From December 11 to 14th, the 2021 American Society of Hematology held its Annual Meeting and Exposition. The event, recognized as “ASH 2021,” took place at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. This was the 63rd annual meeting and once again, provided hematology professionals with new opportunities to connect with peers while learning about new insights and emerging trends in the field.
Across the conference, there was a pervasive sense of “Welcome Back” for all attendees. ASH took steps to instill confidence in attendees that the conference would take place in the safest environment possible including requiring full COVID19 vaccination by all in attendance. Furthermore, ASH provided excellent pre and during communications around masks, testing, and vaccination verification before the conference began.
As more and more congresses explore Hybrid formats, ASH 2021 was a Hybrid case study for a particular moment in time. Of the nearly 30,000 attendees, approximately 45% attended in-person and 55% attended virtually. Sampling recent Hybrid congresses, the number of in-person attendance for ASH was low compared to other Hybrid congresses which have been 60-70% in-person. This could be due to the Omicron variant news cycle right before the ASH 2021 event. On that note, not surprisingly, the in-person international was only about 16% of the total in-person attendance. These stats demonstrate that hybrid formats are viable for the foreseeable future of congresses.
ASH featured a wide range of presentations, scientific and educational programs, and workshops. These included sessions covering topics as diverse as hematology in epidemiology and immunology, emerging diagnostic tools and techniques, and many deep dives into leukemia and pharmacology. Additionally, the Society recognized the contributions of a number of members with awards including the Wallace Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Hematology, the Wiliams Dameshek Prize, and the Henry Stratton Medal.
All throughout the event, sessions featuring world-renowned leaders in the field of hematology educated and inspired attendees. The first general session on Saturday featured Dr. Martin Tallman, MD, Chair of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Tallman delivered remarks on normal and leukemic stem cells for the Ham-Wasserman lecture. Sunday’s ASH-EHA Joint Symposium featured a discussion with Dr. Tallman and Dr. Elizabeth Macintyre, Ph.D., MD, of Necker University Hospital. This symposium focused on targeting macrophages and the innate immune system to treat hematologic malignancies. With more than a hundred sessions and workshops on the schedule, ASH 2021 featured a wealth of material for anyone interested in hematology.
For many attendees, the most welcoming part of the Annual Meeting was the enthusiasm for re-connection found in each participant. Upon arrival, it was clear that most attendees were excited to have the opportunity to catch up with old friends and establish meaningful new relationships. Many people were seen shaking hands, giving each other hugs, and laughing together. After two years of conferences taking place online or not at all, ASH 2021 represented the opportunity to connect in a way that has been missing for many in healthcare.
Focused On The Basics
Exhibitors focused their investments on engaging attendees, through tried and true experiences. Gamification played a role in many of the exhibits, drawing in attendees with dynamic and interactive exhibits and displays. From large format video displays to a focus on clinical pipelines, delivering a meaningful experience that fostered more interaction and connection was the hallmark of the exhibit hall. Many booths doubled-down on classic attractants such as coffee bars and hospitality that fostered even more conversation and interaction between attendees and sponsors.
As a result, networking both in the hallways and on the exhibit hall floor felt more organic and natural. This genuine enthusiasm carried across the entire event. For attendees, these unique exhibits and displays added additional excitement for an audience hungry for new insights and ideas.
For those in the field of hematology, the ASH Annual Meeting is a flagship event. The combined presenters, exhibitors, and attendees make for the most interesting and interested gathering of hematology professionals anywhere in the world. For industry sponsors and exhibitors, ASH 2021 has taught us that we all need to stay agile in our congress strategies so that we can adjust to the continually evolving congress formats and audience expectations. With the planning of ASH 2022 already underway, we are excited to see what next year’s conference will bring.
By: Brittney Leeb
Director, New Business Development
Sneak Peek from the Full ASH 2021 Audit:
- “Welcome Back” was a theme everywhere. The biggest engagement was not technology or promotional, but human to human.
- 2021 Total hybrid attendance was slightly under the all-virtual 2020 congress of about 29,000 attendees and slightly above the 2020 total in-person attendance
- Development Pipelines were still de rigueur – with an “arms race” of who could out do the next companies – with companies using both digital and print billboards
- QR codes were used to drive interactivity with content and assets
To see the whole ASH 2021 event audit and learn how it can apply to your business, send an email to [email protected] to book a free 20 min call with a strategist today.