3 Pillars to a Successful Learner Experience in Live-Virtual Conferences

By Mindi Daiga, MBA, CHCP

The notable shift to virtual medical education over the past year suggests this already popular learning format will continue to gain traction. Pri-Med’s virtual CME/CE programs grew rapidly in 2020, expanding from half-day virtual programs to multi-day conferences with concurrent online sessions. This growth was an iterative process, but we quickly determined the need to focus on a few key areas to create a successful learning experience. These areas, discussed below, are learner acquisition, timely and relevant content and a seamless user experience.

Learner Acquisition

Our first goal was to attract and engage our target audience in a new learning format. We were fortunate to have a large database of Pri-Med alumni, yet most of these clinicians engaged through in-person meetings or online enduring content, not in multi-session, live-virtual experiences. This new, convenient offering afforded us the opportunity to engage our past and existing audiences in another channel, while also attracting new learners to the Pri-Med brand. On average (since May 2020), new learners have comprised 10% of each live-virtual program.

Customized email campaigns segmented by geotargeting and demographics have helped to consistently draw large numbers of registrations for each program. One example of a successfully executed email campaign targeted our California-based learners, who received messaging highlighting faculty members from our partner, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, for a live-virtual conference designed to replace our traditional in-person conference in Anaheim. This email emphasized that learners could expect to see the same familiar faculty as traditionally seen in-person onstage, but in the virtual setting. Additional marketing tactics, such as third-party list rentals, social media campaigns, Google remarketing and faculty promotion of events to colleague networks, have also been effective.

Once we reach our target audience of clinicians, we are careful to consider their busy schedules. We have found that opening registration six weeks in advance of a virtual event is optimal. This allows clinicians to block their calendars for either the full event or just sessions of interest. During our most recent live-virtual event, 73% of clinicians participated in three or more sessions.[1] An added benefit of virtual events is the ability to promote them right up to the day of the event. With travel and cost barriers negated (online activities offered at no cost), hundreds of clinicians often register “day of.”

Timely and Relevant Content

While learner acquisition efforts are underway, our clinical team is focused on developing timely and relevant content aimed at achieving successful outcomes. Early in the pandemic, we acknowledged the need for both our “regular curriculum,” which includes the full spectrum related to primary care, as well as content in response to the pandemic. We quickly created a live, biweekly event series addressing timely topics related to COVID-19. As the pandemic continued, we saw a growing need in our community for CME/CE activities related to mental health. We responded by providing more content on that topic, and later added a series to address another growing need — healthcare disparities in minority and underserved populations. One key to quickly adapting to our learners’ changing content needs is a strong relationship with our advisory board and faculty. They have not only served as expert presenters but also have been an invaluable resource for ideas and content development in these unprecedented times.

Our team’s willingness to adapt quickly and experiment with formats to create more engaging experiences for our learners has allowed us to see what works best. Given the many unknowns related to COVID-19, we have created sessions largely based around Q&A, with questions submitted by learners both at the time of registration and during the live sessions. These have proved to be incredibly useful to our learners. The late-breaking nature of topics, particularly those related to COVID-19, often translates into content being created or modified relatively late in the planning process. Learning to be nimble across all departments has been crucial to delivering late-breaking sessions and has been the only way to truly serve the evolving needs of our learners.

Seamless User Experience

We have consciously built every step of the process — from publishing the agenda to issuing  certificates — with the clinician in mind. Below are a few areas of focus that have contributed to a frictionless learner experience during live-virtual events.

Regular communication with learners is essential to keeping them informed every step of the way. Pre-registration outreach with complete event information (topics, faculty information, credit details) provides them with enough information to register. Advance and day-of confirmation emails are customized with the clinician’s account information, so anyone pre-registered can join with a click of a button (to the activity front matter) and avoid fumbling for login credentials. Similar emails sent at intervals throughout the event day(s) continue to provide easy access to the program site, again without logging in. Email messages also include a friendly reminder of how to access CME/CE certificates easily upon activity completion. At every step along the way, we remove as many barriers as possible to get the intended clinician online and into the activity.

Pri-Med has over 20 years of experience, and prompt and direct customer support has been a key attribute of our programs. This is equally important online as it is in person. If a learner has technology issues and cannot access the education, their experience is over before it begins, which leaves a lasting negative impression. To help address potential spikes in customer service inquiries related to technology issues, we cross-train staff to support different communication channels, including email, telephone and online chat. It is an all-hands-on-deck attitude, so everyone from the CEO down works to provide optimal customer support. We strive to respond within minutes to ensure that learners are not missing out on the education as it is happening live. Microsoft Teams is utilized as an internal communication system to share real-time updates with the staff working each event, ensuring that every level of the organization is informed. This is another helpful tool when we experience system-wide technical challenges during live programs and need to communicate new information quickly to learners. More specifically, the creation of templated communications that address various types of technology concerns has helped speed up informing clinicians of what is happening, with consistent messaging. To reach a high volume of learners quickly, we also post banner ads on the event site with any critical messaging, such as a site outage. 

Prepared moderators and faculty make all the difference in running a smooth virtual event. Using a trained clinical moderator adds cohesion and consistency across all sessions. Because faculty may not be equipped to present from their homes or offices, we provide cameras and microphones as needed. Testing equipment with every single faculty member a week before their presentation and again 30 minutes prior to their live broadcast is time consuming yet essential for troubleshooting in advance.

Outsourcing event streaming and other online functions to trusted online partners and vendors allows our team to focus on core capabilities. This also creates a more consistent and professional experience. Partners can help manage the full event or integrate with any of our systems, and many companies offer services in this space. Don’t try to do this alone!

Since Pri-Med has presented over 50 events and educated more than 30,000 clinicians in the past year with live-virtual events,[2] we have had many opportunities to improve our platform and process from month to month. Our advice is to figure out what works for you and your learners and adjust accordingly. Consider different variables, such as the day of the week and time of day that is best for your audience. Take the time to survey them for their preferences and needs. We have added and adjusted many small components to enhance the process flow, such as color coding our online agenda, adding closed captioning and relabeling links to handouts to make them easier for learners to find and identify. All the small changes really do make a difference — do not underestimate the impact of each change. And most importantly, keep testing and trying new ideas to better the clinician experience.

In summary, we encourage you — wherever you are in the process of offering live-virtual events — to try something. Our first few events were far from perfect, but we learned, iterated and evolved. These three pillars of success — learner acquisition, timely and relevant content and a seamless user experience — came only with time and experience. Live-virtual meetings are here to stay, so we hope to continue learning from each other to best serve our communities.  

About Pri-Med

Pri-Med has been a trusted source for professional medical education to over 300,000 clinicians since 1995. Through virtual live streaming, in-person conferences and online activities, clinicians rely on PriMed for opportunities to engage with peers, meet renowned faculty and participate in worldclass educational activities. 

On Tuesday, March 30, Allison Moran will present a rapid-fire session on this topic during the Ignite Showcase. Learn more and find out how you can attend the Alliance Experience Learning Labs.  


[1] Pri-Med Tableau Reporting PrimaryCareNOW Participation Dashboard 3.12.21

[2] Pri-Med Tableau Reporting PrimaryCareNOW Participation Dashboard 3.12.21

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