A look back at the EuroPCR 2020 and the teaser for the 2021 edition with PCO Europa Group

How do you turn a physical congress with 10,000 participants into a virtual congress, as was the case for the EuroPCR in 2020? What are the lessons that have been learned to help prepare for the 2021 edition? Jérôme Sicchi, Head of Business Development at PCO Europa Group, gives us his feedback on the experience.

Can you tell us more about the Europa Group?

Jérôme Sicchi Europa Group

Europa Group is an agency that seeks to provide a global solution to the daily challenges in the medical and scientific communities. Our 300 employees support the growth of learned societies and businesses through a wide range of services and professions.

Our expertise is varied and encompasses hybrid, physical and digital events, editing and enhancement of content, audience activation, education, audiovisual production and data processing.

Last year, you held the EuroPCR 2020 in a virtual format. On what data and findings did you base the organization of this congress? 

The cancellation of the EuroPCR 2020 in a physical format, due to the health crisis, confronted us with a major challenge: How to maintain scientific dialogue and sharing within the vast Interventional Cardiovascular global community without this physical event of more than 10,000 participants?

Shortly after the cancellation, a solution was found in the form a 100% online format. Following a bid invitation and a search for best practices, we selected a leading platform, whose highly immersive interface facilitates the circulation of participants, who find themselves on a home page similar to the reception hall of a congress centre. This platform made it possible to have an exhibition area, plenary rooms and meeting rooms, a corner for virtual coffee breaks …

Can you give us an assessment of the congress? What were the factors of its success?

Europa Group EuroPCR 2020

Although virtual, the EuroPCR 2020 was a great success with more than 15,000 registered participants and very high individual participation times.

This first huge project resulted in several lessons learned, some of which were counter intuitive. During the long sessions, contrary to all expectations, we noted for example an excellent attendance on the part of participants, even in comparison to shorter sessions. That showed us that besides the duration, it is above all the quality of the content that makes the difference in a virtual congress.

The event-driven nature of the congress is paramount and was much appreciated: we placed an emphasis on live sessions and online appointment booking, among other things, to compensate for the lack of physical interaction.

On the other hand, we noted that moving from a physical to a virtual expo was less effective in terms of encouraging informal and spontaneous dialogue among participants. The sponsored live sessions, in particular the symposia, were well attended and talked about.

Free registration, high expectations from the community for a large-scale learning experience, and the quality of the promotional programme were important factors in the success of this project.

Europa Group has drawn on the lessons learned in 2020 to devise a hybrid event with a totally innovative format. Once again, partners, participants and other stakeholders were surveyed to identify best practices and new expectations following their digital experiences in 2020. Many new digital platforms were studied before concluding that as a PCO and Web publisher, we were the best placed to devise the ideal web environment for our customers. We therefore decided to develop our own solution drawing on our internal resources.

In May this year, you are holding the PCR 2021 Congress. What adaptations are you making to this congress in the light of what you learned from the previous edition?

Europa Group plateforme

Europa Group has strengthened its digital expertise and invested in a platform to meet the specific challenges of academic and scientific congresses.

A number of priorities emerged in addition to immersivity:

  • The quality of the video streaming, the ‘key’ online tool
  • Interactivity, particularly on the training sessions, in order to develop the event aspect
  • The collection of data, which is a major factor in the development of virtual congresses.

In 2021, our new technologies and expertise have enabled us to devise a hybrid event with an innovative format in interventional cardiology:

- 3 digital events precede the main event in order to multiply the scientific presentations. 300 speakers will be invited for each of the events.

- A return to an enrolment fee (50% of the usual amount): Educational content is once again valued and ensures the sustainability of the community's activities.   

- Increase in live events: 4 live channels will be available from a network of 5 studios around the world (of which the main one was developed in our Parisian TV studio in Rue de Prony).

 - A dedicated hybrid format is put in place:
11 Official PCR Hubs, spaces where people can meet up in person, will be opened around the world for groups of participants, under the responsibility of local scientific representatives. The number of participants will depend on the local health situation at the time (between 10 and 250 participants per Hub). They will broadcast and produce content distributed via our Platform.
Creation of PODs: Like the Hub, the PODs make it possible to get together in person. Left to the initiative of the sponsors, they make it possible to bring together a minimum of 20 participants. On a global level, some thirty or so PODs are envisaged.

The Studios, PCR Hubs and Pods become new places for the co-construction of the programme, shared expertise, and conviviality.

Finally, can you tell us what the obstacles have been but also the opportunities for development that have arisen from the current crisis?

The Covid-19 crisis has caused an extremely rapid shift in our activities towards digital. To meet this challenge, Europa Group set up a Task Force to study the aspects of this new market, particularly at the technical and human level. From these studies we established an action and marketing plan that we are still rolling out today.

As we see it, this period has led to a rapid maturing of the digital culture that will have a long-term impact on our activities. Hybrid projects in particular will become dominant and will encourage the development of agencies whose internal resources will be able to design, implement and promote innovative formats, capable of hosting communities both digitally and in person.

Europa Group already had a strong digital experience with several disciplinary portals headed by a department specializing in digital marketing, Europa Digital Publishing, as well as a TV studio at the heart of Paris, in Rue de Prony. We have invested in building on these experiences to increase our audiovisual production, notably with virtual studios.

The rapid increase in the skills of our IT teams has resulted in the internalization, then industrialization of the creation of web platforms able to distribute content to thousands of participants. The platforms have been designed in an evolving way. So, we can now offer our learned society partners the necessary flexibility to decide late on about the modes of distribution, or about the share of content that will be produced in a physical studio or in a virtual studio. Experience has taught us that between a physical project and a digital project the cursor has to move rapidly to respond efficiently to the health constraints.

Of course, these activities take us into the world of data processing. The tools developed over recent years by our group have already enabled us to define what content to distribute to what audiences. This differentiated distribution strategy has led to an increase in the return on investment of our partners while at the same time ensuring that the use of data is respectful of the interests of community members, our top priority. Reasoned use of data contributes to developing trust, and therefore the effectiveness of content reception, which is the main objective of our customers, particularly in the field of healthcare.

Although our experts already offer very detailed analyses, we are convinced that the collection and processing of data represent major strategic issues for the future. It is hand-in-hand, digitally speaking of course, with our partners and our learned society customers that we will continue along these lines in order to bring constantly renewed added value to members of these communities.

Europa Group

Congress organizer (PCO)
  • Porte Maillot - Monceau

Since 1987, Europa Organisation has organized national and international congresses, and has organized more than 500 congresses,......