We interviewed Dr Bergeron, Chairman of the 2019 SIOP congress in Lyon, who talked about his experience with the organisation of this congress that brought together 2700 people.

Which were the decisive factors in Lyon’s selection?

I was involved in the selection process for the 2023 European city, so I can offer some details of how host cities for the congress are selected. While the PCO (Professional Congress Organizer) appointed by the association carries out an extensive analysis of the destinations, there are four key points to bear in mind: 

  • The city's accessibility; 
  • The welcome and spaces offered by the congress venue;
  • The city's hotel accommodation capacity and distance of hotels from the congress venue;  
  • The budget.  

The SIOP Board votes for the destination that offers the best balance. For 2019, among the European cities that responded to the call for bids, Lyon was that destination. The Lyon Convention Centre was considered by the agencies as being “close to the city centre”, which is a major advantage in terms of the range of hotels available. Each city wins on the basis of its own assets, which are balanced against each other.

Which assets in Lyon helped you win the bid?

Firstly, the Convention Centre at the Cité Internationale is ideal for 3000 participants, because it offers many spaces and highly convivial forums. All the feedback we received from our colleagues was positive. 
In terms of hotels, the welcome offered by Lyon is up to scratch.
Lastly, don’t forget that people also come to Lyon for its gastronomy. The budget is a factor, but Greater Lyon is able to respond favourably to help us. Paris made a bid to host the SIOP congress in 2016, but was beaten by Dublin. I don’t know what the reason, or reasons, were.  

How did the congress go? What did you get out of the experience (creation of networks, visibility, etc.)?

When I visited the Convention Centre for the first time, while it wasn’t in use, I had a doubt regarding the circulation of visitors: how would people come together in this huge structure?  

During the congress, I was very pleasantly surprised by how welcoming the spaces were and the indoor signs made by the PCO were very useful. We received very positive feedback from both participants and exhibitors. In addition, in terms of the location, everybody was delighted. In the city, with the covered road in front of the Convention Centre and its restaurants, which was not the case in Kyoto, for example. At the Cité Internationale, everything was optimal.

With 2700 participants, which was the greatest number of people attracted in the history of the SIOP, Lyon set the bar very high for subsequent congresses!

Concerning the scientific programme put forward and prepared by the Scientific Board of the SIOP, the comments we received were positive:  a high quality programme, with only one recurring question: “How can I attend two sessions I’m interested in that take place at the same time?” This is very common with good congresses and it reflects the quality of the content on offer. What’s more, we also beat the record for the number of papers submitted to the Scientific Board.
All of our French colleagues were delighted. Feedback from our international colleagues was very positive

I decided to give a copy of the book The Little Prince in English, to 1000 people who responded to a questionnaire at the SIOP’s stand. The 1000 copies were sent out. I firmly believe that Greater Lyon should use this asset – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Little Prince – for example by creating a route in Lyon illustrated by the book’s most beautiful quotes.  

Participants particularly appreciated the gastronomic food, both at the Convention Centre, and in other restaurants around the city. But that is no surprise in Lyon. Only one establishment, well known among the people of Lyon, did not live up to our expectations. We were generous with the cheese and wine party that followed the opening ceremony on the first evening. This social event is necessary to bring the congress participants closer together. 

The networking event, which some refer to as the gala dinner, was held at the Convention Centre, in order to avoid having to organise coach transport and also to enable participants to leave whenever they wished. Lyon's Toques Blanches assisted us with this event. Gastronomic food must be offered in its various forms in Lyon. We were able to answer questions such as “what will we be eating in Lyon, Christophe?”

 I hosted the "President Dinner" on the Hermès 2 restaurant boat. There were 80 guests and it was perfect.   

Lastly, the proximity of the Tête d’Or Park enabled us to organise a race early in the morning before the congress. The 80 people who took part were delighted to be able to make the most of the park.      

Visibility for the SFCE (Société Française du Cancer de l'Enfant) was also a success as there were 404 French participants, making France the top country represented ahead of the 380 Americans. France usually has 70 participants at SIOP congresses. 108 countries are represented there.

I firmly believe that the event raised the destination’s profile and that some of the participants will return to Lyon.

To conclude, I would say that, whatever the capacity of the congress to be held in Lyon, there are facilities suited to all types and sizes of events. The team at the Convention Bureau is on hand and attentive to the nedds of the organisers, in order to offer advice and assistance

« Following Washington DC in 2017 and Kyoto in 2018, Lyon became the capital of paediatric cancer research for four days in 2019, 50 years following its creation in Madrid by the French doctor Odile Schweisguth.  

The Convention Bureau assisted the local branch and the members of the local organisation committee, by producing the bid package and organising an inspection visit. The way in which the destination’s high-level medical and scientific facilities, as well as its other assets, including accessibility, the Lyon convention centre’s attractiveness, accommodation and gastronomic food, were highlighted during the bid was a major advantage in the decision-making process.

Supported by Greater Lyon, the bid benefited from a discount of 40% on a day’s rental of spaces at the Convention Centre.

The congress was held from the 23rd to the 26th of October 2019 at the Convention Centre and brought together 2700 participants, which was 1000 more than in Washington DC and 200 more than in Kyoto. It is the biggest SIOP congress since its creation. In 2020, the SIOP congress was held in Ottawa (Canada).

Furhter information on  the SIOP Congress