How to Create Engaging Conferences

September 25, 2017 Samantha Green

The annual conference is a great time for societies to engage members and energize their communities, especially around their journals.

Bringing your members and attendees together in person offers a unique opportunity to reinforce the journal brand in innovative and effective ways. Integrating the journal into the society’s larger program of activities can boost readership and allows Editors to engage with delegates and new society members. Making the most out of conferences requires close collaboration between marketers, the journal’s editors, and the society in order to create an engagement strategy tailored to both the journal and society brand.

But how can societies try new things to engage their members at conferences? How can they do it when budgets are tight and the pressure to ensure success might drive conference planning teams toward the same events and activities as last year?


We asked a few society marketers at Wiley to describe some recent experiments they’ve done at conferences in collaboration with some of our society partners. Here’s what they told us:

The International Society for Neurochemistry: Shine the spotlight on your members

Lila Huizenga

I recently worked with the International Society for Neurochemistry and the editorial office of the Journal of Neurochemistry to develop an effective engagement strategy for the ISN-ESN Biennial Meeting that integrated the journal brand into the society conference activities. In celebration of the ISN’s 50th anniversary, we launched the #WeAreNeurochemistry campaign which showcased how the study of neurochemistry has shaped the lives of ISN members and conference delegates. The campaign celebrated some of the achievements and discoveries in the field, and showed the breadth and importance of neurochemistry to the scientific community and beyond.

#WeAreNeurochemistry was integrated into ISN’s booth design, email and social media communications, and conference engagement activities - all of which were planned collaboratively by Wiley marketing, the journal, and the society. I developed a range of campaign possibilities, with different engagement activities, designs, and visuals, for the society to review and feedback on. I worked with ISN to select and combine their favorite aspects of each prototype and produced a finalized campaign combining the best insights from the society and the expertise of Wiley’s marketing team.

To engage delegates and encourage participation in the campaign, we rented a photo booth and delegates had fun using the photos and videos they created to add to the online campaign website. #WeAreNeurochemistry ended up being a hit at the conference, with almost every delegate stopping by the photo booth, entering the contest, and sharing their original and engaging entries on social media. These entries proved very useful to ISN, and will be used to provide valuable insight into the experience and values of their members.

International Botanical Congress: Engage the local community with exclusive events

Lou Crawford

Wiley recently had a stand at the International Botanical Congress (IBC) in Shenzhen, China.  Described as the Olympic Games of botanical science, it takes place every six years and is hugely prestigious.

Wiley has worked with the New Phytologist Trust for many years and is delighted to be working with them on the launch of a new cross disciplinary, Open Access journal: Plants, People, Planet. We wanted to launch this at the IBC, as it was in keeping with the high standing of the Trust, the international renown of their current journal, New Phytologist, and in line with the aspirations and aims of the new journal.

Working as a team, we organized a launch event during the IBC and prepared materials so we could announce the new journal. This included a press release, which was picked up by local media and resulted in a short cable TV interview on the stand.


We also created branded collateral, including a pull-up banner, which helped us reveal our new logo and explain the aims and scope of the journal to delegates. The event was judged to be very successful.

International Congress of the International Academy of Pathology and the World Congress of Surgery: Make engagement fun for society members

Alix Fryer

Never start with a blank sheet of paper. Coming up with new ideas can be tricky, so taking inspiration from other exhibitors and activities you see elsewhere can be a fount of knowledge. Tailoring them to your needs can often change it significantly from your original source, but will help make it much easier than starting from scratch.


At the recent ICIAP, a few of my societies wanted to know more about the Pathology research community, so I came up with a web based game to ask pathologists key questions relating to my societies’ needs. The concept was to have a game, like Candy Crush Saga, which delegates could play for fun and relaxation, and we incorporated two or three questions between levels. A score board listing delegates’ names and scores created a competitive, exciting atmosphere. The game was really popular—word spread and suddenly everyone wanted to know who would get the highest score. Even in this light-hearted context, the answers to the questions were thoughtful and thorough.

At the World Congress of Surgery, we helped BJS broaden their reach and increase recognition by promoting both of their journals. Thinking back to a fun activity I saw for a Gin company at an airport, I wanted to create a space which the delegates themselves could personalize. To do this, I set up an area in the booth where delegates could write why research was important onto stickers and add them to our wall. We also offered a photo booth with specially designed speech bubbles pronouncing their answers. The photos and stand were branded with the two society journals and the queue for the booth extended longer than the coffee line!

Hopefully, these ideas have sparked some inspiration for your next society meeting. Whatever your engagement activity turns out to be, trying new things can keep your members engaged and eager to see what the next annual meeting will offer. Whether it’s fun, low cost social media experiments or innovative digital experiences, there’s a wide range of conference activities that can have a huge impact for your members.

Image Credit: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock


About the Author

Samantha Green

Society Marketing, Wiley // Samantha Green joined Wiley in 2012, working in the Social Science and Humanities Community Marketing team at Wiley. She now works in the Society Strategy & Marketing creating content on publishing trends and the research community.

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