2020’s been a year of rapid adaptation. I’ll be honest, back in March I couldn’t immediately see how we could carry on doing what we do if we couldn’t interact face to face.
So much of effective collaboration is physical and sensory – we huddle round flipcharts and whiteboards with strong smelling marker pens in our hands.
We hear the sound of pen on paper as we catch ideas on post-it notes.
We hold them and move them around to make sense of things.
We feel human energy in the room.
So we’ve had to shift everything online. Zoom, Teams and Webex are the standard ways to meet now, not just an occasional novelty, and we can all see that virtual meetings are here to stay, game-changing vaccines notwithstanding.
There are two important things we need to be aware of: the reality of the medium, and the context for our audiences.
Working online is not the same as being in a room with people. We have to work harder to make the same impact: presenters need to be more exaggerated. We have to pay more attention to our audience, since we’re missing all the non-verbal cues we take for granted when we meet in the flesh.
There are technical issues to grapple with: creaky laptops and home broadband struggling to cope with entire families working and learning from home at the same time.
One of our clients actually had a power cut while WFH.
And the background music’s very different.
While we’re still able to engage with HCPs on behalf of our clients, we need to consider the context they’re working in. They might be working from home too, juggling childcare responsibilities or wrangling puppies. They’re very likely to be tired and stressed.
So, how do we win at Zoom?
1. Sort your tech
Obviously, we need to get the technical bit right. Get the Wi-Fi fixed, and source the right kit. Find the right platform for your audience. Are HCPs more comfortable with Zoom or Teams? Will there be firewall issues for NHS participants or delegates joining from academic institutions? Plan ahead.
Especially timings – everything takes longer in a virtual meeting.
3. Update your skills
Don’t assume your existing meeting and presentation skills will cut it, so invest in some learning. Comedian and
writer Viv Groskop’s podcast episode How to Own the Zoom is absolutely invaluable, and our brilliant friends at
Chocolate Films gave us expert advice on filming yourself with your phone.
4. Relevance and accessibility
Yes, our HCPs are overstretched, but many are still willing and happy to interact with pharma if activities are relevant to their needs. Information shared in webinars and podcasts, which are easy to access, and content that’s relevant to their current agendas is welcomed.
5. Empathy is everything
We’re all struggling to keep our heads above water at the moment, and we all have days when it feels harder. So ask your customers and external experts how they’re doing and listen to what they need.
Use emotional intelligence when you plan your meeting and be kind to your audience.
Don’t expect them to sit listening to interminable presentations. Don’t bombard them with long lists of questions. Consider all the elements that make face to face human interaction stimulating, enjoyable and productive and aim to find equivalent online activities.
Think about interaction and engagement, changing pace, scheduling breaks and encouraging people to stretch their legs. Use humour and ice breakers to lighten the mood. HCPs are tired and their time is valuable. We need to make them feel valued by providing a rewarding interaction.
This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s usually the best way to achieve your meeting objectives.
Plan your agenda with kindness, and you’ll find that it will help stimulate creative thinking, joint problem solving and decision-making. And remember to extend that kindness to yourself – you might not get it perfect every time.
The main thing is, we’re all learning.