The future is hybrid: why virtual events are here to stay
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Garth Sundem 00:01
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society Podcast Series elevate, gathering the voices of Medical Affairs thought leaders and stakeholders to explore current trends, define best practices, and empower the Medical Affairs function. I’m your host Garth Sundem, communications director of MAPS. And today we’re speaking about planning and delivering virtual and hybrid events with Impetus Digital co founder and CEO Natalie Yeadon. This podcast is brought to you by Impetus Digital whose insight platform creates flawless online experiences by leveraging award winning synchronous and asynchronous tools and services. So Natalie, as we are maybe starting to emerge from the pandemic, let’s take a look back. We all scrambled to produce digital events in this last year. And I wonder if you could help us take a look at some of the things that worked and some of the things that did not?
Natalie Yeadon 01:02
Absolutely. So as we all know, with COVID-19, we couldn’t meet anymore. So all of the live meetings that a lot of life science companies, pharmaceutical, biotech, they, you know, in terms of advisory boards, investigator meetings, even clinical trials, reached an abrupt stop, and everybody was scrambling. So there was lots of issues. What did come in, were, again, a lot of zoom meetings, a lot of synchronous touch points. And that actually happened even with physicians and their patients of telehealth, the same thing was happening with pharmaceutical companies reaching out to their Keio wells, MSL sales reps using all kinds of digital zoom meetings, those sorts of things. So some of the things that just come to come to mind, there is a lot of zoom fatigue, these kinds of interactions online can be very energy depleting. And unlike live meetings that have somewhere to go, so you can meet people outside, get a coffee, go to the bathroom, kind of dissipate some of that energy, what we find is happened here, both it for internal meetings, but also meetings with our customers is there was no break. So I think there was a lot of learning going on and how to optimize that. I think in addition, we have translated the ways we have always done meetings, which is very interactional, stacking a huge gigantic agenda. And again, having a typical advisory board that we would which four or five hours long, but instead of doing it in person, we were doing it through a zoom meeting. So again, very energy depleting, it’s difficult to maintain people’s in their interest and not getting them distracted by doing other things. And too much didactic was another key issue that’s happening lots and lots of slide presentations, without enabling people to take that mental break, doing something kind of fun, and not necessarily connecting. The only other thing I just want to mention as well, too, is we also saw a lot of virtual conferences. So that came in in a real hurry. So we did see some software that was kind of cobbled together, we found that there was platforms to do the actual mainstage and some of the breakouts. But then people were using a completely different platform to do networking. There was also a lot of issues with exhibitor booths, they’re not getting enough traffic. And so lots of issues around on demand metrics, and just really being able to make the return on investment for sponsoring companies get the biggest bang for their buck.
Garth Sundem 03:34
Well, okay. So, you know, in terms of the content that you’re delivering, you know, yes, we had our events in there, there are ways we did these things. And now we’re taking that same model and trying to apply it to digital. When we make that leap from in person to digital. Would you say that less is more? Do we need to be streamlining the content that we’re offering digitally?
Natalie Yeadon 04:01
Absolutely. It’s just we’re in a completely different modality. So again, one of the things that’s been difficult to translate is, we just took what we always knew. And then we just put it online writing as we all know, everything from E detailing to the way that we’re conversing with people at conferences, we’re in a different miliar and an opportunity to really make that quote unquote, digital transformation. So for example, instead of the typical, you know, endless presentations, or we’re having exhibitor booths, where we’re just putting these things in there, we need to be aware of the kind of people that are coming into these conferences and the way generally people think we’re in a place in a world, just like we’re talking about precision medicine, and Uber customization of the healthcare we’re giving people were now in a place we’ve heard a lot about omni channel and making sure that we’re giving the Uber precise ability to read what people like and dislike. So I like to categorize people under these three categories, what I would actually call skimmers, swimmers and deep divers. So now that we have the ability to have electronic data, no longer do we have to get hinged with the typical way that we present data in live meetings. For example, very, very detailed posters, or abstracts are endless presentations, we can give those to the people we call deep divers, the ones who want to dig in. But for the skimmers, we need to make sure that we use a lot of really innovative digital visualization techniques, making things pop, interactive, clicking on specific buttons and having the details of that Kaplan Meier curve suddenly appear using lots of icons, and other really kind of fun facts. And then of course, there’s the swimmers, the people who want something in between. So leveraging the digital platform to utilize data visualization options, to tag information to make things really searchable, and giving people opportunities to pre select their agendas and what they want to participate in, and giving them lots of opportunity to make it a custom experience for themselves. So one of the things that we’ve actually done both at the at our insight platform, which is really leveraged for smaller groups, like advisory boards, publication groups, people working on investigator sessions, and you know, augmenting their protocols, is leveraging all kinds of really innovative tools and making it interesting and intriguing, all the way to our insight events platform. So the big events, the big conferences, etc. and making putting a lot of really intriguing things in that to keep people’s interest.
Garth Sundem 06:39
Okay, so maybe on a individual presenter level, we could say that less is more, right, because maybe an individual presenter isn’t going to have their 72 slide deck, they’re going to have to pare that down. And they’re going to have to deliver things in a more streamlined way. But on an event level, it sounds like digital offers a whole new world of opportunities. And maybe more is more. And or maybe the way we conceptualize that is, you know, personalization is more.
Natalie Yeadon 07:13
Well, yeah, and it’s actually a really great point. And so I just wanted to share that there’s a couple of different ways of articulating that. And that is when we say less is more or more is more, really, I think, in some ways, we are sort of stuck a little bit in the old paradigm, it’s very, the old paradigm is very transactional, it’s an opportunity where I’ve got somebody’s attention. But you know, we’re bound by geography or we were bound by geography, it’s expensive to cart people around to different places, I’ve got somebody full attention, I’m going to throw enough stuff to the wall and hope something sticks in the digital space that we have both at the advisory board or working group level, all the way to the hackathon or conference or the education event. In the big event platforms, we now have an opportunity to change that paradigm. We’re no longer bound by geographical restrictions. So we were in this era of the great dispersion. And with that comes the thinking of how we actually process and ruminate and think and cognate and learn is it doesn’t happen with a big data dump. Just like we don’t want to cram for exams and suddenly expect that we’re going to comprehend and remember everything we learned when we have this opportunity to suddenly segment, the heavy five hour meeting, or the multi day conference into small digestible components built over time, allowing people to process it, interact and network with colleagues read the data in their own processing time, especially with a lot of analytical people in the medical space. And then being able to provide thoughtful insights and to really be able to practice some of this in their clinics, working with patients talking to other stakeholders, before they build and create their own opinion. And then we can really start working with what I call shared insights. So I think that the idea of less is more it really depends on that time continuum, and the fact that we’re no longer bound by the typical geographical restrictions.
Garth Sundem 09:11
Okay, so we touched a little bit about on how an individual presenter might reconceptualize their in person delivery for digital, we talked a little bit about how an event could restructure itself from in person to digital. But you know, I know from conferences, you know, like AACR, I’m thinking about all the poster sessions and whatever. So much of the learning and the benefit and the value of these conferences, is not in conference sessions. It’s in having a bagel with somebody, the sponsored food cart, or you know, it’s about chatting with people who you’re going to see at the event before and after the event. So in addition to an individual presenter; In addition to how we conceptualize the event space itself, do you think that there are opportunities for digital to help us connect in ways, you know, framed by this content, but not necessarily within the conference itself?
Natalie Yeadon 10:17
Yeah, that’s definitely something that we are transitioning to. Because the interesting thing about this is the average physician has at least two to three screens in front of them at any given moment, most physicians are checking in with Dr. Google and every other search engine that you can imagine. So it’s already part of our lives. But what we haven’t been socialized to yet, is the notion that relationships can be developed and sustained virtually, we see this in certain scenarios. But now it’s becoming real, it’s becoming part of our work, it’s becoming part of our networking. So what we haven’t got wrapped right in the traditional ways with some of these cobbled platforms that have had to come out in a hurry to accommodate these virtual conferences, is now looking at some of the more mature where there’s immersive 3d designs, people are coming in. And there’s actually the feeling that you’re somewhere different. And so there is an opportunity. And in addition, you’re not sending people to different places. So here’s a platform for the education, here’s a completely different place, we’re going to move you you need to be digitally savvy enough to figure out where the next place is that we’re going to be networking. And it doesn’t feel real. In fact, studies have actually shown that a lot of physicians have felt very disconnected at these meetings. And so they’re not doing the traditional things. So companies like Impetus are doing a lot of work, a lot of research to figure out what that connection piece looks like. Everything from leaderboards, all kinds of competitions, and ways to actually purchase things like buying the bagel, and the pastry and the coffee, donating it to somebody having an ability to create a synchronous or asynchronous networking opportunity with the matchmaking and doing things in such a way where it’s easy, it’s seamless. And here’s the really the real primer here is when we talk about inclusion and diversity and basically opening the world, we used to see the same players come to these things over and over, which is fantastic. These are the people we wanted to network with originally anyway. But now suddenly, the ASCO is and the AACR is in all the big conferences that we’ve seen, the world is open now. Everybody can attend. And so suddenly, your ability, the democratization, if you will, of the networking of the investing of the connections, of the partnerships and collaborations suddenly expands in such a way. So you need to have these networking sites being able to triage and connect and tag and search so that you can find the right people. And in addition, these platforms extend beyond those two to three day traditional live meetings, meaning number one, sponsors or conference sponsors, it can extend their promotional reach, they can have their exhibitor booths up for a longer period of time, for example, 30 days after the event so people can continue to see their videos and their literature and their promo details. In addition, the networking can continue being able to continue to delve in and research and really look in to who was there. And that’s an opportunity that we can’t, once we’re at a live meeting, and everybody’s blown away. That’s kind of the end of it. So there is a silver lining, it’s just going to require some adaptation. And some I guess, surrender, if you will, that relationships can, in fact, be built and sustained virtually.
Garth Sundem 13:42
And you know, we’ve seen that. So I think that this last year, when we were all forced to go digital, it was met with a fair amount of terror. And now as we’re starting to look back and see what we’ve learned, and also maybe start to emerge, we’re seeing a lot of opportunity to digital, you talk about access, you talk about being able to personalize the content that people are interacting with. You’re talking about continued networking through platforms that don’t have to be geographically based. You know, do you see the the pandemic as an accelerator, of, of, you know, good of benefit in in conferences and meetings? And what do you think are the opportunities of digital beyond what we’ve already discussed?
Natalie Yeadon 14:32
Well, I mean, there’s just, there’s just tons and tons of opportunities with digital and the whole digital transformation. So the ability for people to collaborate without language issues. Again, a lot of these platforms have instant translation, instantaneous interpretation, the ability for us to start collaborating and mixing and melding I call that you know, the opportunity for serendipitous thinking. When you expand the world and the ideas, you can collide. And actually increase these opportunities for breakthroughs and innovations. So when we talk about our Insight events platform, it’s not just for conferences, it’s for hackathons, innovation events, internally, externally, with multiple stakeholders, investors, people breaking through. But we can also realize that that the rate of acceleration of education, now that knowledge is free. edtech is a thing, we can start to incorporate that even within the healthcare space. So educating even our internal people that externally keeping in mind these data visualization opportunities. And on top of all of that, leveraging really smart things like AI, data algorithms, machine learning, to be able to sift and sort through all of the unstructured data that comes, for example, from platforms like Impetus Insight, or Insight events, all of the talk of discussion, being able to filter that with smart, smart algorithms, so that we can understand sentiment analysis, be able to do overarching concepts, what are some of the key issues, and be able to dig deeper and to discover further. So there’s all kinds of amplifications here, as Kevin Kelley was written a book called The Inevitable, you did mention the idea of an acceleration, these things were inevitable, it’s just that we found that that unfortunately, or fortunately, obviously, there was a lot of tragedy with COVID. But certainly the silver lining is that it created a groundswell of momentum, to really push healthcare, which is probably one of the most disruptive industries today, to be able to take some of these broad movements towards things that are really going to take us into the next century.
Garth Sundem 16:42
Well, so that’s inspirational. And also, I think, maybe scary for some folks who said, back in the pandemic, we were forced to change, we changed, and now we’re done changing. But what you’re saying is that we are only at the beginning of this change, we’ve seen maybe some of the opportunity, but you know, is it still in the future, that we need to imagine these possibilities and be able to realize this? Or you know, our organizations and meetings? Are they there are they where they need to be already?
Natalie Yeadon 17:19
Well, you know, what they’re just like everything in life, there’s a bell curve is the early adopters, which is our, you know, our company started 13 years ago, and some of those visionaries were starting way back then they were doing virtual advisory boards and publication committees and everything online, before digital became digital. But COVID has been kind of that demarcation. When you talk about the the, you know, the the, the middle of that bell curve, where some people were there, handworks was forced a little bit. This is the same thing that we see with telemedicine and with a lot of people around electronic health records, the adoption of people who are so used to being in a certain way. So in some ways, the change has been pushed on some people, other people have adopted it, you know, with a lot of happiness, because this is what they wanted to be doing. And then there’s everything in between. So at the end of the day, there also has to be a lot of change management with people thinking about this. But digital is here and digital is getting bigger and bolder. And all of the limitless possibilities. Some people may consider a dystopian people are worried about surveillance and security. These are all kinds of things around bioethics, all of the kaleidoscope of things that hinge on this. We it’s an exciting time, and it’s a great time to sort of dig in and figure out and again, one of the things that we start doing in the Insight platform that we have is have these discussions. We’re working with stakeholders, we’re working with physicians, Allied healthcare providers, patients, discussing these big things beyond the pill conversations, how are we going to build consensus? How is healthcare going to be managed in practice in the future? How are we going to start creating regulations around things like software as a medical device, and a whole slew of other bioethical issues, regulations, what it means for safety, sharing of data, the access of patients to data, things like blockchain, being able to use non fungible tokens and being able to tokenize. So there’s a lot of new concepts. It’s scary, but here’s the thing. It’s 1% incremental change each day. And when we start to integrate these technologies into people’s workflow, allowing them to be able to access it from their internal systems, CRM systems, intranet systems, where it’s a click, single sign on, it’s automatically in there. And it’s really easy to use. When we can get into the hearts and minds of people realizing that there’s immediate dopamine drips, there’s, there’s benefits that they keep coming back for better insights, better data. And again, ultimately, it’s easy to use, we can get people to attract that because at the end of the day, this mind, our minds, our energy to leaders, they are very heavy, that requires a lot of energy to be creating new habits. So as we all know, when we can start doing these 1% incremental, you know, voting in the in the identity that we are that we’re sort of technological innovators is we can start to incorporate these as part of our automaticity and being the people that we are.
Garth Sundem 20:22
Okay, so some big ideas that reach into the societal, ethical and moral concerns. So some specific ideas for event management, and also even some ideas today on how individual presenter can transition from in person to digital and also non fungible tokens. You heard it here first. So let’s leave it at that for today. Thank you, Natalie, for joining us and to learn more about how your organization can partner with emphasis digital to successfully deliver digital or hybrid events, check out in digital comm or schedule a demo at meet with Impetus.com MAPS members, continue the conversation at the MAPS Connect app and don’t forget to subscribe. We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series. Elevate