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Remodeling the Meeting: eyeforpharma Barcelona during COVID-19


eyeforpharma's Blair Gottscho talks about the challenges and opportunities associated with transforming the company’s Barcelona meeting from a live event to a virtual one in light of COVID-19.

Blair Gottscho, Managing Director of eyeforpharma, talks to Pharm Exec about the challenges and opportunities associated with transforming the company’s staple Barcelona meeting from a live event to a virtual one in light of COVID-19.

PharmExec: From the moment you decided to make eyeforpharma Barcelona 2020 a virtual event, how long did you have to prepare it?

Blair Gottscho: Creating a virtual offering was always part of the broader strategy when we became a part of Reuters - but this crisis certainly accelerated those plans. We had three weeks from the decision to go virtual to the live virtual week.

Can you outline the key technical challenges of transforming Barcelona 2020 from a real to a virtual event, and how these challenges were overcome?

Blair Gottscho

It was a huge effort to galvanize our speakers and sponsors to move forward with us in the new virtual format. It was by no means due to a lack of enthusiasm or their support for us and the industry. With such a tight turn around and their personal and work lives being hugely impacted and uncertain, it was a big ask at the time. We tried our best to over communicate and be available at any time to offer support. We worked very closely with our experienced TV presenters from Reuters to create best practice guidelines for creating presentations at home and we remained flexible when re-creating the agenda to cater for all our speakers. What was clear was that we had fantastic support from all the speakers, sponsors and attendees to bring everyone together – and that actually, (then and now) more than ever, collaboration, sharing ideas and coming together as an industry, was essential.

What were issues associated with choosing the right platform/technology for the event?

Timing was the main thing. We had to know a supplier could provide what we needed in a very short time. It’s why we custom building the majority of the platform, this way we knew could deliver a high-quality attendee experience, as attendees would expect from one of our real-world conferences. 

How did you drive and maintain audience engagement for the virtual sessions and the event overall?

We were providing business critical learnings at a time when the industry needed to share as much knowledge as possible to continue to support patients and healthcare. A lot of the industry is familiar with the quality of our agendas, meaning we could let the content do the talking to a large extent. We of course as well continued to use all our partners and amplified these messaged via our social channels. 

What might you do differently in terms of co-ordinating and running a virtual event in the future?

Wow, there was so much to do but as all our events have gone virtual for the remainder of the year, we have already created new best practice, building and improving on what we created for eyeforpharma Barcelona.

Would you say the experience revealed any advantages of virtual events over the large ‘real-world’ event?

Yes, for sure. Although we remain huge advocates of real-world events and the level of personality and spontaneity that can’t be replicated online, we definitely see value in virtual – as I said earlier, this is something we’ve been looking into for a while now to try and find the best of both worlds. In many ways, a virtual event democratizes the physical conference – helping to ensure that there is an even larger and more diverse range of perspectives involved – including patients, healthcare stakeholders, associations and governments – further adding to the melting pot of ideas and industry transformation we create with our real-world events.   



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