goals of the organization.
What other thoughts do you have about launching a digital/hybrid meeting?
People need to look for the right kind of partner. Most will turn to a technology company because they are looking for help with the technical aspects. But what’s important is a partner who understands the bigger picture. We bring 40 years of expertise organizing live meetings and translate that into the online world. The technology of bringing people together should always serve the larger organizational goals, not drive it.