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.