How to engage young scientists at events

AIM Group International Best Practice looks at engaging and attracting millennial delegates entering the job market.

Dedicated content, innovative formats, social media and communication, will lead to greater engagement of young scientific delegates and help make an event a success, according to AIM Group.

"The generational turnover among congress participants is already underway and will be very evident in the next four to five years," said Rosangela Quieti, managing director Congress Division AIM Group International.

"Each association must find the best initiatives to engage and attract young participants. If successful, associations will nurture the engagement of the new generations who will guarantee the success of the organisations in the future."

AIM Group offers some best practice tips:

Get them involved at the highest level

Involve young scientific delegates in the life of an association or organisation at the highest level, the boardroom, where decisions are being made.

For example, the Italian Society of General Practitioners (SIMG), created a "parallel young board" beside the executive board. The young board nominated a young representative to join the executive board. It meant that 2018 SIMG Congress held in Florence focused on younger GP needs.

Dedicated practical courses and discounted rates were offered. This strategy worked and for the first time the under-35 delegates represented more than half of the 2,800 participants.

Social ambassadors and communication multipliers

At the SIFO 2018 Congress (Association of Hospital Pharmacists), held in Naples with 1,700 delegates, a ‘youth area’ for under-35s in the association sparked engagement through media.

Young delegates managed social media communication and contributed to posts and shares on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

At the World Scleroderma Congress 2018, young physicians created a series of video interviews with the senior experts on different topics and posted them on the association's YouTube channel.

Networking and dedicated sessions

Young scientific delegates have their own specific needs and experiences to share, so arrange dedicated sessions for this age group. At the SIR 2018 Congress, held in Rimini with 1,500 rheumatologists, 60% of the speakers were under 40.

A 'SIR Young Evening' engaged members of the association of Rheumatic Sufferers, connecting physicians and patients.

At the AIJA Congress (International Association of Young Lawyers), young local lawyers invited a small group of young delegates for a private dinner at their homes.

At EuroCMR (European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging) "speed mentoring" was organised in a dedicated lounge.

Young doctors had the opportunity to have 15-minute chats with senior experts on particular topics.

At EANS Congress (European Association of Neurosurgical Societies), the association organised a series of masterclasses, where a senior expert was available to a small group of attendees.

Award the best

Use special award categories for the under-40s or under-35s that can be developed that recognise outstanding presentations or abstracts. An increasingly common incentive is to reward exceptional young doctors by inviting them to the World or European congress.

As an example at SIR, the top ten ‘under-40’ abstracts authors received a grant to participate in the European Congress of Rheumatology 2019.

Economic grants

Can be a very popular solution to incentivise young scientists to participate in a congress, by offering some granted subscriptions for the under-35s. 

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