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October 1, 2010

Rosalyn McLeod:Creating a high-quality scientific programme

The managing director of Arinex discusses how to develop one of the essential delegate drivers for science-focused conferences.

The key to developing a high-quality scientific programme comes with forward planning and in-depth knowledge/expertise of the industry.

This can be done in different ways, but the most common would be via a scientific programme committee, which is a compilation of international experts or a local appointed from the host country or nearby region, or in some cases a retained expert paid to research and capture the most up-to-date science.

Attracting delegates
What attracts delegates to one congress rather than another? Without doubt it is the marketing of the programme that will increase attendance. However, the delegates will not come in numbers without the right attraction, so what will that be?

Putting destination, convenience and cost aside, it has to be the quality of the education offered by renowned speakers and a high-quality scientific
programme. Delegates want to hear from international experts who have made groundbreaking achievements, so that they can advance their own knowledge. They also want the opportunity to network with notable persons in the field.

Role of the committee and PCO
The scientific committee, typically, is made up of experts within the range of scientific topics covered by the conference. It is the role of this committee to identify and invite keynote speakers, who will provide the necessary appeal.

Their expertise and knowledge of current issues, new techniques and new procedures will drive the foundation of the scientific programme. Usually, the scientific committee teams up with the professional conference organizer (PCO) to facilitate the process of programme management.

The scientists make the policy decisions and programme selection, while the PCO facilitates the electronic management process.

Speakers, etc
What makes one speaker more appealing than another? Recognised achievement is probably one criterion. Being well known in a local environment is not the same as being internationally renowned!

However, identifying good presenters and state-of-the-art experts may not be the only natural magnets. Appropriate and widespread marketing is a key factor in attracting the numbers by getting the quality programme broadcast to more than just those who usually attend. Via webcasting and electronic posters, a quality programme can reach a wider audience than ever before and bring much more value to the congress and its host association.

The experience of the PCO
In fact, the PCO can offer a scientific approach to programme management as a result of repeated experiences across a range of fields and disciplines. To obtain a high-quality scientific programme, the injection of ideas from the PCO will add value and enable a better quality outcome.

It is the PCO’s responsibility to present the most appropriate abstract submission and review process for programme allocation, as well as to provide the operational and logistical tools to aid the process.

Using innovation
Technology plays a key role in generating a successful outcome. It is changing at a rate of knots, which is why few clients invest in their own systems – it really isn’t wise to do so!

One needs to use the system multiple times each year just to be able to develop the expertise to use it and by then it needs upgrading! Size does matter in technology and the PCO needs to be sharp and progressive to keep pace with changing needs.

Discerning delegates determine whether the quality of the programme is high or low. Getting it right is a challenge and it is achieved when the team of scientific committee and PCO has the right experience and infrastructure to achieve the desired outcome.

Roslyn McLeod is managing director of Sydney-based professional conference organiser Arinex and Dean of the INCON University.

For more about INCON, visit www.incon-pco.com

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