NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT A DOCTOR IS thinking most of the time, and those of us who are patients can be happy about that. We are comforted when physicians keep their counsel until they complete an examination.
A focus group convened by Impact Unlimited, an events, exhibits, and meetings company in Dayton, NJ, sought to understand doctors' attitudes toward conferences, exhibit halls, and pharma companies. Thirty high-prescribing doctors participated in the study, including radiologists, oncologists, neurologists, cardiologists, and primary care physicians, all of whom attended at least one national convention in their medical specialty in the last two years.
So what do physicians really think as they walk the show floor aisles? The focus group showed doctors nine photographs of facial expressions and asked them to point to the image that best describes how they feel as they enter the exhibit floor at a conference.
If you imagined it was the ecstatic bliss of number A5 or the happiness, even delight, of A4 or A8, well, think again. Among the respondents, 10 doctors chose photo A3, the man holding his ears and clenching his teeth in agony of the apparent sensory overload. And another seven physicians chose number A2, the one they thought of as the "poker face."
During the physician focus group, one word popped up again and again: "overwhelmed." Most healthcare professionals described the exhibit floor as an exaggeration of the marketing onslaught they experience in their daily lives—sales visits, DTC advertising, targeted print and Internet marketing—only taken to the max.
When exposed to that volume of information, doctors seem to respond much they way they do in their offices—by shortening face-time with reps. Most conference attendees spend only about four minutes per booth.
To make that time more valuable for doctors and sponsors, exhibitors should strive to present one consistent, memorable, integrated message. All components—including booth design, presentations, promotional materials, and reps' discussions with physicians—need to work together to deliver a uniform, simple message. Companies should ensure sales reps' training allows them to deliver that message, and that the take-aways are ready to go.