When COVID-19 shut down virtually all in-person conferences, Novartis needed to find new ways to connect and educate healthcare providers.

It started asking broad “what if?” questions: What if we could create the sense of being in a physical booth? Allow online congress attendees to feel as though they were there in person? Hear footsteps and chatter?

The resulting Halls of Science and Innovation is a highly engaging experience for attendees at the Novartis Medical Cardiovascular exhibitions. It met all of the company’s educational objectives, with optimized content that is clinically relevant, visually impactful and intensely user-friendly.

Every pharmaceutical company wrestled with the same problem. Yet our judges say Novartis’ conference website excelled with a remarkable design that offers a wealth of information that is easy to access, with plenty of pop-ups. While the site’s 3-D virtual environment provides the greatest visual appeal, a mobile-friendly 2-D version made sure it could be used on phones and tablets.

It’s also an example of the various ways digital experiences can be even better than in real life. While the impact of in-person congresses often fades once participants leave, this site built an enduring educational resource that lives beyond and between congresses and has longevity as an educational channel.

Over six congresses, 1,900 unique users visited, including 250 users who came outside the congress dates. That surpasses the in-person attendance of the same congresses in previous years. And with an overall average “dwell time” of 45 minutes, it found a high level of interest and content engagement.