Clearly, today’s medical congresses are not your father’s conventions. Not by a long shot. Gone are the days that meetings only offer in-person participation, rely on generic messaging and are slow to distribute breaking news. Thanks to the digital age we live in and the pandemic adjustments we have had to make, congress organizers and participants have created some novel approaches to the same old same old.
As a result, we see new trends in how pharmaceutical companies engage with their Healthcare Professional (HCP) audience and how all participants can enhance their congress experience in a both time and cost effective manner. It’s a long overdue, “from-the-ground-up” rethink, and it was about time.
Of course one thing that hasn’t changed, medical conferences provide HCPs opportunities to learn, explore new research, and network with colleagues while providing pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to connect with their key stakeholders. With many organizations vying for the same interaction, it’s hard for these connections not to get lost in all of the noise.
To create memorable narratives, pharmaceutical companies need to develop a plan that includes multiple touch points to enhance and maximize audience engagement. The medical conference experience should be one that is specialized and tailored to target HCPs, one they can immerse themselves in and look forward to.
Today's conference journey for pharma companies isn't just onsite, but it starts weeks before, continues during the convention, and then extends beyond with relevant follow-up. Each stage is as important as the next to fully engage with important HCPs and to achieve congress/medical communication goals.
On a high level, pre-conference strategic planning comes down to three things:
Understanding the audience;
Defining a pharma client’s objectives; and
Creating the right experience
Pharmaceutical companies have a golden opportunity to connect with and provide their target audience a sneak preview of planned activities and content weeks before the event. If this connection is inspirational, HCPs will look for ways to engage further regardless of how the congress is delivered, in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
Using a variety of channels, everything from social media/paid media, to sales/MSL colleagues engagements, to the implementation of customized multiple digital formats (interactive platforms, quizzes, slide decks, videos, e-learning modules, etc.), pharma clients can capture a HCP’s attention and galvanize key individuals ahead of time.
Additionally, conducting a deeper dive into target HCP interests can lead to the development of more focused content and the presentation of information that could be helpful to these individuals in clinical decision-making.
Once onsite, individuals/teams are spread thin trying to take in as much scientific exchange as possible. Attendees are following their program and at the same time monitoring their X feed, formerly known as Twitter feed, to capture key discussions that are actively happening. Many experts have noted that there has been “a dramatic shift” towards social media for important one-on-one interactions and networking opportunities that in the past were only accomplished in-person.
For pharma clients, keeping a finger on the pulse through social listening can help spot trending topics, track impressions/discussions in real-time and monitor competitive chatter that could lead to valuable learnings including identifying educational gaps and competitive intelligence. In addition, holding asynchronous meetings/ huddles/virtual advisory boards during the congress can enhance your digital footprint.
It is important to keep in mind that hybrid events require more innovative and interactive approaches to engage your audience. Including activities such as election-style debates, polls, gamification, and tools such as augmented reality can help stimulate audience interest. That is not to lessen the value of arranging in-person programs that are designed to connect and network with new and existing KOLs.
Whether scheduling onsite or executing digitally, it is important to identify the right channel and the right information/message to accelerate engagement. Then, using various marketing techniques, augment planned activities with promotional tactics that will help to increase awareness and differentiate you from your competition.
Post-congress you want to keep the conversation going and the information flowing to targeted HCPs. Digital activities may include monitoring social channels to garner congress feedback, collecting and sharing insights gleaned during the event, and developing an online resource center of congress materials and session recordings for stakeholders. Content should be shared in a timely manner and tailored to specific HCP needs and questions.
You will want to continue to engage with HCPs and empower them with credible and cutting-edge information gathered at the congress. In addition, post-event, it is important to grow and broaden HCP relationships developed at the congress. And don’t forget to evaluate the work executed during the event with a robust measurement plan. Collecting data across all digital and physical touch points will help analyze whether you were successful in achieving your congress goals.
With all of this to keep in mind, it is exciting to speculate that future congresses may look even more different than today’s events. Although the convention’s physical footprint may be on a smaller scale, we should see increases in social media interaction and sharing of information through different channels as HCPs view information in ways that are more convenient for them. In the foreseeable future experts are envisioning even more technological growth with the continued development of AI, chatbots, virtual rooms, and learning platforms (Source: Reuters Events).
As congresses evolve, we anticipate that new innovations will expand meeting accessibility and inclusion while increasing the quality and breadth of scientific exchange. Talk to us at SAKS Health where we work to develop congress strategies and initiatives that are certain to meet your goals, exceed your expectations, and help to enable a Better Healthcare Tomorrow™.
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