Healthcare providers have a healthy—and growing—appetite for virtual events. Almost nine out of ten HCPs say they want online access to content presented at live events, according to a 2018 study conducted by Ashfield Meetings & Events. And as HCPs who are digital natives enter the workforce, their desire for a virtual event experience will only increase. Even today, 78 percent of HCPs prefer a mix of online and physical events.
To meet the increasing demand by HCPs for virtual engagement, organizations must embrace digital as a central component of their event marketing strategy.
The Rise of the Virtual Event
Virtual events have grown in popularity with HCPs due to changing preferences, stricter regulations, and increasing demands on their time. According to the Ashfield study:
• 20 percent of doctors refuse or are unable to take in-person meetings;
• 54 percent say regulatory barriers restrict their ability to meet face-to-face;
• 70 percent say staffing limitations and heavy workloads hinder their ability to attend in-person events.
Virtual events circumvent these challenges by providing HCPs the opportunity to network with peers and stay up to date with the latest products and scientific trends from the convenience of their office or home. For life sciences companies, virtual events eliminate travel and venue costs as well as offer sales reps that same flexibility to attend from any location.
Bayer is at the forefront of incorporating digital meetings and webinars into its customer outreach. “Traditional events have worked well in engaging and educating our HCP customers,” says Sam Pinner, head of integrated multichannel marketing at Bayer UK. “Sharing that same high-quality content virtually means we can go even further to meet our customers’ needs, sometimes even reaching those who otherwise wouldn’t attend a physical event in any case.”
Key Ingredients for Digital Success
There are many important elements of online events, but there are two must-haves: a mix of live and online connectivity, and content that’s optimized for online consumption.
Mix things up for best results. Integrating online events into an existing strategy requires companies to consider the right balance of live, virtual, and hybrid programs (in-person events with an online component). Despite the accessibility of online meetings, in-person events still provide the valuable opportunity to meet face-to-face with company representatives, industry experts, and fellow doctors. Nothing can completely replace this personal connection.
But offering multiple event types lets participants set their own schedules and select events that best fit their preferences and availability. HCPs that choose to travel will benefit from in-person networking, while doctors who need to remain in office will still get the chance to hear the latest industry research and advances. Further, eliminating the logistical and geographical barriers between HCPs and events translates to higher satisfaction, more registrations, and a greater ROI.
Optimize content for digital viewing. Virtual events require more than just a livestream to be successful. After all, when attendees can leave your event with just a click of a mouse, it’s crucial to keep them engaged with quality content specifically designed for digital viewing. Consider this: A computer screen fills just a small fraction of a person’s peripheral vision compared to being at a live event in front of a stage. Because there are so many more potential distractions, then, virtual content must be that much more compelling.
What’s more, optimizing content for digital viewing, especially mobile devices, is critical. Small, dense text and contrasting colors won’t show up well on all screens, so be sure to test your presentations on different devices. Keep content succinct and clear, and keep sessions as short as possible to ensure participants digest the most important messages. Fortunately, many online meeting applications provide built-in analytics and tracking so that companies can measure performance, and proactively adjust content—even in real time—according to what resonates and what is desired.
Meetings remain a highly valued part of the HCP learning journey. With the opportunities to network and hear the latest insights in their field, doctors will continue to rely on events as an central source of their scientific knowledge. Making these programs available through virtual channels allows life sciences companies to continue leveraging events as an important component of their HCP engagement strategy, even in the face of stricter regulations.
Nicholas Baxter is senior director of commercial strategy at Veeva Systems. He works closely with clients to share industry best practices and identify opportunities for improving the process of managing events in the highly regulated life sciences space.