Important insights into health-care professionals (HCPs) and tips on how to host an event that will attract and retain them were among the highlights of Jocelyn Cote’s recent Smart Meetings webinar.

Cote, global managing director of strategic meetings management for American Express Meetings and Events, hosted the webinar “Drive Attendance at Your Medical Meetings” on June 13. She outlined several key factors that influence a HCP’s likeliness to attend an event, and therefore, things for planners to consider when planning one.

Cote bases most of her claims on a 2016 study in which 16 health-care professionals across America and Europe gave in-depth interviews regarding their preferences at, and opinions of, medical meetings. This qualitative analysis bolsters a quantitative survey of 505 HCPs across the world and allows researchers to uncover ‘deeper nuances about meeting preferences.’

The HCP: A Unique Attendee

Health Care Professionals include dentists, doctors, nurses and psychologists. They are professionals responsible for the care of others, mostly in a medical environment. Additionally, they all went through many years of education to enter their chosen profession.

According to Cote, this means two things for the planner. First, HCPs like education. “They just can’t get enough education, and meetings play a vital role in HCP’s career-long quest for education,” she says. Second, HCPs have a lot of experience with education. They know what works and what doesn’t, and they will not waste their time with meetings that are less than great.

In 2017, HCPs received 1 million hours of instruction worldwide and about 163,000 educational events were held in the United States. With all this choice, Cote finds it important to give some tips to make sure your event invitation breaks through the noise—or clutter of inboxes.

  • Use easy, interest-peaking subject lines in email invitations (maybe the name of a prominent speaker).
  • Keep your invitation short and sweet.
  • Keep in mind the time of day that an email is sent out (avoid Monday mornings).
  • Consider cultural norms surrounding invitations (often, potential attendees in Mexico expect a follow-up phone call after an email invitation is sent).

Content, Content, Content

Quality content is the most important aspect of a medical meeting. Here are a few tips from Cote:

  • Provide quality speakers who are credible, published and engaging.
  • Do your research! Make sure your content is relevant, up to date and can be applicable to patients today. Maybe include a few sessions on off-beat topics that attendees won’t find in a medical journal.
  • Avoid the cardinal sin of reading slides during a presentation. Instead, make a presentation hands-on, interactive and entertaining.
  • Encourage “curbside consults,” where attendees can discuss grey areas of medicine and interact with their peers.
  • Encourage use of mobile phones and devices for scheduling, connecting attendees, uploading presentations, etc.

Related: The Ground Shifts Yet Again for Medical Meetings

Meeting Design and Regulations

While content is the most important aspect of any meeting, how it is delivered is key in attracting HCPs to your event. Cote discusses the pros and cons of different kinds of meetings, according to HCPs. She states that while dinner meetings are popular—as attendees do not have to travel and leave their families and patients—professionals are often tired after a long day of work and may not be motivated to attend.

Alternatively, she says that often, professionals choose certain events based in “vacation-worthy” or exciting cities. This, however, contradicts specific guidelines that most pharmaceutical organizations adhere to regarding HCP invitations. Such guidelines specify that an invitation does not include guests and that travel itineraries are booked so that participants arrive and depart within the meeting parameters.

Cote states that despite guidelines, “HCPs may work directly with airlines to change their flights to accommodate personal travel,” although this is not supported by pharma companies.

Medical meetings are often sponsored by pharma companies, hospitals, universities and other firms, businesses and organizations, so they must adhere to certain regulations that may constrain planners. The common constraint of funding is not an issue for such companies, however, so planners have more freedom with spending.

Get more smart tips and tricks by accessing the full webinar here.