Successes & Takeaways of 2016 Komen MBC Conferences

Komen Philadelphia’s September 2016 Metastatic Breast Cancer Symposium was one of major MBC events hosted by Komen Affiliates nationwide, providing powerful insights to help Komen grow their service to and support of the MBC community.

In an effort to meet our Bold Goal and bring together communities focused around metastatic breast cancer (MBC), several Affiliates in 2016 hosted and aided in MBC conferences in their local areas.  Four major symposiums were held in Austin, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle. While the conferences shared many similarities, like an emphasis on MBC research and desire to support MBC patients, they differentiated in many ways as well, such as in audience, overarching themes, conference structure and cost of attendance. Although there are many, following are the biggest successes and takeaways from the 2016 MBC conferences:

Influence of Technology
New to the MBC conference sphere last year was live streaming. Both Komen Los Angeles County and Puget Sound offered live streams of their respective conferences via Facebook—a significant step in reaching MBC patients who are unable to travel and attend the events in person. In addition to the 150 MBC patients present at the Los Angeles Conference, about 27,000 people across the world tuned in to the conference online—some from even as far as India! That 27,000, combined with the Seattle’s conference online audience of 1,000, results in an additional 28,000 people who were able to learn about MBC research and engage with the MBC community!

While most Affiliates use social media as a way to promote their local events, few realize that it can also be used to locate prospective audiences. Elaine I. Grobman, CEO of Komen Philadelphia, expressed that the hardest part about the symposium was finding and connecting with Philadelphia’s local MBC community. “One staff member spent days and days finding these patients,” said Grobman. While some Affiliates may have data on MBC patients from past events or may be able to reach out to grantees for prospective data, some are just beginning to build out their databases. Locating MBC groups in your area on Facebook and Twitter can be a great starting point in reaching out to nearby MBC communities.

Creating a Meeting Place
Sharon Schlesinger, a longtime volunteer of Komen L.A. County and lead conference coordinator states, “If we can’t find other MBC patients, how do MBC patients find each other?” The answer: they don’t. MBC conferences like those held in Austin, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle are often the only times MBC patients get to meet and interact with one another. It is important that the MBC conferences directed at MBC patients provide and facilitate opportunities for those living with metastatic breast cancer to share in one another’s experiences. According to a survey received by Komen Philadelphia, conferences like these provide MBC patients with the chance “to connect emotionally” and realize that they “[are] not alone.”* Providing a space for the MBC community to meet and feel encouraged is one of the most important aspects of a MBC conference.  

Finding Storytellers
Komen Austin’s Executive Director, Suzanne Stone, voiced that the biggest success of the Austin conference was their panel. She states, “the biggest takeaway for anyone who wants to put on a conference is to find the stories to show what you’re talking about it.” For Austin, these key stories came from the experiences shared by MBC patients. Stories, though, don’t just begin and end with those living with breast cancer. Doctors, researchers, business leaders, health care providers—they all have stories and knowledge that can make an impact. Determine what topics your audiences are interested in and then find those individuals who can tell those stories in a fun and engaging way. An engaged audience is a learning audience.

Listening to Their Voice
One of the most valuable aspects of planning a MBC conference is listening to the voices and opinions of local MBC patients in your community. While the MBC community can be considered one as a whole, not every local community is the same. To ensure that their respective MBC communities’ voices are heard and reflected in their conference sessions, Komen L.A. County, Philadelphia and Puget Sound have at least one MBC patient on their conference planning committees.  While research and past experiences may be able to tell us what we think MBC patients are looking for in a conference, the only true way to find out is to ask them yourself.

At the end of the year, with a total of 584 in-person attendees, the Austin, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle conferences were able to successfully create a space for MBC patients, doctors, researches, families, caretakers and business leaders to come and support one another in the fight against breast cancer.


*Komen Philadelphia MBC Symposium Survey Results

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