If you need to write a scientific conference report, it’s probably not just for fun. It might be for a client who has an interest in a particular therapeutic area, to gather information on competitors and the latest research. Perhaps your employer wishes to generate conversation and follow advancement in your industry. It could also be for a research project, or an on-the-spot newsletter. It might be to simply start a conversation.
Your final report should be practical in nature. Conferences come in all shapes and sizes from single-day single-topic events to multi-day programmes with a topic list that is lengthy to say the least—so reports with clear messaging are a must.
- Take good notes at the event
- Complete within 24-48 hours
- Use plain language and be concise
- Provide statistics and facts
- Be professional
What your conference report should achieve
For maximum impact, you should have your report finished within 24-48 hours of the event closing. This urgency means you’ll capitalise on the event buzz and catch people during their most excited and proactive period—and this is perfect if you’re wanting them to take an action. You’ll need to take good notes throughout the event, including noteworthy statistics, facts, themes (and the overall attendee response), presenter names, and outcomes. If possible, capture audio and video snippets you can link to from online platforms, or source official audio/video links from the conference organisers. Important note: ensure statistics are factual and evidence-based. Ideally, you’ll also attend any organised social events that are complementary to your report goals.
Tips for creating impact
- Know your audience: Understand who will be reading the report and what they expect to be reading about. Keep this in mind as you collate content.
- Know your goal: Why is it important that the audience understands your message? Is there a clear call-to-action, or is your goal to start debate? Are you writing a summary of the entire conference or were you there to focus on a single topic? When you finish content collation, check back to ensure your report meets your goal.
- Use plain language and be concise: Think of your report as a conference summary. Pick out the highlights and show why they’re important—that’s your goal. You’ll need to be accurate, but there’s no reason to complicate your message with jargon.
- Be picky with your content: It’s not necessary to summarise every paper or presentation, particularly if it’s a big event without a single focus. Highlight themes that emerge and focus on the areas your audience will find useful or interesting. If necessary, create several reports tailored by audience or topic.
- Be professional: It’s perfectly fine to be critical of theories and ideas, but it’s important you remain respectful to all individuals involved.
- Be respectful: Include names, use titles if it’s appropriate in your field, and acknowledge the institutions they’re affiliated with.
- Demonstrate benefits to future research: highlight the lessons you learned and how you see their relevance to the advancement of science.
- Proofread: Don’t lose credibility. Have your work proofed for errors.
Content to include
Event specifics are important for giving context to your audience. Plus, if they want to follow up on any aspect of the conference, making their life easy increases their chance of following through. This is particularly important if you goal is to generate post-event buzz. You should include:
- Conference organisers: Who organised and facilitated the event.
- Funding support: any person, institution or company that financially sponsored the event.
- Venue: Where the event was held
- Number of attendees: size can paint a picture e.g., intimacy or masses gathering.
- Conference format: Was it 100% online? Was the agenda consecutive presentations or multi-stage with concurrent presentations.
- Themes: What challenges and advancements were discovered throughout the event?
- Notes of interest: Be sure to include research or ideas that stood out. What raised your eyebrows? What excited you? What made you ask questions? Was there a good quote from a presenter that captured the essence of the topic?
- Social programme: What social and/or dining events were there that allowed for networking and discussion?
- Recordings and media: Was audio or video captured? Was this used during the event i.e., social media support of the event, or will it be used in the media or post-event?
If you’re professional, respectful and plan your report ahead of the conference, your report should do its intended job of summarising the event and highlighting the pieces your audience wants to know about. Your facts and statistics will spark their thinking and fuel further conversation.