Medicine is a profession at the cutting edge of science. Nearly every day, some new innovation comes to the forefront, some new path-breaking study is published, and some new guideline is released. Healthcare professionals, also known as HCPs, need to update themselves frequently to accommodate the radical changes: the advent of new technologies, changes in healthcare delivery, changing demographics and patterns of diseases. One way to do this is by attending medical meetings and events.
The New Reality of HCP Events
Some of the most popular types of medical events include speaker dinners, symposia, congresses, and product meetings. However, the pandemic opened a door to a new reality in medical meetings, turning face-to-face meetings into virtual and hybrid formats. HCPs found a new and easier way to attend meetings with no required travel and much less time away from their practice and patients, all of which offered a glimpse of the future of medical education.
In recent interactive webinars with HCPs, it was determined that they had to reorient their relationship to their work, their families, and their patients. Many shared that they still will attend virtual/hybrid meetings because it saves them time away from their practice and allows a better environment for safety protocols and contagious disease prevention.
Medical meeting hosts and planners need to understand the physicians’ perspective as to what meetings they are attending, how they are attending, and perhaps most importantly, why they are attending.
What HCPs Want from Medical Meetings
More physicians and HCPs are embracing new ways of meeting as part of their professional learning, networking, and education. Planners and medical meeting professionals must learn what trends and preferences physicians and HCPs prefer and accommodate their needs.
Based on recent surveys and event feedback, we know that HCPs are looking for the following:
Compelling Content and Involvement in the Agenda
Content is still king. It’s one of the top reasons HCPs choose to attend an event, so make your agenda available early to encourage registration. Also, allowing your audience to be involved in the creation of the agenda increases the likelihood of attendance. In post-event surveys, ask what topic they’re more interested in learning about and save the responses when planning future events. When sending save the dates or invitations, include a link for attendees to submit their questions or share what they are most interested in learning about. Even something as simple as offering concurrent presentations in different rooms allows them to choose the content more relevant to them and their practice.
Physicians want to make the most of their time away from their practice, and sitting in a traditional lecture hall no longer accomplishes that. Allow HCPs to be directly involved in presentations, whether that’s something simple like a live Q&A or more complex like sharing content in an interactive game show format. Other engaging formats that HCPs specifically request include:
- Live demonstrations.
- Interactive demonstrations.
- Discussion groups.
- Breakout sessions.
Qualified Subject-matter Expert Speakers and Well-delivered Presentations
As important as the content topics are, the actual presentations are just as important. Attendees want to hear from experts with real experience, industry leaders who can share new, innovative research and findings. How they share their content is also important. In addition to being engaging, presentations should be clear and concise and have practical applications.
Unique Venues and Utilization of Outdoor Space
HCPs don’t want to sit in hours-long meetings in windowless rooms with airwalls. Given that many hotels and conference centers are booking out further and further in advance, it is beneficial to explore other options from a planning perspective as well. Venues that are specific to the healthcare industry, such as medical innovation training centers, will be especially appealing as attendees can explore the cutting-edge technology available in addition to the event content. And don’t limit your event to indoor spaces—even if you don’t have the capability to host educational sessions outdoors, other components like networking receptions or meal breaks can easily be held on a terrace or lawn.
You may believe that many doctors prefer meetings during office hours, but a majority say that early evening is the most convenient time to attend. For local physicians, this means they can still see patients during the day. Even for out-of-town attendees, they might be able to attend their practice in the morning before travelling or at least not have to take the earliest flight, making them more refreshed and ready to learn.
Even before the pandemic, a majority of doctors preferred to attend CME meetings online, and some even preferred virtual dinner meetings. In the post-pandemic world, these virtual events are still desirable. While events with networking components or other interactive elements are not as effective online, purely educational content is more accessible and easier to produce virtually.
After the pandemic, the biggest benefit of in-person events is the ability to connect with colleagues and peers face-to-face. Take advantage of the strong desire for in-person networking and schedule multiple opportunities such as formal receptions, speed networking, or even quick breaks between sessions.
A Location That is Easily Accessible Internationally
No matter where your event is located or your attendees are coming from, they want to get there quickly and easily. While it’s impossible to satisfy everyone, choosing a large city with an international airport offering multiple direct flights is best practice.
Inclusivity and Diversity
Creating an inclusive, diverse conference is to facilitate attendees from all backgrounds and demographics, including the speakers and panelists. Other examples include providing registration scholarships or reduced fees for students and fellows or, if your event is virtual, offering subtitles in multiple languages.
When planning a medical meeting or conference, your main goal should be to create a robust learning and networking experience for all attendees while making sure that all global compliance laws and regulations are followed. By understanding HCP’s needs and expectations and incorporating the above elements, you can create more impactful events that draw higher attendance and keep HCPs coming back year after year.
Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, HMCC
Principal Consultant, Life Sciences
Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc.