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When restrictions on travel and gatherings began to take effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic this past March, Physicians Education Resource®, LLC (PER®), was one of the first CME providers to fully embrace digital programming and quickly pivot to a digital landscape.
3 Tips for Creating Memorable, Innovative Online CME Activities
When restrictions on travel and gatherings began to take effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic this past March, Physicians Education Resource®, LLC (PER®), was one of the first CME providers to fully embrace digital programming and quickly pivot to a digital landscape. The uncertainty of those early days of the pandemic meant that live meetings were converted into online programs very rapidly—in as little as 4 days, in one instance. But PER® President Phil Talamo, CHCP, and his colleagues immediately recognized the opportunity to innovate in order to keep delivering critical clinical information to HCPs.
PER® not only converted 100% of its previously scheduled live events into virtual meetings, but also added multiple new series that address the ongoing public health crisis. But capturing and maintaining the attention of busy HCP audiences during such a tumultuous time involves more than simply posting content online. Here are 3 ways Talamo and the PER® team pivoted to create impactful, engaging virtual CME events.
Focus on creating a premium digital event
From the onset of PER®’s pivot to digital programming, Talamo says the team’s motto was, “We’re not doing webcasts; we’re doing virtual meetings.” For PER®, this meant making innovative technology work for them, rather than just broadcasting a speaker and synced slide deck. Talamo explains, “There is no playbook for this type of thing, and you can’t be afraid to innovate and take a chance.” The team at PER® did just that, incorporating features such as real-time question-and-answer sessions, live polling, and virtual breakout sessions to create a one-of-a-kind experience for virtual event participants.
Bring faculty into the process of innovation
Talamo and his team have found faculty to be one of their greatest partners during this time of transition, and frequently ask faculty for feedback on the types of content and formats that they, as practicing clinicians who must earn CME, would like to see.
In addition, PER® selects activity chairs and faculty who are not only leaders in their area of specialty, but also skilled at presenting in a highly interactive online environment. “We look for dynamic, engaging experts who not only understand the data but are also great teachers,” Talamo says. “Most learners aren’t sitting in their home completely uninterrupted for these programs. They’re in their homes, sometimes with one headphone in while watching TV, maybe with kids in the next room, and we have to create an attractive and engaging experience that can both compete for their attention and educate them on complex topics.”
Make the virtual experience convenient for attendees
In this busy environment, ease of use is a necessity for any online programming. PER® pivoted to offering 1-click access for its virtual events to provide a turnkey experience for participants. “Our team looked at everything,” Talamo said. “From marketing and social media, to removing barriers to attending, length of programs, interactivity. Every single thing moved just a little bit to make it more virtual-friendly.”
PER® recently announced their decision to move all events to its virtual platform through March 2021, and will continue to innovate by adding features that include avatars, virtual exhibit halls, and one-on-one communication with faculty. However, Talamo cautions, “There is no replacement for in-person learning and we will look to include a component of that again.” As face-to-face events begin to resume, PER® will integrate hybrid platforms that combine in-person groups with livestream opportunities.
But until that time, Talamo urges us all to keep exploring new ways to educate HCPs. “In this evolving time, education still needs to take place because doctors are still treating patients. It just looks a little bit different. So, you have to try to find new ways to engage both the faculty and the audience to make sure you’re able to adjust to the new climate, and not just rely on one format to deliver quality programming.”
Phil Talamo, CHCP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.