Engaging the Audience
Almost all HCPs prefer active over passive learning formats, and virtual speaker events must actively involve target audiences.
Webconference platforms offer various interactive functions such as audience polling, response meters, and texting for questions
and comments. Skillful use of these tools can produce a virtual meeting experience that engages the intellect of participants,
potentially changing their beliefs and behaviors. As a practical matter, it helps to keep group sizes in a range of six to
12 people, so that everyone can pose questions and comments.
A Dynamic Experience
There's nothing like the immediacy of an in-room speaker, and as speaker programs move into digital media, it's important
to compensate for the loss of face-to-face contact. Webconference platforms support a host of multimedia features that can
combine to deliver a great program experience. Effective preparation, founded in an understanding of digital media and instructional
design, is essential to deliver a superior D2D speaker session. This includes elements such as live video of speakers, dynamic
slide design, and live markups, such as arrow pointers. The technical quality and practicality of these tools is constantly
improving, so that effective multimedia can bring a virtual meeting to life.
The Right Content
As pharma sales forces evolve away from overt promotion and towards a focus on science, so too must program content evolve.
To bring real value to clinicians, virtual speaker programs need to address evidence-based medicine and other relevant clinical
topics. Of course, these topics can include an appropriate role for sponsor products and brand messages, but the core content
must first and foremost address clinician needs. It also helps to engage the best speakers, and the logistics of virtual programs
makes it possible to concentrate activity in the hands of a smaller group of the most respected key opinion leaders.
Making It Work
Perhaps nothing is more critical to the success of a virtual speaker program than sales force buy-in. Too often, virtual speaker
events have been one-off or short-lived programs, fairly viewed by sales reps as creating more complications than benefits.
Virtual speaker initiatives need to be carefully planned and methodically rolled out with sales rep orientation sessions that
clearly communicate program plans and logistics. The virtual speaker channel must also be positioned as a permanent addition
to the sales rep's tool set, one that will help reps deliver value, gain physician access, and reach sales goals.
Even with so many market forces arrayed against them, speaker programs have a strong role in medical marketing. An SK&A survey
in 2008 showed that 80 percent of physicians welcome pharma speaker programs, reflecting the strong benefit clinicians perceive
in live peer-to-peer events. Speaker programs are worth saving, and must move away from dining venues and into digital media
to survive in the new medical landscape.
Bill Cooney is President and CEO of MedPoint Communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org