Building a digital community: Lessons from moving a training program online
At Akash Health we conduct a range of training programs for surgeons through lectures, workshops and residency programs that are conducted either at our headquarters in Indore (India) or in conferences around the world. Training is not academic and focusses on practical considerations during surgery. With the imposition of travel restrictions we took the opportunity to test digital mediums for the continuation of our training programs.
We conducted a series of webinars discussing topics in the practice of Rhinoplasty. Across the 7 sessions we conducted: we averaged ~250 unique viewers a session from 55+ countries. We had a median view time of between 30–45 minutes and 40% of our viewers returned for another session. Session length varied between 1–1.5 hours with 30 minutes at the end for Questions and Answers from the audience. Over the course of 4 weeks we created a loyal audience with high engagement — this post details the steps we took in order to do that.
Building an audience
- Start small to understand the value being delivered: We started with a limited (100 participant) webinar with a minimal amount of outreach. The webinar was oversubscribed. On exit we asked our participants for feedback on the structure and recommended topics for future webinars.
- Maintain exclusivity: Instead of using an email registration participants messaged a whatsapp business number to get the registration link. Which created a 1-to-1 relationship between us and the attendees that acted as a marketing channel for future webinars and potential monetization.
- ‘Inorganic’ audience growth: We invited leading experts on the topics participants had requested which increased our stickiness with our existing attendees. Additionally, the experts brought in their own audience who added on to our user base, which, increased our attractiveness to other experts creating positive network effects.
We tried experiments on each of the levers we had in the structure of a webinar:
- The number of speakers in a session
- The time allocated to each speaker
- The complexity of the subjects chosen
- The timing and day of the week of the session (making sure it is convenient for all geographies)
- Question and Answer formats
What we learnt
- Digital requires its own content: Simply taking a presentation you give face to face online does not create a good viewer experience. Digital presentations have to be optimized to the medium — they are usually longer and have more unfocussed attention which is primarily on your slides and not on you.
- Segment your audience and set expectations: Our audiences were usually split between expert practitioners and beginners setting up a practice. We tried to cater to both audiences, but, we ended up alienating a part of the audience. In future iterations we will have different formats for different audience types.
Through this experiment we were able to engage more people from more diverse backgrounds for longer periods of time. The medium has a place in the value chain for continuing education in healthcare. As uncertainty in travel restrictions and large gatherings continue we will see digital mediums chipping away at the value proposition of physical conferences where these interactions currently occur.