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What’s it like to go onsite?

What’s it like to go onsite?


We caught up with two of the newer members of our team to hear what they thought of their very first onsite experience. Alice Kirby, an Associate Medical Writer, attended the European Society for Medical Oncology congress and Brittany Williamson, an Account Executive, attended the European Respiratory Society congress.


European Society for Medical Oncology - Alice Kirby, AMW
What was your role onsite?
As an Associate Medical Writer (AMW), my role was to support the editorial team by attending poster sessions and seminars of interest. We were helping the client to run internal meetings each morning to summarise the important data from each day of the congress; this meant I had to relay the information to the rest of the team as soon as possible after each session to allow them enough time to prepare the content for the next day’s meeting!
Was your experience of going onsite any different from what you had expected?
I didn’t realise how big the congress centre would be – my flat shoes came in handy when having to get from one session to another, as sometimes they were quite far apart! The congress itself was mostly what I’d expected, with lots of interesting sessions to attend and lots of people milling around the posters discussing their own research. However, I had only attended small conferences in the past so I had never seen a medical or commercial booth in real life; I was amazed to see that some of them had their own coffee bars complete with baristas!
What were some of the most exciting/interesting things you saw when you were there?
I really enjoyed visiting our client’s booth as it was exciting to see the content ‘in action’ on a big screen (it can feel quite different when you are just looking at it on a laptop)! I also really enjoyed looking at the other booths to see how they were themed and how they had presented their content. During the sessions I attended, the audiences seemed really engaged and it was interesting to hear doctors talk about their clinical experiences as that’s something I hadn’t had exposure to before.
Did you get any inspiration for future projects?
Yes! Some of the concepts for the booths and symposia were really innovative; seeing the types of language and imagery other people were using has helped me think of different ways to present my own work. There was a poster for one symposium that had used a movie-style format with the speakers as film stars – I thought it was really creative and it helped me to bring in some imaginative ideas when I was tasked with developing a theme for our next symposium. 

What advice would you give to an AMW/AE going onsite for the first time?
Prepare a few smart outfits before you leave so you don’t need to worry about what to wear when you get there. Also try and set aside some time to attend a few sessions you might be interested in and make sure to wander around the exhibition booths to get inspiration and ideas. Most importantly, enjoy your time onsite!


European Respiratory Society - Brittany Williamson, AE
What was your role onsite?
As an Account Executive, my role was mainly managing the logistics of our client’s onsite involvement. This included making sure our scientific material was approved and set up as required, ensuring our delegates were able to find our symposium room, and being on-hand for any problems that might come up. On top of our symposium, I also supported a mini-lecture series at our client's booth and became the go-to for queries, sound-checks, water, and laptop chargers!
Was your experience of going onsite any different from what you had expected?
Absolutely! I have been to national conferences before, but presenting data at an academic conference is entirely different from supporting one of the many events going on at a pharmaceutical-sponsored congress. In my prior conference experiences as a student, you shuffle to and from different sessions that are planned for you but you as an AE, you are responsible for knowing what is happening at all times for anything and everything that will bring success to your client’s events. Being on the client services team means you are solving problems of all sizes, and making it seem effortless while doing it!
What were some of the most exciting/interesting things you saw when you were there?
Without a doubt, the exhibition hall with the medical and commercial booths were the most exciting for me. We showed up at 8pm the night before and the massive hall was full of construction workers, AV teams, and tech guys doing their initial checks. There were planks of wood, wires, people and saw dust everywhere. The next morning, upon returning to the hall, it looked like a magical science store. They decked the halls in posters, lights, movies, and simulations all depicting the drugs and devices that are used to treat respiratory diseases. I had no idea the amount of work that went into a pharmaceutical event, but the transformation of the exhibition hall demonstrated the months of effort all put into action!
Did you get any inspiration for future projects?
I thought that the mini lecture series at the exhibition hall booth was very cool. We had around twenty chairs and wireless headsets for people to tune into to a live talk. Even though the lectures took place amidst hundreds of other booths, the small area gave an intimate setting and the headsets allowed proper engagement without distraction. I thought it made a nice use of the space that encouraged involvement of passers-by who might have otherwise walked on.
What advice would you give to an AMW/AE going onsite for the first time?
Wear comfortable shoes, stay hydrated, bring wrinkle-free clothing (as if you'd have time to iron!) and carry a spare snack bar with you! More seriously, know your work inside and out. Knowledge will give you confidence and your client will notice how poised and organised you are.