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Case Study: Stroke 2012

NAME: STROKE 2012 Conference
EVENT TYPE: Combined Annual Conference
CLIENT: Stroke Society of Australasia & SMART STROKES
BY: The Association Specialists
VENUE: Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre
PAX: Approx. 900
BUDGET: Undisclosed

Event Overview:
The Association Specialists have been working with the Stroke Society of Australasia and SMART STROKES over several years to produce memorable, educational meetings, the second joint meeting of the Stroke Society of Australasia and SMART STROKES (Australasian Nursing and Allied Health Stroke Conference) was no exception. The event aimed to attract over 700 delegates from Australasia, making it the largest stroke conference to be held in the region.

By combining the resources of both societies we were able to offer a fantastic program with a great interdisciplinary focus. Initial planning of the conference focused on one theme, haemorrhage and recovery, but greatly expanded in scope and variety of topics in the lead up forming a robust educational program that received immense interest from the medical industry and stroke survivors alike. The program included keynote presentations from 5 renowned international speakers, 18 symposia sessions, 120 oral paper presentations in 25 concurrent sessions and 66 e-poster presentations. Notably the conference included the Australian movie premiere of “Aphasia: hope is a four letter word”, the true story of actor Carl McIntyre who, after suffering a massive stroke at age 44 and losing his ability to read, write, and talk, struggles against overwhelming odds to redefine his life. Stroke survivors, their families and friends were invited to the movie premiere creating an atmosphere of enthusiasm and discussion.

People’s eagerness and interest in attending was so great that the committee focused on making the conference as accessible as possible to people working with or who have been affected by Stroke. SMART STROKES provided over $60,000 in funds to assist with 100 scholarships distributed to support nursing and allied health delegates to attend the conference.

In addition to the program highlights a valuable industry and trade exhibition attracted the leaders in pharmaceutical and patient care fields to share latest products and initiatives in the treatment of stroke and subsequent ailments.

The Gala Dinner, also held at the Sydney Convention Centre, was a highlight of the two days, giving the delegates, presenters, and trade partners an opportunity to catch up with colleagues, network with new faces and to ‘let their hair down’. The entertainment made sure everyone enjoyed themselves on the dance floor to the late hours of the evening.

Event Outcomes:
The conference was a standout success on the 2012 medical calendar and for the team at The Association Specialists. The event saw approximately 800 + delegates and trade attendees, well above anticipated attendance levels, and 30 trade displays. The Q&A session with actor Carl McIntyre was particularly stimulating, however, a number of symposia were heralded as a valuable insight into the life of stroke sufferers and ground breaking in care improvements and innovations that will see a drastic change in the way strokes are managed in the future. Feedback from delegates proved the scientific program content was worthwhile and of value to attendees.

While the financial results of the event are confidential, The Association Specialists is pleased to note the positive outcome achieved for the clients, well ahead of budget. The results achieved ensure financial security for the running of future SSA/SMART STROKES events and reflect the strong emphasis placed on financial management by the team involved.

Challenges and Triumphs:
Of course the production of an event of this scale is never without its challenges. As a combined conference, a number of committees were set up to assist in facilitating the planning of aspects of the conference. As anticipated, Committee members had sometimes very different needs and expectations – a personalised approach to communication lines and streamlined decision-making processes helped to keep the event on track.

Accessibility of all areas of the venue was an important element in the planning and running of the event. A team of allied health student volunteers was assembled to assist with special assistance requirements of delegates to the conference.

The premiere of “Aphasia: hope is a four letter word”, attracted a great number of attendees. The audience had to be separated from the trade exhibition due to strict pharmaceutical regulations – a special consumer lunch was held in the foyer overlooking Darling Harbour, with staff roping off and monitoring the exhibition entrance.

We have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback we have received to date regarding the event by both the client and delegates in attendance. While much of the feedback reflected positively on the venue, the movie premiere, the scientific mix, the networking opportunities, the dinner, and particularly the consumer involvement, a recurring theme was the high level of personal attention and care taken in the quality of the overall delegate experience.

“All sessions were incredibly worthwhile. Presenters were engaging and the turn out fantastic”

“Meeting so many enthusiastic stroke professionals, it was very well organised with excellent facilities and catering (I am gluten free and this was the best special diet catering of any conference I have been to, both in the UK and abroad). Obviously for us from the UK the venue was fabulous!”

“The ‘life stories’ that where heard enabled me to reflect on my own practice and the importance of a ‘positive frame of mind’. The gala dinner was a great way to relax and network”