Annual Meeting Reports

On the Spot: Making the Most of Society Conferences and Exhibitions

Conferences and associated exhibitions offer opportunities for journals published by professional societies to gain public visibility and for journal participants to interact with current and potential readers and authors. At this session, three speakers described how their societies take advantage of those opportunities at their conferences.

Allison Ewing, director of communications and public relations at the American College of Physicians (which publishes Annals of Internal Medicine), spoke about maximizing public-relations opportunities at an organization’s annual meeting. Strategies that she recommended included leveraging the meeting to make major announcements, using the inherent news value of the meeting to gain coverage, and coordinating the timing of special publications or promotions with the meeting.

Among tactics suggested by Ewing were hosting press briefings on journal articles or timely topics, having editors and authors serve as spokespeople on subjects of interest to the mass media, and pitching stories aggressively via telephone and e-mail. Ewing suggested using both Web 2.0 tactics (for example, gearing press materials to social-media outlets, such as Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube) and more traditional tactics (for example, producing and posting video and audio clips from the meeting).

Ewing presented as an example the successful publicity effort in which the American College of Physicians announced the new editor-in-chief of Annals of Internal Medicine at its annual meeting. In addition, she noted that articles summarizing the most important studies of the year were timed for publication during the meeting. She also discussed using the society’s exhibit booth at the meeting to promote the journal.

Nan Hallock, managing editor of the Journal of the Association for Laboratory Automation (JALA), described an array of journal-associated activities at the organization’s meeting. She said that registration bags include the journal, the registration desk bears stacks of journals, and the exhibit area contains a “member center” for the association and journal. In addition to displaying the journal, the member center provides refreshments, has tables where attendees can talk, and offers prize drawings, gifts, and sometimes special items, such as souvenir photographs or Segway rides. Some years, readers and non-readers of the journal are surveyed at the member center. The center also is a place to meet editors of the journal.

The association has a reception in the exhibit hall at the end of each day. On the second day, the reception honors JALA authors; a sign lists authors and peer reviewers. JALA also hosts an evening dessert reception largely for the editorial board, authors, and reviewers. Hallock said that the “VIP reception” has yielded manuscripts, guest editors of issues, and new reviewers. She noted that travel awards given at the meeting were contingent on submitting manuscripts to JALA. In closing, she indicated that activities at the meeting have helped JALA to establish its identity as a peer-reviewed journal rather than a trade magazine, to attract manuscripts, and to increase readership.

Heather Goodell, director of scientific publishing for the American Heart Association, discussed how the organization’s journals make the most of conferences and exhibitions through three “lines of attack”. One line of attack, she said, is programming at conferences. For example, there are sessions in which editors-in-chief provide advice on writing articles or managing editors discuss logistics of article submission. Some sessions feature authors of outstanding articles from the preceding year.

The second line of attack, Goodell stated, is to market journals at exhibits and beyond. Exhibits by the association include displays about its journals, contain copies of the journals, and provide opportunities to talk with editors. Beyond the exhibit hall, journals are marketed by such means as banners, kiosks, inserts, journal copies in meeting rooms, and slides in meeting sessions.

The final line of attack, Goodell said, involves professional and popular media. At conferences, editors invite authors of well-received abstracts to submit manuscripts to their journals. News releases go out about work presented, and reporters receive daily e-mail briefings about the conference and associated journal content. The e-mail briefings include links to video interviews and presentation slides.