Key Takeaways from ASCO 2023
Over the last 50+ years the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology has grown to be one of the world’s most prominent and anticipated gatherings in the field. The event now draws over 40,000 registrants each year who come in search of cutting-edge science, therapies and technologies across disease states as well as conversations on the latest-breaking cancer research.
It's an all-access pass to everything oncology, featuring over 200 educational sessions and a bustling exhibit floor with over 500 exhibiting companies. Even through the struggles of the pandemic, ASCO maintained impressively high attendance numbers both virtually and in-person. We were in attendance this year and wanted to share some observations and emerging trends from our ASCO 2023 experience.
Back And Better Than Ever
If you’ve been to a healthcare congress or event over the last 18 months or so, you probably had the impression that face-to-face events were “getting back to normal”. Our experience at ASCO blew past that marker. Every aspect of this year’s annual meeting was booming. And nowhere was this more palpable than on the exhibit floor. Large crowds and stunning exhibits were the order of the day and much of what we saw reinforced some general trends that we have seen emerging on healthcare show floors over the past couple of years.
Screens, Screens and More Screens
One of the leading trends we are seeing on the floor at medical events is a proliferation of very large LED displays. This was even more evident at ASCO as many of the biggest and best-known brands featured huge digital displays as the center-piece of their design. These displays are being used in ever more elaborate and interesting ways in both the commercial and medical areas booths.
The emphasis is on impact and drama that is unavoidable and creates communal moments rather than once popular technologies such as AR and VR that aimed for more individual moments.
Content As Structure
When the major structural elements in a booth are digital displays the design imperative becomes content. The leading brands are making good use of these displays using them to communicate primarily clinical and scientific information about the proven efficacy of their products. But they are doing so in a much more sophisticated and highly produced way.
The result is serious impact and wow-factor while still leaning on the science. This is different from the recent past where large displays primarily showed flash reels or more marketing-style visuals.
Medical’s Growing Influence
This strategy of creating impact while focusing on the science is in keeping with our own research that shows that healthcare attendees are keenly interested in the science of solutions and in having clinical conversations. Oncology is a field that is driven by “what’s next” and ASCO has long been a very science-heavy event. But the growing size and scope of the medical sections of many booths was still surprising. Some of the biggest brands on the floor had booths that were 60-70% medical—only featuring 2 or 3 branded products.
Science and the promise of the pipeline were big messages, and the medical areas were packed with engaged attendees.
These trends create a number of important considerations for healthcare exhibitors in the oncology space and beyond.
1. What is Your Impact?
Certainly, the trend towards a proliferation of very large digital displays and high production value can present budget concerns. But the impact of a show floor that is alive with stunning scientific content and visual excitement is starting to make things like large static, printed graphics and smaller video screens seem tired. Now more than ever “impact” is a driving design consideration.
2. Are You Balanced?
The blend of commercial and medical within a booth is dependent on a multitude of factors. Do you have a product launch? How robust is your pipeline? Are you recruiting for clinical trial participants? But the growing desire of our audiences to engage in scientific discussions and exploration cannot be avoided. This will affect budgets and designs going forward.
3. One More Thing – Hospitality
On a final note, we’re all familiar with the tried-and-true adage: “Doctors love coffee”. Hospitality has long been an effective strategy to attract healthcare attendees into a booth. In fact, our recent research also shows that healthcare attendees list hospitality as the number one single attraction on the show floor. ASCO 2023 featured some of the most elaborate hospitality areas that we have seen, going well beyond coffee to full-blown “cafes” featuring a wide variety of options. The long lines were evident. So, it’s not all science and screens.