2020 will be remembered for a lot of things. Staying apart, coming together, learning a new normal. Pharmacies have found innovative ways of keeping their businesses moving and operating efficiently – including an abundance of virtual communication. We are going to take it a step beyond virtual meetings and talk about virtual events in your pharmacy. This could be a product or service launch, a grand opening, a community event, etc. Big or small, there is a real advantage to hosting a pharmacy event virtually.
Why Should You Host a Virtual Event?
The advantages of a virtual event don’t just apply during times when it has to be done, when we are all socially distanced. You can reap the benefits of a virtual event even when you can host an in-person event because it expands your reach.
Key Benefits of a Virtual Event
- Engage with an entirely separate audience (along with your community AT the event).
- Promote your pharmacy long after the event with the content you develop.
- Save time and money; virtual events will cost you less of both.
How to Get Started
The first step to hosting a virtual event (or any event!) is to decide when you want the event to take place. Even though its virtual, it will be live, so you need to decide on a date and time that will work for your audience.
Next, you need to decide on a platform. The easiest option for a virtual event is Facebook Live. This allows you to share the experience in real-time with your audience. It won’t be perfect (it’s live, so you can’t edit), but it will be authentic, and that’s what matters. Live streams are available to viewers with or without a Facebook account. Viewers without a Facebook account just need the live stream URL. Facebook has an easy outline that talks about the technicalities of how to set this up. We are going to focus on how to promote your event and some tips and tricks to help it go smoothly!
Promoting Your Virtual Event
Just as with a regular, in-person event – you have to let people know about it or they won’t show up. At least with this, you don’t have to worry about ordering the right amount of food! So, what are the best ways to generate interest for your virtual event?
- Schedule the Live Video – Let your fans know when you’re going live! Facebook sends a notification to your followers when your stream begins.
- Create a Facebook event – Publicize the event details and invite your network.
- Promote on Facebook – Create a buzz with organic posts and paid advertisements. Think beyond just posts – include photos and videos for interest.
- Promote via other social channels – You don’t have to limit yourself to Facebook, post on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. and include the link to the Facebook event.
- Send direct mail / invites – They don’t have to be fancy (or expensive). A simple, handwritten note (copied and printed) will do just fine! Send to your patients, your community, and your broader network.
- Promote via community channels – Think about the boards you sit on; the community organizations you are involved in. Can they help promote this to their extended networks as well?
- Promote via email – Do you already have a database of email addresses? Send the invite out via email and include the link to the Facebook event.
- Utilize your colleagues and friends – Have guests, employees, friends, etc. share with their networks to broaden your reach.
- Send out a press release – If you can get local press to attend (in-person or virtually), they will help spread the word and gain publicity for your event.
Planning is Key
Now that you have spread the word and generated interest, you need to organize the event. A virtual event isn’t the same as an in-person event. You need to be able to engage your attendees even when you’re not face to face. A well-developed plan and a smooth-running event will help you do just that. There are technical considerations you need to make as well, but we’ll talk about that in a moment.
Start with the Goal in Mind
When you start developing a plan, first define what the goal of the event is. Once you have your goal in mind, you can plan out what you need to do to achieve that goal. Do you want people to know about the excellent patient care you offer? Do you want to drive patients to a new location? Are you trying to increase awareness about a new product? Each of these examples will have a slightly different plan.
Layout the Logistics
Take a look at the length of your event and break it out into beginning, middle, and end. Depending on what your overall goal is, set up the plan for the event. Some ideas may include a virtual tour or a look behind the scenes, a promotion for participants, a ribbon cutting ceremony, a giveaway, a speaker, etc. Each portion of the event should be engaging for viewers. Unlike an in-person event, you don’t need time built in for mingling or networking. Be thoughtful, keep it concise and keep your viewers in mind.
Add a Little Incentive
While many people will attend just to support you, you can also use incentives to entice more people. Offer something to everyone who joins the Facebook Live (a gift, discount, etc.). If you promote this ahead of time, it will increase the number of viewers and it will also help to drive business following the event. You can also design a more significant contest or giveaway that you can promote and then announce a winner during the Facebook Live.
Tips and Tricks for a Seamless Virtual Event
A virtual event does involve technology, so it’s important to be prepared. Here are just a few pieces of advice that will help ensure your event goes smoothly.
- Stick to the plan (generally) – It’s live so you may go off script a bit, but in general, if you stick to your plan you will feel more prepared and your confidence will come across to the audience.
- Use a tripod and mic – Nothing is more frustrating than bad audio or visual when you try to watch something virtually. Invest in some equipment (you can get them inexpensively on amazon)and test it beforehand.
- Make sure lighting is good – See above. You want people to see what you are showing them.
- Make sure bandwidth is sufficient – You’re depending on the ability to stream your event. Make sure your connection is reliable.
- Make sure the background reflects the brand – We all know people stage photos (eh-hem, you who just took a photo of your kids and your house looks spotless; meanwhile there is a pile of unfolded laundry in the corner). Same concept. Show the viewers what you want them to see (even if you have to stage it!).
- Use a horizontal frame – This will give viewers a more comprehensive view of the pharmacy or location and allow them to feel like they are part of it.
- Interact with the viewers – Pretend you are in the same room. Acknowledge people who join, give people shout-outs, encourage questions, address comments, etc.
- Have back-up – Back-up might include a person – someone to help with the technical aspect or problem solve any issues that may arise. That also includes back-up equipment (computer, phone, etc.).
That’s a Wrap. Now What?
You’ve made it through your event with minimal footage for the blooper reel and you’re feeling good. However, it’s not time to sit back and relax just yet. Following your virtual event, there are steps you will want to take to maximize and repurpose the content.
Once you complete the Facebook Live and post it to your page, you will want to add some context around it. Edit the post with a brief and actionable summary about the event and tell people why they should watch. You can also add closed captioning to the video since many videos on Facebook are listened to without sound.
Once your video is cleaned up, you will want to address comments and answer questions that you maybe didn’t get to during the live broadcast. This will continue the conversation and the engagement with your audience. Continue to keep an eye on the post in case questions and comments come in from people who didn’t watch it live.
Finally, don’t forget to repurpose the video. Post it on your website, on other social channels, create a blog about it, etc. The create thing about a virtual event is that it doesn’t have a hard end time. You can extend the shelf life of the video and reach more people by continuing to push it out to your network. Think “In case you missed it” or “Did you miss our grand opening? Check it out now for a special discount code.”
Don’t Stop There
Your pharmacy deserves to thrive, and there are many (both traditional and out-of-the-box) strategies you can implement today to make that happen. For more marketing ideas and advice to help grow your pharmacy, check out the webinar – How to Market Your Pharmacy During COVID-19, our Podcast – Marketing Strategies for Your Pharmacy and the blog – Marketing Your Pharmacy: Four Steps to Get You Started.