Country: Germany

Author: Annelie Schönfeld

The German Parkinson and Movement Disorder Congress takes place biannually and moves from congress location to another within Germany, CPO HANSER SERVICE has been organising the congress for a long time. With the Covid-19 pandemic putting the on-site congress business on hold, the German Association for Parkinson and Movement Disorders was forced to postpone the scheduled on-site congress from March 2021 to March 2022. However, the two organizing associations, the German Association for Parkinson and Movement Disorders and the Botulinum Toxin Working Group, agreed to offer a shorter virtual highlights event instead of simply going into hiatus.

The virtual highlights event was never meant to replace the full 3-day on-site congress. Instead, the scientific committee chose to implement the plenary lectures and a limited number of symposia about relevant topics such as the link between movement disorder and Covid-19 or latest research findings in the treatment of spasticity and dystonia. 80 percent of the scientific programme that was selected through the common abstract submission process will still be available during the on-site congress next year.

Studies show that congress delegates are “viewing online content for between 1-3 hours per congress day, almost exclusively on their own at home” (“Healthcare Professionals’ Experiences of Virtual Congress” study by International Pharmaceutical Congress Advisory Association (IPCAA) and global healthcare specialist, Ashfield Event Experiences). Thus, it was decided to limit the scientific content to two afternoons while offering industry symposia before and afterwards. Other key factors for a successful virtual event were offering scientific content on-demand for 3 months after the live event and applying for CME accreditation with the Medical Association Berlin (Ärztekammer Berlin).

Proposing an updated portfolio of sponsoring opportunities and items to the industry partners also proved to be quite successful. Most sponsoring companies chose to support the virtual event by offering their own industry symposia and being part of the virtual industry exhibition. Other sponsoring items included advertisement in the congress newsletter, the social media channel and CPO HANSER SERVICE’s virtual congress portal used to stream the live and on-demand sessions.

In conclusion, shorter virtual highlight events with condensed scientific content can be a great way to bridge the Covid-19-induced time gap until the next face-to-face congress. The key ingredients are shortening the program, implementing highlight speakers, offering on-demand content, seeking CME accreditation, and gaining industry support by offering a customized virtual sponsoring portfolio.