Holding an event/seminar is a great marketing tactic to grow your healthcare practice. Building relationships with referring physicians, trainers and case mangers to educating the community should all be a part of your marketing strategy. However, with a show of hashtags how many of you have held an event and had a less then impressive attendance? Having a great topic and speaker is unfortunately not always the golden ticket to creating a successful event.
Here are 9 things to consider that will take your event from intimate to influential:
- Offer Credits: Athletic trainers, physical therapists, doctors, school nurses, case managers etc. are all required to attain continuing education credits. If your facility is accredited or you can partner with a practice/hospital that is accredited it is a great way to attract attendees.
- Feed your audience: No matter the event, providing a meal or light refreshments will help attract an audience. If the event is over 3 hours, providing a meal is encouraged. If the event starts early in the morning and ends early afternoon, you may want to consider providing a continental breakfast as well as a lunch. Food is the way to most people’s heart and a hungry audience will never favor well for the speaker.
- Know your audience: Defining who your target audience is should be your first step. If you want potential patients to come, getting too technical will either scare or bore your listeners. On the flip side, by not providing enough depth to your subject if you are speaking to professionals, you will be looked at as a waste of time. You may get a great attendance for your first event, but people learn quickly if it’s worth it to attend a second time.
- Partner with an organization: The best way to guarantee an audience is to partner with an organization or piggyback your talk with an existing event. Here are a few examples I have seen work for healthcare practices:
- Partner with a local youth sports program and conduct an injury prevention clinic.
- Offer one of your specialists to conduct a warm-up before a 5k race.
- Approach adult living communities and connect with their local clubs. See what topics they are interested in and tailor your presentation to what they want to learn. If you can get on their agenda during their monthly meetings that will guarantee a full room.
- Invitations: What are the avenues that you are taking to invite your audience? Do you have a list of predefined people that you want to invite or are you opening it up to the public? If you are sending it to a specific audience who already knows who you are, you should have a much higher conversion rate. If the event is open to the pubic and you are sending out a mass mailer you should expect to get a 1% conversion rate. It may seem high but if you are aiming to fill the room with 50 people, expect to send out 5000 mailers to reach that goal. Don’t forget to also spread the word through some of the more obvious but often forgotten channels including:
- E-newsletter if you have an email database
- Distribute through social media channels
- Add to the home page of your website
- Place flyers in your waiting room (if the event is for patients)
- Local online event directories
- Always require an RSVP: Never leave it up to your audience to make a last minute decision, especially if the event is free. Always state that space is limited and give a cut-off RSVP date. This also allows you to get their contact information to send a reminder prior to the event. If you are afraid to discourage walk-ins, you may state walk-ins are welcome but RSPV is encouraged.
- Assess your venue: The topic and audience will help narrow down and determine your venue. One of our orthopaedic clients holds a sports medicine seminar every year where they provided credits to their participants. They wanted to make themselves look high-end which prompted them to hold the seminar at an upscale hotel. Despite their competition holding similar events, the quality of the talk and allure of the location always puts them ahead of the pack.If your target audience is patients, studies have also shown that they feel more comfortable and less pressured if the event is held off-site instead of at the practice. Unless you have a particularly appealing practice location that you are trying to showcase, we typically recommend taking your event off-site.
- Do something unique: This section is best described with examples about how several of our clients held a memorable event. An orthopaedic practice was opening up their new 60,000 square foot, state-of-the-art building. Parallel to this event, they were also celebrating their 40th anniversary. These two milestones warranted an event to 1. Celebrate and 2. Expose their new building to more potential referring physicians. Instead of holding a typical meet and greet the practice decided to go all out. We turned their building in to a two floor cocktail party complete with a check-in desk bar and 6-piece band. It was definitely a night to remember for the client and their network.Another great example is a client held an event for case managers to earn credits since they refer a large amount of patients to them. Instead of having a strictly educational gathering, they decided to hold the talk at a popular restaurant. However, the real draw is the fact that the doctors play in a band together and they had a special performance for all of the attendees.
- Free vs. Paid: Events can be costly but are worth investing in if you convert a percentage of your audience into a patient or referrer. However, does charging admission help increase attendance and when is it a deterrent? Unfortunately, this has to be determined on a case-by-case basis but here are some examples to help make your decision.
- Charge for the event: Setting aside the intention of making a monetary profit, charging your audience also influences a physiological perception. Money = credibility and quality. People typically associate money with value. For example, if you see a comparable electronic and one is more expensive than the other, you will subconsciously think that the more expensive product is of higher quality. This perception also translates to the quality of the experience that someone may have at your event. In addition, if you require your attendees to pre-pay, even if it is only $5, it reduces the risk of no-shows. Still feel uncomfortable setting a fee but subscribe to our reasoning? Set a fee but note that all money will be donated to a charity that relates to the topic.
- Keep it free: Everyone looks when they see the four letter word FREE. It is a great way to attract new people to your organization with them only having to commit their time and not their wallet. You may be under the impression that by NOT charging a fee, you are lowering the quality of your event from the perspective of the attendees. However, your reputation as a quality healthcare provider is more heavily affected by the overall quality of the event and not by the price to get in. In addition, if your audiences are professionals and not patients, offering credits as mentioned in our first point instantly adds credibility. Add food and drinks to a free event and you have created a recipe for success.
Holding an event can be a big undertaking. The talk is usually the easy part, but managing the event and getting people to attend can be a challenge. At Points Group, we have a team of event managers that can help you from idea inception to event day operations.