Adapting to the Virtual Conference Experience P3
At the end of this series of podcasts, the participant should be able to
- Understand how the in-person conference experience has changed and adapted to the virtual environment
- Discuss styles and formats that uniquely suit the online virtual conference experience
- Consider factors for enabling networking and interaction in online virtual conferences
INTERVIEWER: Raffy Dakessian
SPEAKER: Andy Saldaña
Following is an automated transcription provided by otter.ai. Please excuse inaccuracies.
Raffy Dakessian 0:01
Welcome to the medical affairs professional society medical communications focus area Working Group multipart Podcast Series. In this third episode, we will continue our discussion on adapting to the virtual conference experience. I am Rafi to kacian. I’ll be the moderator for today’s episode. I currently serve as a member of the medical communication focus area working group, and then the head of oncology, scientific communication and medical information departments for Novartis, Japan. The views expressed in this recording are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect on the opinions of maps are the companies with which they are affiliated. The presentation is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal or regulatory advice. We encourage you to engage in conversations about online or virtual conference experiences with other maps members via the community portal on the maps website. Simply login with the email address and password associated with your maps account and click on the discussion tab. Then scroll down to medical and scientific communications to post a question or review previous postings. The objectives of today’s podcast are to understand how the in person conference experiences changed and adapted to the virtual environment. Discuss styles and formats that uniquely suit the online virtual conference experience. And consider factors for enabling networking and interaction in online virtual conferences. So let’s begin. I’d like to welcome back and diesel, Daniela from the New York technology Alliance for joining us today. Welcome in high,
Andy Saldaña 1:37
Hi Raffy. Great to be here.
Raffy Dakessian 1:41
Great. So Andy, last time, last couple of episodes, we talked about online conference planning, talks about networking, different formats and styles and just the realities of the the digital experience versus the live experience. One thing I’d like to focus on today is really engagement, and how to keep that audience hooked. Tell us a little bit about how you think about engagement. And, you know, what are some ways to elevate and maintain the attention for virtual attendees?
Andy Saldaña 2:19
Yeah, absolutely. And the engagement around the conference itself, when you’re in person is one of the main benefits of attending a conference in person, right? Like, there’s always a dinner or a mixer, where you’re getting to network and meet your colleagues. In a more social situation. There’s, you know, swag that you might get if there’s an exhibit floor, or are tchotchkes that get handed out, which engage that that traffic and engagement when you’re in person. And so translating that into a virtual experience is always a little little bit more difficult to accomplish. And but there are many, many different ways to make that happened. During during the current pandemic, we we’ve seen a lot of companies that have come out into the ecosystem that really focus on exactly that, how to engage your your attendees at one of these virtual conferences. And it’s everything from sending a coupon codes for them to purchase their own environments during to have prepared for a cocktail hour, or perhaps in in a gift box that contains not only materials for the conference, but also a few of those branded opportunities to put in front of your attendees. And, you know, also provides a fun way to to engage. Otherwise just informational session, right. And so I think it’s really interesting to see how different conference organizers are kind of approaching that that piece of the of the virtual experience in a unique way. One of the conferences that I was attended, sent us each a coupon for a coupon code for the service called drizzly. And so we each got to order our own bottle of wine. And it was really fantastic. Because he felt, you know, they told you when they would like you to order it, what what hour it was for, and then we all sat on zoom and drink our wine together in a virtual cocktail happy hour. So that was really, really fantastic. And it was, you know, it’s a unique, simple way for some conference organizers to kind of foster that connectivity that you would normally see in an in person event.
Raffy Dakessian 4:44
Oh, I see that is really interesting, I think, you know, for on the pharmacy side for like industry events where we have vendors and pharma companies interacting together. I can see that having a lot of a lot possibility and potential. And I think more classical metal medical conferences, that we’d really have to take a fresh look, you know, there’s a lot of regulations on what we can provide doctors, and I think probably many people remember being able to provide swag versus, you know, not being able to do it these days. But in a virtual experience, maybe some of those rules are revisited in a way if, if they, you know, provide for like, something that doesn’t have as much of a tangible, like, that’s like a bottle of wine, it’s brand new area. So it’d be something that I think we want to take a fresh look at. Yeah, when, when we meet with like, vendors, or, you know, I know, I personally like publication planning conferences, then we see a lot more swag, and having, you know, some of these kind of enhancements. Yeah, I can see that helping helping to build engagement and attention.
Andy Saldaña 6:04
Absolutely. And, you know, one of the interesting things, especially to look at speaker appreciation, or if you’re able to, you know, just thank the speakers for their time, I’ve seen a lot of organizers make small donations on the speaker’s behalf to certain nonprofit organizations, or even run a fundraising campaign that for the conference for the attendees to text to donate, during the conference. And then that was also another point of engagement that really showed some success, especially during this current situation in the current climate. it you know, if a conference partners with a local nonprofit or a medical nonprofit that is, is working to during the COVID relief effort, you know, it is one way to drive some of that attendee engagement towards and also, you know, social good kind of compliment to the conference.
Raffy Dakessian 7:03
Yeah, it’s not like and how often, how frequently, do you see this in the technology sector? Is this something that’s happening? commonly today,
Andy Saldaña 7:12
it really depends on the conference, I think the larger the conference, the more the ability is, there is more of an ability to bring in certain software that helps you gamify the experience, and see and provide that that sense of networking and team team play. For the overall conference experience when we’re looking at. So I see it in two ways, right? Like the really large conference experience that’s trying to gamify the entire event. So getting their, their their attendees to go through each piece of the conference and in the way that they’re looking to you in the way that they feel the the attendee experience should be. On the other side, we see a lot of smaller conferences that are, you know, 25 people meetings. And that’s where I’m seeing a lot more of this, you know, wine box being sent to the house or wine or virtual wines he seen happen at the beginning of a full day workshop, or at the end of the full day workshop, rather, the beginning would be a problem, right. But at the end of the full day workshop to kind of thank everybody for participating in that that full day. So it really is a broad range of of how I’m seeing that that achieved.
Raffy Dakessian 8:30
You mentioned gamifying earlier. What is that? How does that relate to engagement?
Andy Saldaña 8:37
Yeah, absolutely. And so the idea of gamification is really you know, taking gameplay mechanics and putting it into translating it into your attendees behavior. So in an encouraging them to interact with certain parts of the conference experience in a certain way to either gain points or gain recognition, so that and put them into a semi competitive mode. So you set up a leaderboard, you provide points for, you know, sharing, social media, asking questions, attending certain events. Registering early, that’s a big key one is you’re trying to get people to register as soon as possible. So you encourage them by awarding them points, and the overall game of attending that conference, and then you reward them with prizes, recognition, access to VIP speakers. I’ve seen the rewards kind of range all over the place, but the experiencial ones are really really relevant and and highly sought after. So time with the VIP is definitely a great motivator to get people to engage the way that you want, wanted them to.
Raffy Dakessian 9:56
So like what what problems does does it solve Is there something about gamification in particular that helps with hooking people in?
Andy Saldaña 10:06
Well, I think, you know, for those that are more competitive in nature, it really provides that momentum, and that motivation to keep them engaged throughout the past of the conference. And so if you’re setting up the game, the correct way, you’re gaining, you’re gaining that attention from the very beginning the registration process all the way through the culmination of the end of the events. And so if you put the game mechanics in place the right way, and you set the rewards app, so that it’s not just one winner, but either levels of winner or multiple winners, then it’s going to create that, that hit of dopamine that keeps people coming back, and engaging throughout the different touchpoints of the conference that you want them to attend. And so if you know, awarding, points to attend to keynote, so that you get more people at the keynote, awarding points for people who ask questions, and those questions getting called, you know, so that you’re, you’re encouraging that interaction within within the virtual setting each of those actions you can gamify and really motivate people to participate through that way.
Raffy Dakessian 11:24
Wow. So you’re really tapping into that competitor, human nature that wants to, you know, fully complete, you know, a kind of a profile or achieving a particular status to help with engagement.
Andy Saldaña 11:42
Absolutely, really paint, you know, the type A personalities really love this kind of engagement, right? Like, they want to be the best and check all the checkmarks and make sure that they’re completing all the tasks, I tend to avoid that kind of competition when I’m in those experience. But even I get motivated when there is a prize that is of extreme value, perceived value. And so for example, I attended an event, there was a speaker that I really wanted to get face time with. And they held a kind of a private session with that speaker, and you had to achieve a certain number of points through the gaming system, in order to be invited to that, to that, to that private session. And it really encouraged me as someone who really, you know, it’s like, I don’t really want to compete with anybody, but it motivated me to gain the points just to give access to that speaker. In other words, and I think that that kind of experience, access to experience really helps to motivate people.
Raffy Dakessian 12:41
Now, that sounds incredible. I mean, how is the adoption bend when like, it’s, you know, these kinds of game mechanics are pitched to layer on an online event? Do you see generally enthusiasm for that, or curiosity or more arm’s length? I don’t know if that’s quite right, for our audience. How does that shake out?
Andy Saldaña 13:01
Yeah, so I think it really depends on on how it’s all kind of rolled out and how its communicated over to the audience, you’re gonna, you’re gonna see people fall into multiple sections, right, like people who are really excited and, and take advantage of that gameplay. Like I said, they’re competitive, competitive in nature, they really enjoy something that keeps them occupied during the conference as well, while still focusing on the conference, if that makes sense. And it helps to decrease the noise and distractions in a way or not decreased, but kind of funnel, the noise and distractions so that they’re there, the other noise and distractions are still related to the conference itself. And the material that you’re you’re you’re trying to disseminate. So I think that that we see that a lot. There are some attendees that are just reluctant no matter what you do, to participate in those ways. And you know, that that’s, that’s absolutely fine. But I think if you find that right reward system and the right incentives, there’s always something available that will motivate even the most reluctant And believe me, I am one of those reluctant people. And, you know, whenever I see a really fantastic reward like that access to the speaker, I’m I’m there, right? Like I’m like, Okay, let me see what I have to do to get there. And I will make it happen. And it just really brings people back to, to the conference itself and then to the the materials that you’re trying to put in front of them.
Raffy Dakessian 14:38
Great. Oh, Andy, I think we’re approaching the end of our podcast. Is there anything else you’d like to add about the online or virtual conference experience?
Andy Saldaña 14:48
Yeah, I mean, there are a ton of technology tools out on the market that help organizers facilitate a really fantastic experience. I would encourage any event organiser to do a very deep Google search. There’s new ones popping up every day. And it really is about research the researching them understanding what their objective is, and really understanding how you would how that translate for your experience. How does it match for your experience? And don’t be afraid to put three or four different tools together to make that experience happen.
Raffy Dakessian 15:27
Great. Thanks again for joining us, Sandy.
Andy Saldaña 15:29
Absolutely, was a pleasure.
Raffy Dakessian 15:33
So this concludes the third podcast in a series on adapting to the virtual conference experience. Again, I would like to thank our guests and diesel donya from the New York technology Alliance for joining us on this thought provoking discussion. If you are a maps member, thank you for your support of maps. If you’re not yet a maps member and would like to access additional resources in this area, please visit the maps website to explore joining today. Medical affairs dot o RG forward slash membership. This concludes the podcast Thank you for listening