When life science companies shifted critical work and even some major events to virtual platforms in 2020, they learned some valuable lessons. More specifically, in exploring the potential of virtual work, they discovered hybrid engagements – a combination of real-time virtual and asynchronous elements – and their many advantages. Higher engagement rates and prioritized participant convenience were just a few of them.
Now, with the world navigating vaccinations and perhaps fluctuating lockdowns and reopenings, the term hybrid may take on different meanings. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, there will likely be a gradual return of in-person interactions and a continuous change in how virtual elements are integrated to provide life science organizations and attendees with even more options when it comes to getting together and gathering insights.
Here’s what hybrid interaction might look like for life science companies in 2021 and beyond.
Multiple-part real-time and over-time sessions. Last year, one of our medical affairs clients wanted to engage a group of hematology and oncology specialists. We worked with our client to design a three-part session: a one-hour live kick-off webcast, a two-week over-time session during which participants logged in at their convenience, and a closing webcast. The real-time interaction allowed the advisors to enjoy peer-to-peer collaboration, which contributed to higher levels of engagement in the over-time session. All of the contracted participants contributed meaningfully.
In-person events with virtual components. As vaccine rollout schedules are established and COVID-19 variants emerge and recede, face-to-face events may return along with an option to participate virtually. And some organizations might choose to handle pre- and post-meeting activities such as agenda-setting or consensus-building as asynchronous sessions rather than hold multiple in-person gatherings.
Medical congress events that went all-virtual in 2020 may return to business as usual eventually, but many HCPs say they see their future congress attendance moving towards an equal balance of physical and virtual. Prior to the pandemic, some Within3 clients were already holding asynchronous congress “huddles” to capture feedback onsite without adding more meetings to attendees’ packed schedules, adding a time-saving virtual element to a traditionally in-person event.
Life science teams can also take advantage of virtual engagement to augment planned in-person meetings, even at the last minute. When a European medical affairs team needed more input on key study data presented at a medical congress, they expanded their pool of KOLs by quickly putting together a virtual meeting to parallel a planned face-to-face advisory board. The team received more insight about the study data and found the transcript generated in the asynchronous session superior to traditional means of recording impressions at an in-person meeting.
Pre-and post-event activities. Virtual platforms are advantageously positioned to optimize the planning and value of in-person interactions. During planning stages, some teams use asynchronous sessions to sample stakeholder opinion and obtain feedback from previous event participants, all of which go a long way towards informing the focus, agenda, and cadence of upcoming in-person events.
Virtual elements can also extend the utility of physical events after they end. Attendees can access content used at the event via virtual platforms in their own time. Instead of losing momentum as attendees turn their attention to flight schedules and returning home, life science teams can build on discussions that began in physical settings and amplify the value of their in-person event budget.
As pharmaceutical and medical device companies move beyond the pandemic, they will continue to leverage the technologies and learnings used to successfully engage entirely virtual audiences to boost the value of interactions between mixed audiences. We’ll all celebrate the ability to safely see each other in person again, but virtual elements will transform the way these interactions are planned and held – becoming permanent fixtures in life science engagements.