Elevating the Pharmaceutical Booth Experience: 8 Critical Missteps to Avoid for Maximum Engagement at Medical Congresses

Written by
Joe Zandstra
Elevating the Pharmaceutical Booth Experience: 8 Critical Missteps to Avoid for Maximum Engagement at Medical Congresses

As in-person medical congresses make a comeback, the opportunity for pharmaceutical brands to make an impact through engaging and educational booth experiences is once again at the forefront. However, many booths often fall short of their potential, committing errors that hamper the experience and leave attendees underwhelmed. In this article, we identify the eight most frequent missteps that pharmaceutical brands make and provide some insights on how to avoid them. In a highly competitive environment, it's crucial to ensure your booth stands out and leaves a lasting impression.

1. Content topics don’t resonate with the audience

The booth's topics must be novel, offer a unique viewpoint, or provide a new level of depth to existing topics. The booth’s content and digital engagement activities must be based on an analysis of what themes and topics would appeal to each key audience segment. 

Perhaps more than any other channel, congresses are seen by HCPs as events for them, not for pharma brands, so there is an expectation that all content and activities be tailored to their particular needs and interests, offering some depth and presenting some new, fresh takeaways.

2. Content is not framed as a narrative

Even if the content is aligned with the potential visitors’ interests, it must still be framed and structured in an interesting way to tell a story. 

Like a website, a book, or an article, a booth has a flow. There is a sequence to how the visitor notices and consumes the information. Attention needs to be paid to dividing the content into engaging, bite-sized segments, and when those segments are consumed together, a compelling narrative should unfold. 

Also, as with a website or an article, headlines, bold text, bullet lists, summaries, and pull quotes capture people's’ attention and help them know at a glance if this content is relevant to them. Even from a distance, a booth with an engaging narrative is apparent.

3. Content is not well presented

Beyond the structuring of the content – the booth needs to look visually and experientially engaging without seeming chaotic. At the base level, the graphic design must be modern, clean, impactful, distinctive, and branded. It must give a sense that there is a well-structured depth of content to consume. Beyond this, the experience design, the physical space, the lighting, panels, digital displays, and interactive elements must be creative and engaging – supporting a narrative without looking complex, challenging to use, or gimmicky.

From a distance, the booth should seem like there is a good mix of content to read and watch and that there are experiences to interact with – but without being overwhelming.

4. The content feels like advertising

In the mind of your visitors, congresses are a time for HCPs and KOLs to learn, network, and grow. They are actively disengaged by anything that looks like advertising from brands. Pharmaceutical brands are welcome as they fuel treatments, funding, innovation, and information. 

Still, in the attendees' minds,  the pharmaceutical brands are not the hosts, and they should not set the agenda. Congresses are an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to present themselves as trustworthy authorities, willing and able to provide true scientific and medical leadership beyond simply selling products. This approach should set the tone for the booth's content, copy, design, and experiences.

5. Booth does not cater for diverse visitor interaction preferences

Some visitors like to be the center of attention, some are interested in talking to staff at the booth, and some would rather browse content in their own time, in peace. Some booths resemble collections of poster presentations, which may appeal to science-minded introverts. Some may feel like interactive playgrounds where anyone participating will become the center of attention for those around them. Some booths may have many hosts ready to engage (or pounce on) any passing visitor. 

The key is to balance all of these and make it clear to every potential visitor that in your booth, they will be able to have whatever experience that may meet their needs and make them feel comfortable.

6. It is not clear what is on offer from distance

But more than this, making your booth’s theme, messages, and offerings visible from a distance and from all angles is critical. You are competing for attention and engagement – which requires you to signal the tonality, key themes, and topics you will cover in your booth simply and clearly in a way that can be seen from anywhere in the exhibition hall. Firstly, the booth should have a cohesive theme (such as ”Fresh Air”) that defines the overall theme of the booth, and following on from this, there should be several large headlines (as text at the top of panels or areas of the booth) as well as, possibly, prominent keywords and hashtags on graphic panels or displays.

7. The booth is not setup to attract visitors

In his book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping,” Paco Underhill cites research that found that placing a mirror at the entrance to a store significantly increased footfall, as it stops potential customers in their tracks. 

There are many small tricks to attracting visitors to a booth, but some fundamental principles include the following: 

  • Provide something novel, animated, and engaging to draw people in
  • Make sales reps available, but provide routes into your booth that don’t require interaction with them
  • Be aware of the flow from the walkway to your booth and use design elements to guide and smooth the transition.
  • Be relevant

8. There is no apparent, coherent theme

People initially react to the world around them by forming stereotypes and constructing mental archetypes. If a booth has a clear conceptual theme, it is easier for a potential visitor to quickly make the correct assumptions about what to expect from the content and experience they should expect. 

In the context of a respiratory booth, a theme could be “Fresh Air” – this would signal a patient-centric desire to provide relief for patients and an appreciation of the importance of fresh air and breathing for all people. 

This theme could be used as high-level taglines and hashtags but also to structure the content and experiences within the booth around a narrative of the universal desire for fresh air.


Addressing these eight common mistakes can greatly benefit brands looking to make a positive impact at medical congresses. Additionally, Vertic has developed three key strategic principles to enhance the booth experience and help pharmaceutical brands reach their goals. To learn more about our strategies and how we can assist your brand in creating a compelling and effective booth experience, don't hesitate to reach out to us. Together, we can make a significant impact at your next medical congress.

Written by

Joe Zandstra

Creative Director EMEA

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