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8 Top Tips for Engaging Healthcare Professionals

Start by designing meetings around what participants want to learn—not what you want to teach them.

Remember back in the old days—say a year or two ago—when audience interaction was limited to using an audience response system, asking questions at a mic standing in the aisle, and end-of-the-day paper evaluations that your staff had to manually tabulate and analyze?

Now, thanks to today’s technology, participants can engage more directly with speakers and each other through interactive polling, ask questions anonymously, and save slides and notes easily. And all that activity is automatically saved and analyzed for you. 

One pharmaceutical meeting manager at a session during this year’s Pharma Forum, co-organized by MeetingsNet and CBI, said that, by using Educational Measures’ iPad-based technology, she found that almost 94 percent of participants at her events were engaged—meaning they took notes, saved slides, and asked questions. In all, the 1,535 participants at 11 of her events took a total of 110,456 actions. That’s data she can use to fine-tune her next meetings to make them even more engaging.

But while she found success in using this particular technology, there are lots of other ways to make meetings more impactful by grabbing attendees’ attention, encouraging experimentation by enabling participants to learn by doing, making use of people’s natural instincts and behavior, and creating a way for participants to easily access the lessons they learned when it comes time to apply them in practice. 

Here are some tips for how to make it happen that were shared during the Pharma Forum session.

1. Keep your sessions short and impactful. Eighty-five percent of HCPs said this is important to them in Ashfield Meetings & Events’ 2018 The Science of HCP Meetings study, said Katie Koziol, HMCC, CMP, the company’s director of client services. “Focus the agenda on what’s new and exciting, not on information they already know,” she added. Consider the HCP’s return on investment, said a pharma meeting manager. “Understanding what their objectives are, as well as yours, is key.” 

2. Make sure your speakers are not just experts in the content, but also engaging presenters. During a tabletop discussion, speaker training came up as a key way to sharpen the presentation skills of those who aren’t professionally trained.

3. Don’t be afraid to add a virtual component. More than three-quarters of Ashfield’s survey respondents said meetings should have a mix of virtual and on-site elements. “They want to make the most of their time on site, so you may want to consider providing some modules ahead of time, then use the on-site time to discuss and apply” what they learned pre-event, she said.

4. When HCPs are on site, think about using interactive formats such as workshops and hands-on training, which 86 percent said increase the educational value of a meeting. “Motion is emotion,” said one session participant. Mix up the room format, and give them plenty of opportunities to move around the room.

5. Find ways for HCPs to contribute to the agenda. Three-quarters of Ashfield’s respondents said meetings should provide the ability for attendees to help shape the learning experience, said Koziol. You can insert questions into your registration process, asking them for their hot topics or biggest challenges.

6. Give them lots of opportunities to share their clinical experiences, both with each other and with the key opinion leaders. “They like to have time to share best practices,” Koziol said. Be sure to include time for facilitated networking, such as Q&A sessions, along with the informal networking they engage in during breaks. 

7. Follow up post-meeting. Research shows that learners forget 50 percent within one hour; within 24 hours they forget 75 percent; and within a month they forget 90 percent of the information they learned. Send reminders, photos, Q&A transcripts, and other reminders to help HCPs remember, and hopefully use, their new understandings and skills.

8. Collect as much information as you can and analyze your event’s data footprint. The more you know about what attendees found engaging—and what disengaged them—the more compelling you can make your next meeting.


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