Case Study of the European Congress of Radiol...
Case Study of the European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in Vienna. From tagungswirtschaft 2/2017. By Christian Funk

The IKEA effect


The European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in Vienna saw record attendance in 2017. This despite the fact that all its content was broadcast live via the internet, or perhaps because? 26,829 participants – of which around 5,700 purely online – at the European Congress of Radiology (ECR) held between 1 and 5 March 2017 at the Austria Center Vienna was a record for the European Society of Radiology (ESR) organising the event. “2017 was the most successful congress we have ever held”, said Konrad Friedrich, Head of Department Conference Management & Marketing of ESR. Friedrich is responsible for implementing the congress with a team of three. “We are the contacts for organisation and coordination, but actually over a hundred people are involved.” The congress was a success not only from the participants’ perspective. A total of 6,757 abstracts were submitted for 2017, equivalent to an increase of almost 23 per cent on 2016. In addition to concentrating on a high level of quality of scientific content, the main focus of the 29th ECR however was on the increasing number of Generation Y participants. Average visitor age is now 41.5. “This success is the result of our Invest in the Youth programme, which we launched at the beginning of the 2000s”, explains Friedrich. The programme offers 1,000 young radiologists and radiology technologists in training the opportunity to take part in the congress free of charge – including overnight accommodation costs – after they submit an abstract. “Average visitor age has fallen by eight years since 2010.”
ECR 2017 president Prof. Paul M. Parizel is particularly pleased: “The unique feature of ECR 2017 compared with earlier congresses was that our meeting focused explicitly on young people. I chose ‘The Flower Gardens of Radiology’ as the slogan for the ECR 2017 because radiation research is like a beautiful and aromatic flower garden, which is exactly the message I wanted to communicate to young talent”, he said. “I am extremely happy and proud that this new generation in radiation research has responded to the call. The ECR 2017 was characterised by energy, strength of innovation and enthusiasm.” The ESR responds to the needs of younger participants with interactive presentation formats and various networking activities. “But of course powerful Wi-Fi also plays an important role”, says Konrad Friedrich. At almost fifty per cent, the proportion of female visitors to the congress was remarkable. “All our committees are very diverse and this diversity is appropriately supported, so we are especially pleased by this data, although it must be remembered that the proportion of women in radiology is in any case greater than in other medical specialisms”, according to Friedrich. An essential part of the overall concept of the congress is its focus on continuing and further training. The entire congress programme can therefore be viewed online free of charge. “It’s a complex story”, explains Thomas Berghausen, Director Sales at meta-fusion. The Cologne-based company is commissioned by the ESR to broadcast all its congress presentations, symposia and round table discussions from up to 25 rooms in parallel live via the internet over five days. A total of over 1,500 sessions already sounds “complex” for a team of twelve – the number of people on site involved in the broadcast. However, what makes the task distinctly more complex is the digital preparation of the content. Just one hour following its livestream, each presentation is available as a webcast with complete slide navigation – via the speaker’s slides – and full text search. For example, if a user would like to learn more about “Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT)” they search for these keywords, which take them to the section in the recording of the presentation during which the speaker explains how radioactive substances are used to combat malignant tumours. “We have indexed and sorted a total of over 100,000 individual slides”, explains Berghausen. “This generates enormous data depth.” The Cologne-based company takes a sustainable approach to knowledge transfer. “Despite the overuse of this term, this process is the actual digital ‘transformation’ of the congress”, according to Berghausen. Of the total 26,829 visitors, almost 5,700 follow the content live entirely online, i.e. without a ticket, while another 4,500 people use the digitally available presentations during the congress, even though they are physically present at the venue in Vienna. “This pattern of use shows that today the participants themselves are almost hybrid.” Berghausen explains a third way the recordings are used: “What also happens is that those visiting the congress use our webcasts to explain new findings to colleagues. This is entirely sustainable knowledge transfer”, says Berghausen. In addition to the approximately 10,000 users during the congress, another 4,000 users access the congress content throughout the whole year. Berghausen regards the further knowledge utilisation not only as an advantage, but he believes this kind of service also enhances the reputation of the specialist association and broadens its range of possibilities. Both Bayer AG and GE Healthcare, for example, have used the broadcasts and filled their own websites related to the congress and branded in their corporate design, with the ECR content to enable them to present their own solutions in radiology. According to Berghausen, their “intelligent webcasts” can also be used for precise target group evaluation, to show which kind of participant has watched which presentations. However, as conference manager Konrad Friedrich explains, the radiology congress does not make use of this possibility. The marketing is in any case not a focus of the ECR’s implementation as a hybrid congress. “Promotion of continuing and further training is firmly anchored in our association’s statutes”, explains Friedrich. “The work required to livestream the entire presentation programme and make it available later on demand costs more than it generates, so we are in fact taking a social approach.” The livestreaming would not be possible at all without the support of sponsors. “We want to offer our participants the best possible service”, says Friedrich, so the services of meta-fusion are commissioned, as the company offers the best possible solution. The ECR has been streaming its presentations online since 2013, back then in a very limited form. “In preparation, we visited United European Gastroenterology’s congress, UEG Week, where meta-fusion was also responsible for the hybrid implementation.” Thomas Berghausen smiles at the idea that livestreams will lead to congresses cannibalising themselves. “I think just the opposite is the case. We recommend our customers use the material for their own marketing. The increasing number of participants, as seen at the radiology congress, rather contradicts the idea that live broadcasts and webcasts reduce the number of participants physically present.” Conference manager Konrad Friedrich explains that many visitors now take livestreaming almost for granted. “I’d say it’s expected. Even the fact that a congress is hybrid no longer means it’s something special, so it has to be done particularly well”, says Friedrich; he does however regret that the association receives hardly any feedback. “Our feedback is simply the number of users: 14,000 users in 2016.” We do not plan to charge for the service. “Some time ago we did consider a payment model with a €10 monthly charge, but this pilot idea didn’t amount to anything, so we will not be offering a purely online ticket in the future either”, says Friedrich. Friedrich hopes that simply the quality of the content and the extraordinary service speak for themselves (“As far as I know, we are the only medical congress in Europa that consistently makes all content available throughout the year, especially at this quality”), attracting new participants in the future. “I call this the ‘Ikea effect’. If from the outset you habituate visitors to the high quality standard – and we clearly deliver this, partly with our content and partly with the livestream – then they will come back the next year of their own accord and recommend the congress to others, which is our intention and aim”, concludes Friedrich. The record participant numbers in 2017 appear to show this strategy is bearing fruit.                CHRISTIAN FUNK