It’s that time of year again: my birthday! Just kidding- that was last week.
It’s conference season. (I know- we’re all hoping our favorite CME/CE conference isn’t in Florida or Vegas… again.)
And considering we’ve exhibited at over 250 CME/CE medical conferences in the last eight years, we know a thing or two about maximizing ROI. The question is, as an attendee, do you?
Sure, you can write-off your CME/CE conference registration fees and travel and lodging expenses. But I’m talking about turning your three-day work weekend into a treasure trove of content that attracts, engages, and converts patients.
If you own a medical practice or work for one, then you face the same problems as everyone else when it comes to marketing your business online: creating content.
According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 B2C Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends- North America survey, your top content marketing challenges include:
• Producing engaging content (56%)
• Producing content consistently (46%)
• Producing a variety of content (39%)
• Lack of budget (35%)
Only 1% of respondents surveyed claimed they didn’t face any of these content marketing challenges. So unless you’re a One Percenter, you better listen up.
Conferences are gold mines for engaging content.
Between faculty speakers, keynote presentations, vendor product releases, awards ceremonies, exhibitor giveaways, more exhibitor giveaways, nightly soirees, and the occasional duck confit served in the exhibit hall for lunch (kidding again, we both know that never happens), conferences abound with free content in every shape, size, and sound.
With a little planning, preparation, and panache, you can repurpose your next CME/CE conference experience into months of educational, inspirational, and authoritative content that funnels patients to your practice. And it’s free.
In fact, I’m going to show you eight proven ways to turn your next CME/CE conference into a content marketing gold mine.
1. Take photos that increase your social currency
Photos boost retweets by 35% and comprise 87% of all shared posts on Facebook, and Instagram (a photo-driven platform) has the highest engagement rates of any social network at 4.21%. So opting to document your conference activity with images over text will garner more attention.
But pictures of your lunch (unless it’s duck confit, of course) will engage your patients as much as Donald Trump’s propaganda will engage Democrats.
Instead, strategically snap candid shots that will increase your social currency.
In his book, Contagious, Jonah Berger defines social currency as follows:
“Just as people use money to buy products and services, they use social currency to achieve desired positive impressions among their families, friends, and colleagues.”
In other words, every decision we make—especially when sharing content—originates from our desire to form positive images of ourselves. (Shocker, right?)
So the more you can increase your social currency—that is, the more you can make people look good while they associate with your brand—the more likely your patients and prospects will engage and share your photos on social media.
Here’s how to increase social currency with photos from your next CME/CE conference:
Capture remarkable things
“Remarkable things provide social currency because they make the people who talk about them seem, well, remarkable,” says Berger.
At the conference, take pictures of groundbreaking technologies, medical advancements, your CE coursework, miracle results, and extraordinary devices or instruments in action.
Anything interesting, surprising, or novel will make patients and prospects look and feel in the know, smart, and remarkable when associating with your content. And they’ll share it because of it.
Host a photo contest
People love social media contests because games motivate us internally: we all enjoy the tangible evidence of achievement, and doing well makes us look good.
Berger calls this the psychology of “game mechanics.”
To prove my point, have you ever seen this PEMDAS equation show up on social media or elsewhere?
Let me guess: when you saw it, you felt compelled to answer because you wanted to show people you were right (and the long list of wrong answers confirmed your belief)?
That’s game mechanics in action.
So did you have the right answer? Answer in the comments 😉
By hosting a Facebook photo contest during the conference, you can leverage game mechanics to encourage social engagement and participation, just like the PEMDAS equation. Just make sure there’s a tangible way to compare results with others (e.g. “answer in comments”).
Try this: The Match Game
Step 1: From the exhibit hall, take a picture of 5-10 products or devices used for popular treatments or procedures.
Step 2: Create a photo collage of the products and devices using Canva (free). For each photo, write the corresponding treatment in the bottom right corner (i.e. the picture of sclerosant would say “for varicose vein removal”).
Step 3: Add a letter in the bottom left corner of each photo for identification purposes (e.g. a. b. c. d.)
Step 4: For each product or device, choose the corresponding celebrity that has undergone the treatment or procedure (e.g. Britney Spears: Varicose Veins). The point of the photo contest is to match the photo with the celebrity (more on this in a second).
Step 5: Post the photo on Facebook with the rules and the celebrity answer-bank (if you have ten photos, give contestants 15 answers to choose from). Have contestants post their responses in the comments (e.g. A. Britney Spears, B. Matt Damon, C. Nelson Mandala).
Step 6: Crown a winner. Here’s the catch: contestants need to tag and challenge their friends to a duel to win. If they get more right than the person they tagged, only then will they win.
You can leverage the psychology of game to strengthen your patients’ propensity for sharing content, but adding a prize will amplify your reach even more.
Since the game requires two contestants, the prize should benefit both contestants (e.g. two free chemical peels, two free teeth whitening sessions, etc.). Don’t forget to set a limit on the number of winners (e.g. “First ten teams with the most right answers will win two free chemical peels.”).
P.S. I got 12 for my answer to the PEMDAS equation. What did you get? Answer in the comments.
Three Free Design Tools for the Non-Designer in Your Practice
Make your patients feel like insiders
Exclusivity is the new black: everyone wants to feel like an insider.
Use photos and captions to show your patients and prospects the exclusive benefits that come along with choosing you as their doctor.
Four ways to capture exclusivity from the conference floor:
1. If you and a small group of physicians have exclusive access to a new product, take a photo of you with the product, the vendor, and the doctors.
2. If you belong to an exclusive group of distinguished specialists (perhaps you pioneered a new way of doing things?), take a picture of you and the group members while you’re all together.
3. If you’re a faculty speaker, record your presentation and have someone take photos of you on stage.
4. If your inner circle of peers and colleagues includes well-known doctors or celebrities, take pictures and share them with your patients. (People love exclusivity in the form of celebrity.)
If we make educated guesses about people based on the cars they drive, then you can bet we make educated guesses about doctors based on the company you keep and the exclusivity you possess.
2. Live Blog: reporting in real-time
Lee Oden is well known for pioneering the live blog, but you don’t need to be a professional marketer to report on conference presentations in real-time.
All it takes is a little preparation and quick fingers.
Aside from access to free, timely, and relevant content, live blogging gives your practice another advantage: search engine optimization. Since most speakers will present on new ideas that your industry has yet to belabor, live blogging means you’ll rank in search before anyone else.
How to live blog at your next CE conference:
Step 1: Before the conference, research and identify which speakers you’ll live blog. Make a list.
Step 2: Then, based on the titles of the presentations, do your best to summarize the topics before the conference begins using bullet points (no, it’s not cheating). You’ll need every inch of runway you can get if you want to post in real-time.
Step 3: Decide which format you’ll live blog each speaker, and then create a live blogging schedule and post it on your website so your patients can follow along. Like this.
Pro tip: Reach out to speakers before the conference or before they take the stage and ask them pointed questions about their presentations. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
Step 4: Last, be on time, and start writing and posting, writing and posting. Oh, and record everything!
Common live blogging formats:
• Transcribe a presentation verbatim (though this gets complicated with non-linear presenters).
• Summarize a presentation in a few brief paragraphs.
• Daily wrap-ups
• Step-by-step posts: follow the speakers exact outline (great for how-to presentations)
• Report the event by distinct time periods (e.g. 8:00a.m. PST; 12:00p.m. PST)
• Create a bullet point list highlighting key points from the presentation.
• Q&A wrap-ups from the end of a presentation.
• Photo journal with captions summarizing key points from presentations.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to pepper your posts with photos when possible. And bring a staff member along so you can divide and conquer. Also, your patients won’t read medical jargon, so clearly summarize presentations and highlight why the topic affects them specifically.
Live blogging examples:
• Live blogging a news event: Roger Clemens court hearing
• Live blogging a conference: Rand Fishkin at Boston Link Love
• Live blogging a conference: Step-by-step wrap-up on how to distribute content (CMWorld)
Bleacher Report Describes Live Blogging from a Sports Reporter’s Point of View
3. Repurpose presentations for blog posts
Unlike live blogging, repurposing presentations into blog posts involves more original thought and commentary on your behalf. And it happens when the conference is over, not during.
You’re still going to site your sources (“You will site your sources” in Obi-Wan voice), but adding your two cents will make the article, well, your own.
You can break it down into two primary formats:
Articles that explore every nuance of a single presentation in-depth and that add original thought and commentary along the way.
Example: 6 Steps to Content Marketing Domination. This article explores Joe Pulizzi’s presentation from Content Marketing World, 2015. Granted, he’s also the author of this blog post, but the method doesn’t change regardless of who repurposes the presentation.
Example: Incorporate Participation Marketing for Scalable Content Marketing. This article explores Lee Oden’s presentation from Content Marketing World, 2015 (written by another author).
Brief summaries of several presentations, often grouped into categories based on topic- a list of quotes, key takeaways, link roundups of articles that do go in-depth, photos w/ captions, embedded slides… opportunities abound.
Example: Content Marketing World Takeaways by Top Rank. This article briefly highlights key takeaways from the author’s three favorite presentations at Content Marketing World, 2015. It also provides inspirational quotes from ten other presenters.
Pro Tip: Record as many speakers and acquire as many presentation slides as possible. Even if you don’t attend the presentation, make it a habit of reaching out to speakers after the conference to ask for annotations or PowerPoint slides- most will feel obliged. The more slides, the more content ammunition.
CTA Cheat Sheet: How to Motivate Patients to Take Action
4. Interview speakers… heck, interview everyone!
CME/CE conferences are like Petri dishes teaming with subject-matter experts. So why not curate other people’s knowledge for your benefit?
Interview formats (in order of effectiveness):
In-person: Start here, and don’t forget to ask good questions! Never underestimate the power of face-to-face interaction in the digital world.
Phone: A viable alternative to in-person interviews because you can still ask follow-up questions. If you can’t do in-person, opt for phone.
Email: When you need to save time or just want facts (check out five ways to conduct better email interviews). I prefer email interviews from journalists (like this one I did with the Cosmetic Surgery Times).
Video: Use a GoPro and a pro microphone to video record in-person videos. Here’s how.
• Conference administration
• Association leaders (presidents, VPs, etc.)
• Attendees (yep, like the guy sitting next to you)
• Presentations or keynotes (with speakers or attendees)
• Overall sentiment of conference
• New product releases
• State of the Union: [insert_industry_here]
• Emerging technologies
• Duck confit?
• Competitor comparison: interview different vendors that sell the same product (i.e. Botox vs. Dysport; Invisalign vs. Clear Correct).
• Highlights: ask for everyone’s favorite moment of the conference.
• Controversial topics. Yes! Be contrarian.
• Stories that describe the evolution of a product or treatment.
• One-question interviews: “What do you think cosmetic surgery will look like in the year 2060?”
Pro Tip: When in doubt, just have fun. And record everything!
How to Build a GoPro Video Rig w/ Pro Audio for Your Interviews (Less Than $700)
5. Conduct surveys
Survey responses provide data about your industry; publishers of data are considered “thought-leaders;” thought-leaders build trust with their patients faster than their competitors. Period.
The conference floor is a data repository waiting for you to mine it.
With data, you can create innumerable pieces of content that fulfill your business goals and educate or entertain your patients, like:
- Publish an industry report (hello backlinks!)
- Create a blog post highlighting an individual survey question and answer
- Predict industry trends. Then socialize your predictions
- Use different responses for social media posts
- Develop statistics that influence your patients’ buying-decisions (e.g. “79% of doctors use Botox more often than Dysport”)
- Design an infographic that visually represents your data
5 tips for executing your next CE conference survey + survey questions
To substantiate your results, you’ll need at least 250 responses. Given your time constraints, asking 250 people (one at a time) to take your survey during the conference will never work. Instead, follow these tips:
- Create a survey using a free tool like SurveyMonkey (above) or Google Forms. Then use a URL shortener to add the link to a business card. Print out the business cards and pass them along to your colleagues so they can participate in the survey online after the conference.
- Get buy-in from a speaker(s): It never hurts to ask. If you can develop a question that fits within the same theme of one of the speaker circuits, reach out to each speaker on that circuit and ask if they’ll plug your survey during their presentation. (Give them the link to your online survey.) Ask the moderator, too.
- Utilize lunchtime: Create your survey, print out copies, and then leave stacks of surveys in the center of each lunch table with a pen to fill them out and a box to place them in when finished. Then ask a moderator to plug your survey during lunch.
- Ask one question: The longer the survey, the fewer the participants- just ask one different survey question each day of the conference. You don’t need a thousand data points to build trust with survey results.
- Create a Twitter poll: If you have a Twitter account, you can piggyback on the Twitter activity of the conference and its attendees by tweeting a Twitter Poll directed toward that audience. Here’s how.
Types of survey questions:
Which filler do you use most?
A. Juvederm. B. Belotero C. Restylane D. Perlane
Does your vein practice have a medical spa, too?
How many procedures do you perform each year?
Fill in the blank:
“If I could do it all over again, I would be a ________________ doctor.”
Plastic surgery will be mostly non-invasive in 2060, with little need for scalpels or incisions.
A. Strongly agree
E. Strongly disagree
F. I prefer not to comment
These will help get you started. Happy surveying.
6. Create Embedded Tweet Roundups
Instead of summarizing the conference in your words, curate the experiences of conference attendees by embedding their tweets in a blog post.
Two options for embedding tweets:
Use specific tweets to pull personal experiences from a handful of attendees. If you can find 10-15 people talking about their conference experience in a way that adds value to your patients, roundup one tweet from each attendee and embed it in your blog post.
To find out who’s tweeting about the event, visit the event Twitter page or use the Twitter search feature to search hashtags related to the conference.
Pro Tip: Break your blog post into daily summaries, each day with its section of tweets highlighting critical events. Or, if there’s enough Twitter activity, use tweets to pepper your “full-course” blog posts with a second opinion.
You can embed full timelines and feeds on your website, too. If the conference is using a hashtag for the event (e.g. #asaps2016, #aestheticmeeting, #dentalexpo), or if attendees have created their own, you can search the hashtag, pull up the hashtag feed, and embed the entire feed on your website.
If you search #cmworld on Twitter, every post that includes this hashtag will show up in one feed
Pro tip: Not all conference tweets from a hashtag feed will add value to your audience. For this option, I recommend using the embedded hashtag feed as a compliment to a blog post on your overall experience at the conference.
7. Let your patients be first: Test and review new products, devices, and treatments
Love it or hate it, we’ve all felt the satisfaction of discovering and sharing information first, before anyone else.
For most, it’s a transient stroking of the ego. For others, it’s a way of life.
Either way, we all participate on some level.
Like sharing remarkable things, being the first to discover and share information reflects favorably upon the person who does the discovering: it establishes you as an anchor of expertise, which makes you feel good, so you actively seek out opportunities to be first.
At your next CME/CE conference, let your patients be first:
Use the exhibitor hall as your personal product review laboratory so your patients and prospects can be the first to discover and share the latest products, devices, or treatments in your industry.
Again, you can turn product reviews into social currency for your patients, directly from the conference floor, using two formats:
Test new products and treatments, and then share your opinions with your patients and prospects via blog posts, video blogs, interviews, or social posts.
P.S. If you haven’t noticed yet, new product reviews work double: they establish you and the person who shares your post as an anchor of expertise.
Example: Every year, thousands of musicians sojourn to NAMM’s (National Association of Music Merchants) biannual conference to frolick in social currency- the social currency of being first.
If you don’t feel like writing a full product review, then don’t.
Instead, take photos documenting your product or service experience, and then use these pictures for social media posts (you should do this anyway).
Just posting a picture of a brand new product, along with a caption that names the brand and describes the product or treatment, will generate interest. I promise.
Examples: Sticking with NAMM, Ernie Ball and Chicago Music Exchange keep their new product reviews concise, yet impactful.
“Enough said!” = endorsement
At least 93 people wanted to be the first to share this with their friends (retweets)
8. Network with vendors, speakers, and fellow medical professionals
“Networking.” I know- the word alone is enough to make the hair stand up on your neck. And if you’re an introvert like me, your heart just skipped a beat.
But what I’ve learned over the last three years is that actively seeking to make new connections and deepen existing relationships doesn’t make you a fraud. It makes you a more successful professional.
And it’s the single most important activity you can participate in during your next CME/CE conference if you want to strike content marketing gold.
Regardless of whether or not you create content with your network, they’ll still be the ones to share it, especially when you ask. The more influencers you have in your network (vendors, speakers, or peers), the greater potential reach for your content, and the more likely you’ll earn mentions, shares, and backlinks.
Four new rules of networking:
1. Shift your bias: Think of networking not as a disingenuous act of randomness or a laborious chore, but as an opportunity to grow, advance, and create possibilities for your future. You don’t have to be the life of the party to meet new people- you never know who’s sitting next to you.
2. Just say hi: The benefits of networking come long after your first interaction, especially regarding content marketing. So just say hi. Exchange cards. Plant a seed. And let serendipity do the rest.
3. Listen more; talk less: In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie explains that to influence, you need to “arouse in other people and eager want.” If you plan on convincing your network (vendors, speakers, or peers) to co-create content for your patients, then you better position them as the stars, not you. So listen to what they want, and show them how you can help them accomplish their goals while simultaneously achieving yours.
4. Once is never enough; three is best: Like content marketing, networking is the art of building relationships, and relationships require nurturing. Reach out to existing relationships and future connections before, during, and after the conference. Send an icebreaker email. Connect on LinkedIn. Pick up the phone.
While some conference content initiatives require more networking than others, and others require none, building your network of industry influencers will always lead to a cascade of favorable content marketing outcomes.
Plant the seed. Water it. Watch it grow. And harvest when ready.
No more excuses about not having the resources, time or budget to create content that your patients love. You don’t need it.
Your next CME/CE conference is an inexhaustible source of content. And it’s free.
I hope this article made one thing clear: that opportunities for content exist everywhere, no just in your medical practice.
Use these eight content ideas to turn your next CE conference into a content marketing gold mine. But by no means stop there. You can develop hundreds of content ideas from the resources available at any conference, like creating a yearbook as a way to meet all the attendees (yes, that actually happened).
• CE conferences abound with social currency: the kind that creates social momentum and motivates your patients to choose you over your competitors.
• Let your fellow subject-matter experts do the heavy lifting. You can do the orchestrating.
• The word “networking” gives us chills, but it’s the best way to harvest content for your patients and grow your practice.
• Even if the conference doesn’t serve duck confit, the content marketing ROI is too enormous NOT to go.
But seriously, what was your answer…