Romance and passion

// Katharina Brauer

Isabel Bardinet, CEO of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), on creating a unique congress experience.

Isabel Bardinet, CEO of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), organises the world’s biggest medical conference. Photo: European Society of Cardiology

CIM: Why has emotion been essential for making the ESC Congress 2019 even more valuable for every delegate?
Isabel Bardinet: A congress, whatever the topic, is the highest form of communication and exchange. It is a gathering of people who share the same “belief” and knowledge base and, as for all topics, humanity has progressed through exchange. This exchange is the expression of different views and as such is emotion. “Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion“, as Stephen Hawking put it.

ESC Congress 2019 was held in Paris in early September. How did the new layout of Europe’s largest conference complex support the ESC requirements?
We use and adapt our layout to each destination and change every year. The fact that the Viparis Porte de Versailles is within the city is a critical attraction. Everything is within easy reach and the ESC delegates can use public transport.

What do you exactly know about the on-site experience of ESC delegates?
We carry out surveys every year; on-site and post-congress. We have learned that 70 per cent of our delegates spend the whole day in the centre. We have to deliver the services to make them feel comfortable at all times. We have to arrange for a smooth flow of 30,000 people and we need to look after ideal information and networking opportunities. Thus, we have created the ESC Plaza, separated from the exhibition, where delegates can speak to their national societies and exchange knowledge.

What event design features created a fresh delegate experience?
This is a state of mind: We look at every element and try and imagine how a delegate will live this. It includes everything from signage and colours (carpet, signage, registration desks, toilets etc.) to the floor plan, titles, documents and food outlets etc. We try to make the on-site experience unique and delegate-focused.
For 2019, we contacted the internationally acclaimed perfume creator Molinard in Grasse to provide the ESC with three potential scents, which were chosen during a perfume selection exercise with the ESC board and presidents of the national cardiac societies. During the congress, there was a vote to select the ESC’s dedicated scent “ESCent”.

Medical congresses seem to be, above all, content-driven events. Will content play a less important role in a more experience focused environment?
Absolutely not! The mistake here is to believe content is a dry, non-emotion-driven topic, quite the contrary. “Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion.” Stephen Hawking’s quote underlines that science is not only a matter of reasoning but also of inspiration and imagination that makes us think outside the box.

Does the mindset of the millennial delegates require a different approach to providing content and new discoveries?
Each generation brings new ideas and ways of looking at things, this is natural evolution. As congress organisers, it is our respon­sibility to listen and hear, then analyse and deliver. The new generation use different tools, e.g. screens instead of paper and pen, and we have to make all generations feel comfortable. This is, of course, also a matter of cost.

Does the idea of hosting, for example, an on-site party at the congress venue, meet compliance requirements?
We do not have an on-site party and do not do anything in the evening – also for compliance reasons.

The ESC Congress 2019 selected “Global Health” as its main spotlight and was held as a “special edition”. What does this mean?
The ESC Congress 2019 was organised with the World Heart Federation and their World Congress, which took place in Europe again in 2019. Global cardiovascular health is its natural focus.

Ms. Bardinet, thank you very much for the interview.