Life Science Conferences Have Changed: Has Your Marketing Kept Up?


Conferences, congresses, summits, and gatherings—they’re the lifeblood of life sciences. In the last four years, we’ve witnessed a global shift to a largely virtual offering, then an equally large shift back to an attempt to return to post-pandemic “normalcy”, and now a wide scale offering of hybrid options for events.

In any event, the transformations in the conference world are clear. Adjusting your marketing approaches accordingly is crucial for success.

How Have Conferences Changed?

The changes in conferences have happened on multiple levels. Hybridity options allow for wider accessibility but may limit on-site connection: Networking opportunities, like lunches and dinners, have diminished, reducing prime occasions for forging meaningful connections. Pricing structures have shifted, often rising for individual attendees, as companies are practicing more conservative financial models post-pandemic, reducing options for large-scale sponsorship.

Conferences are now predominantly hosted in biopharma hubs like Boston and San Diego. This is sensible given tighter corporate budgets, but it also means local attendees often come and go, reducing spontaneous networking opportunities with new prospects.

Organizers are now “stacking” events with pre- and post-conference workshops and scheduling them alongside major industry events. Multiple parallel tracks, sometimes five to seven, are now common, which can be overwhelming for attendees.

Technology has dramatically reshaped conferences. Last-minute agenda changes are instantly communicated, and content is accessible online before and after the event. Virtual conferences have also emerged, allowing participation from home, enhancing convenience and accessibility.

Insider Tips for Effective Conference Strategy

To align marketing strategies with these changes, consider the following tips:

  • Venue Logistics: Check if the venue has changed and evaluate the distance between the expo hall and session rooms. Multi-floor layouts can hinder attendee flow.
  • Expo Space Arrangement: Grouping by sub-field or product theme can work to your advantage, allowing the leveraging of competitors’ traffic.
  • Parallel Tracks: Be aware of how many tracks run concurrently with expo hours, impacting attendee availability.
  • Partnering Technology: Utilize scheduling tools early. Craft concise invitations focusing on how you can solve attendees’ problems.
  • Event Timing: Consider if the conference dates clash with major industry events or holidays, which can increase costs and complexity.
  • Seasonal Considerations: Winter conferences often face travel disruptions, reducing attendance and risking speaker availability.
  • Event Health Indicators: A flood of promotional emails and registration discounts may indicate lower-than-expected attendance.
  • Social Events: Evaluate the networking opportunities at opening receptions and evening events.
  • Specialized Events: If attending a long-running conference, look for newer, specialized events in specific sub-fields.
  • Plan Ahead: Budget cycles typically finalize before September, so planning the conference strategy early is essential.
Maximizing Conference Value

Conferences continue to be a crucial sales and marketing channel, generating high-quality leads. Early planning is essential to secure prime booth locations, meeting spaces, and affordable lodging. If the event offers formalized partnering opportunities, be sure to send meeting requests early with customized invitations. Sending a quick request to meet via email or LinkedIn is a great way to make a personalized connection before the conference gets underway. See the following example below:

Tips for Personalizing Meeting Requests
  1. Personalize the Subject Line:
    • Use the recipient’s name or reference the conference/event.
    • Example: "Dr. Johnson, Let’s Discuss Innovations at BioTech 2024"
  2. Tailor the Content:
    • Mention specific topics or sessions the recipient is interested in.
    • Example: "I noticed you’re presenting on immunotherapy at the upcoming summit. We have some exciting developments in this area that I believe you’ll find valuable."
  3. Highlight Benefits:
    • Clearly state the value of the meeting for the recipient.
    • Example: "Our new technology could help streamline your research processes and increase efficiency in your current projects."
  4. Include a Call-to-Action:
    • Make it easy to schedule the meeting.
    • Example: "Please select a convenient time from my calendar [link to scheduling tool]."
What Should I Bring?

It’s true that the world has largely gone digital—and conferences have, too. But don’t show up empty handed, especially if you’re presenting as a vendor or planning to primarily work the conference in a networking capacity.

  • Business Cards: Bring plenty of high-quality, professional business cards—either digital or printed, and streamline your design ahead of time. Include your name, title, company, email, phone number, and a QR code linked directly to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Brochures and Flyers: Your brochures and/or flyers should contain key information about your products, services, or research in a concise, visually appealing format. A bonus tip: These can be in QR code format on the back of your business cards, eliminating the need to carry around extra printed material. 
  • Literature: Case studies, whitepapers, or scientific publications showcasing your work.
  • Digital Presentation Tools: Bring a laptop or tablet for digital presentations, demos, and accessing online resources, and don’t forget any chargers or adapters needed to ensure all your devices stay powered throughout the conference.
  • Marketing Collateral: Eye-catching visuals for your booth or presentation area, like posters, banners, backdrops, are portable and easy to set up—and perfect for showcasing your key messaging.
  • Conference-Specific Materials: A digital planner is key for staying on track. Keep a copy of the conference schedule and your pre-scheduled meeting itinerary on hand for easy reference.
  • Stay Connected (and Prepared): Being back on the tradeshow floor after years of virtual-only events is exciting. Since you'll be on the go all day, remember to bring a phone charger. When the exhibition floor closes, there's a rush for taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts. Pre-book your rideshare a few hours before departure to stay ahead of the queue.

Conferences have transformed, and your marketing strategies should evolve too. Embracing these changes is essential to maximize impact and achieve your goals. Need a hand in strategizing for success at your next event? Bracken’s marketing services team excels at that. Contact us today to learn more about our scalable support—for your solutions.

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