8 Key Highlights: Conferences and Exhibit Strategies in the Life Sciences 

It’s no secret that the life science industry presents a unique set of challenges for conference organizers, marketers, and commercial teams aiming to create memorable experiences that provide attendees with valuable learning and networking opportunities. In our recent report, 2024 Trends in Conferences and Exhibit Strategies in the Life Sciences, we uncover insights to help exhibitors and conference organizers better understand attendee preferences. In this blog, we’ll dig into key findings from the report.

Study Overview & Objectives 

Our study set out to explore the beliefs and attitudes of scientists towards scientific conferences, with a focus on mapping out trends, preferences, and logistical factors shaping conference selection. Through a comprehensive survey consisting of 45 questions, we engaged members of the Science Advisory Board, representing academia and industry professionals in North America and Europe.  

Demographic analysis revealed a diverse respondent base, with representation from various types of academic and industry organizations. Respondents ranged in their involvement in the selection of products, job position, age and experience.  

Notably, most respondents perceive in-person conferences as essential for professional development, with preferences for conference sizes and formats.

8 Key Highlights 

Several findings emerged during data analysis, including:  

  1. Most respondents prefer mid-sized (100-1,000 attendees) conferences. The average number of in-person conferences attended, regardless of size, was 3.4 in 2023. In 2018, respondents averaged attending 3.9 conferences per year. 
  1. Over the past 3 years, respondents have attended 4-5 virtual conferences and 2-3 hybrid conferences on average. Elimination of travel costs remains the best advantage for virtual conferences.  
  1. 79% of respondents indicate they are members of scientific societies led by AACR, ACS, ASCB, and ASM. There were 118 unique societies mentioned, and most of those cited in the “other” category had a regional focus and/or speak to a certain scientific discipline. 
  1. Travel cost, registration fees, and location are key logistical considerations. Those top 3 factors remain consistent from research conducted in 2018.  
  1. 62% of respondents highly value in-person conferences for professional development, with perceptions suggesting that virtual and hybrid conferences lack comparable engagement and developmental opportunities, a sentiment shared across generations. 
  1. Conference organizers should minimize conflicts between sessions and provide more opportunities to network. Compared to 2018 survey results, networking opportunities have usurped session speakers in popularity as the most preferred factor of in-person conferences. 
  1. Vendor exhibits are most important in helping respondents learn about or evaluate instrumentation they plan to purchase for their lab.  
  1. Respondents tend to avoid vendor booths with aggressive staff or when booths are unattended. They typically visit booths only for products they need, underscoring the importance of adequate staffing to capitalize on potential leads. 

In addition to these highlights, this study introduced the concept of in-person conference attendee personas, offering nuanced insights into the diverse profiles of conference participants. These personas provide valuable guidance for vendors and event organizers, allowing them to tailor their strategies to better meet attendee needs and preferences. 

The insights uncovered from this study emphasize the importance of understanding attendee preferences and adapting to emerging trends. Professionals in the life sciences industry can leverage these insights to navigate the conference landscape effectively. If you’re interested in exploring the full scope of the report, visit our website here.