Scientists agree that man’s development of language and our ability to communicate played a major role in the evolution of Homo sapiens to give us a leg up on other primates and become the dominant species. It took millions of years for us to develop the five senses that have helped us flourish and create this modern world in which we live. With the human population now exceeding eight billion, it’s imperative we use new technology and access to more information to connect with each other.
Over the last 100 years, some major technological inventions have fundamentally changed the way we interact with each other and caused a major shift in our daily routines. The invention of the telephone, the internet, email, cell phones, and virtual meeting solutions have reshaped human interaction both physically and metaphorically. The need for us to be in the same room as the person or people we need to interact with is no longer perceived to be as important as a host of new tools that offer a virtual alternative at a low cost. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of virtual tools and firmly cemented their position in the workplace. In short, they are here to stay.
The Impact of More Virtual Engagement
But the pandemic caused another major shift, which has now normalized the culture of working remotely. The 2022 Future Form Plus survey published by Slack (which interviewed over 10,000 workers) found that 80% of desk-based employees now want location flexibility and feel that virtual meeting tools offer a sufficient alternative to physically being in the office. The mandate of having to commute to and from work is now seen as a punishment for many people and 87% of workers interviewed believe they are more productive working at home. If that is the case, then why is U.S. worker productivity down at its steepest pace since records began?1
One major reason for this decline is that these virtual meeting tools are inadequate when compared to in-person interaction. We have relegated our five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) down to the equivalent of a thumbnail on the laptop screen. Millions of years of evolution replaced in less than a few decades. Over 70% of human communication is non-verbal so trying to engage an audience with these tools is almost impossible. Terms like “Zoom Fatigue” have found their way into our vernacular and studies show that over 90% of people admit to multitasking during calls, and a whopping 42% have taken virtual meetings from bed.
Even HCPs sought out telehealth solutions during the pandemic to restrict exposure to COVID patients, with the knock-on effect of 76% of patients are now interested in using telehealth moving forward.2
In this new climate, marketers face an uphill struggle to reach and more importantly engage with a distributed audience who quite frankly would prefer not to leave the house. With high inflation, an impending recession, and the fact that major pharmaceutical companies have enjoyed massive bottom-line reductions in travel budgets during the pandemic, it has created the perfect storm in which trying to conduct successful drug launches or HCP education is becoming more difficult.
Even though marketers have a major desire to go back to in-person events, the audience might not feel the same. Virtual attendance has become far more convenient for everybody, so unless virtual events or some form of hybrid events are baked into your 2023 marketing plans, you will struggle.
Delivering an Attention-Grabbing Virtual Experience
With this knowledge, the burden will rest on marketers to explore the use of new technologies and other creative ways to produce meaningful events that elevate the delivery of their content. To break through the white noise of the mundane Zoom meeting, it’s time to rethink the didactic presentation and replace them with more engaging and interactive alternatives.
The production value of your events will need to be elevated to include impactful video assets that can capture the attention of the audience and give them a reason to stop multitasking and look up from their cell phone.
Firstly, the video quality of the presenters needs to be flawless—just like watching a TV show. Buy or rent a high-definition camera, a good quality plug-in microphone, and ensure that the lighting is perfect. For critical events, consider renting a TV studio and possibly an AV tech to maximize the production quality.
Another way to really improve the look and feel is using a green screen background which can then be digitally enhanced to virtually transport your presenters to anywhere in the known universe. Imagine them hoping a ride on a white blood cell and taking an exciting journey along the length of an artery. Or maybe standing next to a giant protein molecule as it bonds with another. You’d watch that right?
Other tools out there offer new ways to bring the audience into the meeting by including live polling, white boarding, real-time engagement, breakout rooms, and gamification functionality. All these are designed to keep the audience on their toes and invested in the content being delivered.
Bottom line, marketers need to understand that “good enough” is no longer good enough when it comes to virtual or hybrid meetings. So whatever creative way you decide to explore to up your game, it needs to become part of your marketing strategy now and in the future. These types of meetings are here to stay and unless you embrace them now, this time next year you might not be.