Pharma Online: 6 tips for transitioning to virtual health conferences

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, numerous healthcare organisations are pivoting their in-person pharmaceutical and healthcare conferences to the online world.

As outlined in our previous blog (which you can read here), around 70% of pharma event and conference planners have moved to virtual platforms in order to keep them running whilst adhering to government guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus.

While many of these organisations have used virtual platforms and other online solutions as part of their regular conferencing previously, for others, this is an entirely new and unchartered landscape and (despite the continually emerging benefits of hosting pharma conferences online) they are unsure of how to move their physical conferences to the online sphere and still retain their face-to-face impact.

At Gravit8, we know that the true key to successfully moving your pharma and healthcare conferences online is by replicating the benefits of a physical conference in the online sphere as powerfully as possible, at the same time as harnessing the advancements that virtual platforms can provide.

If this is something that you are also hoping to achieve, read on to discover our six tips for transitioning to virtual health conferences:

6 tips for transitioning from face-to-face to virtual conferences:

1. Include plenty of downloadable content and resources

Research has found that 79% of medical professionals’ main reason for attending medical conferences to learn about new clinical information. What’s more, 81.5% of these professionals report that their main source of retaining this information is from the clinical brochures and handouts that they acquire at conferences.

At the same time, being unable to access these kinds of resources can prove frustrating. As one delegate noted in a previous medical conference study by American Express:

“Sometimes you can gain access to the actual PowerPoints used in the presentations. When that’s not a feature, that’s annoying because especially if I’m paying to be there, I feel like I shouldn’t have to spend my time taking notes. I expect to be able to just be focused in the moment and not have to […] get distracted by writing notes.”

One of the benefits of moving conferences online is that these kinds of resources can be made more easily available for delegates to access (such as via download links and virtual hotspots), and these resources have unlimited availability – unlike, for example, physical brochures and booklets.

Therefore, enabling access to a wide variety of content and resources for conference delegates via your virtual setting is an essential part of making your transition a success.

Similarly, you should also:

2. Ensure conference sessions are recorded and easily accessible following the conference

One of the great disadvantages of hosting face-to-face conferences is that there is a risk of delegates potentially missing some or all of a session. In fact, lack of time has been found to be a major reason that healthcare professionals skip or miss parts of the conferences they hoped to attend.

Conversely, online conferences, if recorded, will enable your attendees to access the conference sessions at a time that suits them should they miss out or need to refresh their memories on the information that was shared.

As such, it’s important that, when moving online, your setup has high-quality recording capabilities and allows for access to these recordings following the conference.

3. Include your organisation’s branding

Branding has always played an essential role within in-person conferences (for example, by being present on posters, banners and take-away materials and resources), allowing medical professionals to discover and memorise which businesses are making the greatest advances in their relevant field.

For virtual health conferences, this is no different; therefore, when you make the move from physical to online conferences, ensure that your branding remains prominent on any materials you create, and be sure to choose a virtual conference platform that offers scope to add your company’s branding in other areas, such as providing links to your website and social media pages.

As explained by Gravit8’s Managing Director, Alastair Reece: 

“In the physical realm, large brands were able to differentiate and stand out through large footprints, striking architecture, prominent branding and large attractors and footfall generators, yet unfortunately, in the virtual world, most brands currently settle for a flat, 2D, generic looking website experience for their customers. If you think about that for a second, it’s absolutely crazy! 

Thanks to our 20+ years in physical events and software, we are perfectly positioned to enable all the wow factor, interactivity and brand immersion of real-life events in a 3-dimensional virtual space.  What’s more, as we can do this at a fraction of the budget required, we can actually offer far more impact per £/$ invested.  

The simple truth is, in a virtual space, you need to differentiate more to stand out from the crowd via aesthetics, branding and messaging, not less, and I’m not sure that any simple flat 2D website can achieve the brand immersion that you get in a 3D virtual space. Not only does it allow for more creativity aesthetically, but the interaction can be taken to the next level as well, far more so than simply scrolling down a flat page.  

It’s impossible to understate the importance of the correct aesthetic, user experience, and messaging at your virtual event. It’s even more important to differentiate in virtual; we can provide the wow factor of large open sprawling spaces, designed to welcome, engage and entertain audiences, via our Gravit8 platform.” 

4. Make the conference accessible on a variety of devices

Different industries across the globe are becoming increasingly digital – the pharma and healthcare sector being one of the most prominent. Even as far back as 2004, one study found that 85-90% of HCPs use mobile devices in a wide variety of clinical settings. Fast-forward to today, and these uses include patient monitoring, information management, communications, medical education and training and more.

What’s more, many in-person healthcare and pharma conferences traditionally include interactive elements – for example, voting via mobile phones and taking part in educational quizzes – which have been found to enhance presentations and contribute to a positive overall conference experience.

Therefore, when transitioning from face-to-face conferences to virtual ones, be sure that you not only allow for access on a variety of difference devices, but also that you optimise these for a positive user experience and include interactive features to boost engagement throughout the conference.

5. Allow for communication, networking and connection.

We mentioned in our previous blog that one of the most important aspects of pharma conferences for healthcare professionals is the opportunity to connect and network with other experts in their field.

Indeed, research has found that, while HCPs are excited for the possibilities that virtual conferences can provide, they are missing the in-person contact that comes with physical conferences.

There is of course no complete substitute for face-to-face contact; however, when transitioning to the online sphere, be sure to provide virtual break-out meeting rooms with video call and instant messaging functions to provide these networking opportunities and make them as personable as possible, so that delegates and speakers feel that they have ample methods to connect with each other.

6. Prioritise regulatory compliance and security

Regulation has been found to increasingly restrict what pharma and healthcare organisations can do at physical conferences. One piece of research found 20% of doctors refuse/are unable to attend in-person meetings due to stricter regulations, and 54% of HCPs report that regulatory restrictions limit their ability to meet other professionals face-to-face.

Virtual conferences are a great means of counteracting a number of these issues, so when you make the transition, be sure to choose a platform or platform provider that places regulation at the forefront.

As with any online endeavour, it is also essential that where you choose to host your virtual conference is imbued with the most robust security measures.

Alongside general data protection regulations, the healthcare sector is among the most vulnerable industries to cyber-attacks due to the value of the personal data that they hold, meaning that any attendees will be particularly vigilant of the security measures you have in place for your conference.

Ready to transition from face-to-face to virtual health conferences?

With the above tips, you’ll be in a strong position to begin transferring your physical pharma and healthcare conferences into the online sphere.

Our team at Gravit8 are all too aware of how overwhelming this process may be, however. In fact, we began our venture into the pharmaceutical events world by helping our clients at face-to-face conferences and experienced the move to completely virtual conferences ourselves!

20 years on and we are now supporting a variety of businesses make the successful transition to virtual health conferences – including seven of the world’s top 12 healthcare and pharmaceutical companies.

If you’d like to learn more about how we have achieved this and how we can work together to make your own transition to virtual conferences a triumph, get in touch with our team today.