Using our event planning skills to deliver a World CongressĀ 

The BPS Events team delivers 30-40 events each year, including our much-anticipated annual meeting. We have recently opened registration for this year’s edition, Pharmacology 2024, which will take place in Harrogate, Yorkshire on 10-12 December 2024. 

We started our planning for this meeting back in 2023, agreeing a venue, beginning to secure sponsors, and pulling together the core themes for the programme. Now, with less than eight months to go before the event, we’re working on the details and logistics of the event to ensure it runs smoothly and that delegates have a memorable experience. 

We are confident of our ability to deliver a vibrant event for the community and have the advantage of being able to reflect on our experience of successfully delivering the 19th World Congress of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology 2023 (WCP2023). The World Congress was much larger than the average Pharmacology conference, both in terms of its length, but also the number of delegates, and its global reach, but Pharmacology 2024 will match it in terms of scientific quality and networking opportunities. 

Delegates were absorbed in the science at WCP2023.

Planning something exceptional 

Most multi-day conferences are a maximum of two to four days long. WCP2023 ran for five and a half days, including an opening and closing ceremony. As you can imagine, this requires a significant amount of planning, but the result – a week of science, delegates from around the world, and opportunities for pharmacologists to get together and collaborate – made it all worthwhile. 

The World Congress of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology is led by the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR). The congress takes place every four years and is hosted by a different national Society each time. The BPS made a successful bid to host the congress back in 2014, and it was originally planned for 2022, following on from the 2018 congress in Kyoto, Japan. The decision was made to postpone the congress to 2023 in the hope that international travel would be more viable, and more COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted. 

Three generations of BPS events staff worked on the congress across those nine years. In the lead-up to the congress, our small events team continued to deliver annual meetings, focus meetings and lectures, both online and offline. While those meetings were smaller than WCP2023, they did help us understand how running meetings had changed post-COVID, and what we needed to do to bring a large group of global delegates together. 

WCP2023 saw 400 speakers, over 1,500 abstract submissions, many thousands of delegate enquiries, relationships with five different venues and over 20 suppliers, and collaboration with over 50 sponsors. Our team, with the support of consultant Lynn Samson and the wider BPS staff, spent many years developing these relationships, ensuring that everyone involved had the information they needed to help us deliver a memorable event to over 2,000 delegates. 

As soon as our annual meeting had been delivered in September 2022, we shifted our full attention to WCP2023. We opened registration and began promoting the event more widely, as well as finalising the highly complex scientific programme. This is when we began to think about all the seemingly tiny details that make the difference to how well-polished and consistent the final event would be. From choosing the perfect colour for the carpet in the exhibition space to designing navigational signs to help people get to sessions quickly, our to-do list was full of choices to be made and finishing touches to make the congress special. 

A diverse programme, spotlighting the world's best pharmacologists, provided something for pharmacologists covering all disciplines.

But of course, no event is without a touch of drama towards the end! Our team has delivered countless events throughout our careers, and none is ever without a glitch or two. It is important to maintain a sense of flexibility and to keep adapting with the information you are given – especially if there are last minute changes to speakers, delays on finalising floorplans and sessions swapping rooms even in the days leading up to the congress.  

Our advice for anyone running their first event and dealing with a stressful change of plans? Take a deep breath, accept what has happened and trust that if you put your heads together with those supporting the project, you will find a solution! 

Watching our work come to life 

After years of planning, we quickly found ourselves in the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, just hours away from opening the door to delegates. This is when the event started to feel real. Watching the exhibition space being built in real time was a highlight for us as it demonstrated the amount of work it had taken us and our partners to get to that point.  

It was soon time to let our delegates in for registration and our opening ceremony. The buzz was palpable, not only for us, but for our attendees too. We spotted many people we’ve met at previous BPS events, and plenty of new faces too. They received a warm welcome to Glasgow with the opening ceremony, where they were treated to a truly Scottish experience with the gentle folk music of Josie Duncan and the Orkney Boys, and the exhilarating sounds of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, who concluded the ceremony by piping the delegates into the exhibition hall to start the welcome reception. But even as delegates began to enjoy the festivities, we had our to-do list at the top of our mind. We were there at the registration desks supporting delegates, and making sure the venue was ready for the scientific programme to begin the following morning. 

As the week progressed, delegates were inspired by the scientific programme, and thrilled to see friends and colleagues - but our work didn’t end when the lecture theatres closed. In the evenings, we ran several social events, including a Gala Dinner at the Kelvingrove Museum of Art and a Ceilidh at Platform. Conference days are long, but when you see delegates having fun, it makes it worthwhile. Plus, we got to see lots of our members enjoying a boogie on the dancefloor at the Ceilidh – though we wouldn’t dare say who! 

Our team spent a week and a half in Glasgow for the congress. As we reached the finish line, the gravity of how much we’d delivered, and the positive feedback we were hearing from delegates, speakers and sponsors, started to become real. Our team took a well-earned break, and when we came back, the impact of our work was clear from the positive feedback we began to receive. It was clear that this congress was a once-in-a-generation meeting, and that our hard work preparing for it had been worthwhile. 

The BPS team had an amazing time in Glasgow delivering WCP2023!

More exciting conferences to come 

WCP2023 reminded us of the power of in-person meetings, and has filled us with excitement and energy for Pharmacology 2024. 

Registration is now open for Pharmacology 2024, and we can’t wait to deliver you another well-polished conference with a vibrant scientific programme in a fantastic location. There are opportunities to host sessions, present posters, be a sponsor, and network with your peers at this three-day event in Harrogate, Yorkshire - submit your abstracts today.


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Published: 24 Apr 2024
By Isabel Brinsden, Bonnie Rayner, Nicola Williams, Becki Wingell

About the author

Isabel Brinsden, Bonnie Rayner, Nicola Williams and Becki Wingell (BPS Events team)


Isabel, Bonnie, Nicola and Becki are the BPS Events and Training Team, bringing together many years of event management expertise. Nicola has been with the Society for the longest, joining the team as Events Coordinator in 2020, before being promoted to Congress Manger to lead on the delivery of WCP2023. Now that the Congress is over, Nicola has returned to her roots in education and has stepped into the role of Professional Development Manager, delivering the Society’s portfolio of training workshops and the National Virtual Training programme for clinical trainees. Bonnie joined the team in 2022 as Events Coordinator and alongside looking after the sponsors at Congress, Bonnie leads the Society’s programme of focused meetings and webinars. Isabel joined the team as Head of Events towards the end of 2022 and as well as leading the delivery of the Congress, she leads on the Society’s events and training strategy and oversees the delivery of all our events. Becki was the newest member of the Congress team to join the Society, joining as Congress Coordinator in January 2023 to support the project right at the point when things started to get busiest. Since delivering the Congress, Becki has been promoted to Events Manager and now leads the Society’s Annual Meeting.  

As a team, we work with a spirit of collaboration, trust and mutual support, which means that we are all on hand to help each other at events and ensure a seamless experience for our members. You’ll see us all on the registration desk at Pharmacology 2024, so do come and say hello!   

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