Fertility Patient Seminars: Dead or Alive?

Patient seminars have long been a staple of many clinics’ marketing plans — for very good reasons. They are great ways to impart information and expertise to fertility consumers, plus they give potential patients the opportunity to meet the clinic’s physicians and other staff members and, perhaps, tour the facilities. But some administrators and physicians consider patient seminars old school and are questioning if they are worth the investment.

Has the Web Killed the Fertility Patient Meeting?
Over the last several years, attendance has faltered at some seminars and many clinics have stopped holding them altogether. Has the Internet, with its proliferation of sites with infertility-focused information, negated the need for live, patient-oriented events? There are several good arguments supporting this. Fertility patients, already reticent about exposing themselves in public, can get all the information they need about their diagnosis and treatment options while relaxing in the privacy of their homes or offices, saving time and effort. Instead of attending a support group, they can form a community on a patient forum or discussion board. These and other options are available 24/7 from a variety of free, convenient, abundant and anonymous Internet sources.

What Comes Around Goes Around
On the other hand, the spot in front of a computer can be a very lonely place. Nothing can replace the feeling of camaraderie when meeting people who are experiencing the same issue or emotion. Patients can read a physician’s biography on a Web site, but they are able to get a real sense of who the doctor is when they meet him or her in person. Although it is empowering to have so much infertility content on the Web, some people are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of information or they may never make it to your Web site. So don’t write off the patient seminar as a holdover from the last century; rather, adjust your strategy to meet the changing times. Here are some tips to recalibrate patient seminars for now and in the future.

It’s All About the Patient
1. This should be a given; it is all about the patient — it is not about you or your practice. Focus on the problems and solutions the attendees are seeking. Allow time for each attendee to have a mini-consult with one of your physicians. Remember, people are not attending to learn about the subject of infertility; they are attending because they want to learn how your center’s physicians can solve their individual fertility problem.
2. Invest in a marketing strategy to build momentum and brand recognition. First, take the time to craft well-formulated content and structure for the seminar. Then develop a strategy to promote it. If you are planning a series of seminars or want to hold an annual conference, give your plan time to build awareness. Your second event will be more successful than the first and so on and so forth.
3. Use the Web and social media to your advantage. Promote your event on Facebook and Twitter. Consider advertising on Google, Facebook or some of the new infertility-focused Web sites. If your budget allows, don’t forget some of the traditional media like radio.
4. Mix up seminar topics and forums. Hold introductory seminars for people who are new to treatment, but also offer topics to attract more targeted groups, i.e., egg donation and surrogacy, the environmental affects of infertility, mind-body practices, secondary infertility, or gay family building.
5. Invite a guest speaker who will be a draw. Though you want the seminar to showcase your practice’s own talents, sometimes a well-known outside speaker can be just what you need to build attendance and demonstrate how you put patients first.
6. Hold seminars at a variety of locations and/or get a co-sponsor. Try local hospitals, large physician practices, or wellness centers. Patronize hotels or conference centers near your satellite offices. Collaborate with your local chapter of RESOLVE, the American Fertility Association or other nonprofit and help them while you are helping your own practice and patients.
7. Provide a financial incentive. This will encourage attendance, especially in non-mandated states. Offer a drawing for a free mind-body workshop — it does not need to be a free IVF cycle — or another product or service that will help build excitement about the event.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: Produce a Webinar
Since the Web is such a powerful tool, consider producing a webinar, especially if your marketing plan includes reaching out to potential patients outside your “normal” geographic area. Webinars have all the qualities that have made the Internet captivate a huge audience of fertility consumers. There is a learning curve to developing, coordinating and hosting them, but it will be well worth the effort.

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