Welcome to Veterinary Events and CE in 2021 and Beyond - Episode 4, Featuring dvm360's Chief Veterinary Officer, Adam Christman
Thank you so much for tuning in here. I'm your host, David Hall, co-founder of Genius Vets, and welcome to Veterinary Events and CE in 2021 and Beyond, everything that you need to know. This is a great season we've got going. We've been interviewing the CEOs and the heads and the people who are running the most important organizations in the veterinary industry for events, the events that keep you informed about everything that's happening in the veterinary industry and the veterinary community and veterinary medicine. Today we have an incredible guest. Dr. Adam Christman is the Chief Veterinary Officer at MJH Life Sciences. He oversees the veterinary division that includes Fetch, dvm360, Firstline, and VetEd. He helps provide a voice for the veterinary community and continues to remain an advocate for pet parents and their fur babies.
Dr. Christman has been practicing veterinary medicine for 16 years now and still going. He received his bachelor of science in animal science and minor in Spanish at Rutgers University, Dr. Christman received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Iowa State University. Getting a deeper meaning in customer service was important to him, and therefore he pursued his MBA degree from Aspen University. This solid education, along with his amazing experiences with both people and animals has led him to the next chapter of his life at dvm360. So Dr. Christman, thanks so much for taking some time and joining us today.
This season, one of the things that we're asking some of the leaders, thought leaders in this industry, people like yourself, what is something interesting you've learned about yourself over this past year as you've been locked down and gotten to spend a lot of time away from the normal hustle, bustle of the office and situations like that? What's something you've learned about yourself?
Well, I've learned to pack my patients. That's for sure because it's one thing where when you're a veterinarian, you're like go, go, go kind of a thing. We do have patients, which are animals, but when you're in lockdown or whatnot, it drives you nuts a little bit, because you need to pack your patients a little bit more. So, I mean, that is one thing that I've learned, is a deeper meaning of giving people time and the fact that when I ask somebody, "How are you?" it totally changed. I know everyone can probably relate to that because usually, it used to be, before COVID, like, "Hey, how's it going?" Now I really do stop and pause when I ask somebody, "How are you?" They'll be like, "Wait. Are you frozen?" "No, I really want to know. How are you? How's everything going? Tell me about your family." So I'm really big on ... Did Elsa get you? Are you frozen? No, because I can be like ...
So that's one part. Then as far as I want to learn something else because you do have that ability. Everybody's like, "Oh, I'm reading a great book, and I'm taking up another language." Now I can't sing, David Hall. I can't carry a note, but I wanted to learn singing, like the different octaves and the ranges and all those things. So I did understand that a little bit more. So don't ask me to sing, because I'm not going to do it. It's really cool just seeing how these singers can do these riffs and everything. You can know these octaves of an F5 and a G5 and what's a belt chest voice. I thought that was really fascinating, so that's one thing that I learned.
What have you done to improve yourself over the past year? So you've explored your creative side. You've gotten into singing a little bit.
Yeah, definitely got into singing. So that's one of my passion things that I love. I do love working out. So that's one thing. Then when the gyms all closed, that really affected my mental health. Just to be honest, it really was a big thing for me. I was like, "Oh my gosh. How are we going to get through this?" So being creative and thinking outside of the litter box with exercises was important to me, because we were doing home exercises. So staying connected. We had virtual gym sessions and all those things. We turned our garage into a home gym, basically.
Well, I'd like to change directions here just a little bit. Let's dive in. I want to talk about the events, but before I do, we have a lot of people that are joining us here today. Of course, dvm360, massive publication, huge organization, Fetch. You do so much for the veterinary industry. Why don't we start with just a broad overview of your different offerings, just to make sure that our audience has the full picture?
So I think that was great that we have that platform for it, and then we have Firstline and VetEd, too. So Firstline is geared more towards the veterinary technician, which is excellent. Then we have the VetEd publication, which is more for practice management, economics, business development, those kinds of things. So they all kind of have their own little homes, which is nice, their own identities, and then, which we are going to talk about in a moment, we do have the live event. It's called Fetch Conferences. So they were supposed to be eight live events that we were going to have in 2020, so consolidating those, and then we also have the podcast, too. So I've got to use my chest voice through it because now I know the difference between a chest voice and a head voice. So I can go, "The Vet Blast Podcast is the name of our podcast."
Over the past year with everybody locked down and all the virtual stuff going on, how has your organization leaned into online offerings and virtual CE and things like that?
Yeah, I mean, we had to do, I think like a lot of these, a quick pivot, a very fast pivot. Now, mind you, too, I assumed this position two days before COVID hit. New position, transition into this role from private practice, emergency medicine, running a 10-doctor practice, two hospitals to this to COVID. So as I was being onboarded, they're saying, "You know what? Let's hold off on that for a moment, because we have to figure out out how to get our continuing education to pivot." So we learned as we went, which was great. I say that to my advantage is the fact that we all were in this together, figuring it all out at the same time, and veterinary medicine is all about teamwork. When you hear all these instances about going virtual, it's not just one person. There have to be at least 25, 30 of us that were really coming together, sitting at the table, and seeing, "How can we do this?"
So I will say we were one of the first organizations to come to the profession about COVID. When COVID hit, we were able to write content in seven days. So I was able to get infectious disease specialists up as well as two practice owners in talking about what's happening right now, a very serious candid conversation. So that kind of led us into having these future discussions going. I think we're going to be in this for the long haul. So yeah, pivoting from more of in-print versus more online, because that's where the heavier focus was for the short term, and then also webinars and continued education.
What differences have you noticed in the online model versus the live model and especially in terms of numbers of people starting and completing courses, engagement, feedback, sentiment from attendees? How could you compare and contrast the virtual versus live?
So originally when we started to do some recorded webinars, I think people were realizing, attendees are realizing, "This is it for the long haul. This is what we need to do." So it's great to get that education, and we were going to areas that we never would have gone before, so other countries, other entities that may be worth considering getting some continuing education leaning to the United States as being the forefront in finding out, setting the bar high for continuing education. So we realized that we had big shoes to fill. We really did, because we were getting emails from veterinarians around the world to say, "Now that you're virtual, we would be interested in attending your webinars." So we realized as a team we have to be welcoming to all of those different individuals, and not just veterinarians, mind you, too, veterinary students, technicians, vet tech students, practice managers. So we had a lot of interest that was there.
So as we pivoted into the webinar space, we realized that. Then we realized we're missing the letter E, engagement. So how can we get our audience to feel like we're with each other, in a room, or whatever? So then we decided let's put yours truly, myself, on as the moderator to having these guests on in a live experience, virtual experience event. Our retention rate is 86% for a whole hour. I'm going to say that one more time. We have a retention rate of over 80% of attendees that are staying on throughout an entire hour. I mean, I can't even sit through a TikTok video after 60 seconds.
So what we're finding is I'm asking the audience as the key opinion leader is giving the lecture. I'm taking their feedback. "Oh, that's a great question. Thank you for your question. We'll ask that at the end. What does the audience think about this new diet that's coming out? What does the audience think about this new surgical procedure?" So everyone feels like they're there. They feel like they're included at the supper table. So I think that's something that's a really great key factor that we're doing during the virtual space, is really keeping the engagement up, taking a pulse on the profession, listening to our readers and our attendees, and trying to change things up. They're hungry for CE. They want to learn CE that they wouldn't have had if it was in the live space. So that's a big advantage, too.
I'll give you another example. We have our virtual Fetch conference that's happening from May 13th through the 15th. I'll give a plug in a second, but the advantage to that is the fact that this theme is celebrating the veterinary profession. What do I mean by that? The fact that you can actually click and see something on elephant medicine, see something on conservation medicine, go to rabbit medicine, learn on a dog procedure, go to about feline behavior, wellbeing, diversity, and inclusion all in a matter of a few hours. Now, if there were side-by-side tracks in the live space, it makes it tough. I don't know if I, me, personally, because I'm not an equine veterinarian, but I want to learn at this conference because of the fact that you can go at your convenience. So yeah, I'm going to do that. We're veterinarians, and what a great way to celebrate us, by learning all the different species that are out there.
So the goal of these kinds of webinars is to put a little question mark in our attendees realizing there's so much more out there, too. If you feel stuck, get unstuck, and look at all these wonderful species and other career opportunities that are out there. I don't think, honestly, we would have had that ability if it wasn't for a pandemic.
The fact that we're in this webinar space currently, the fact that it's like Netflix for veterinarians. Yeah, maybe I'll watch a half-hour worth. What's the worst that can happen? Maybe I don't get the full credit for it, but I still get the exposure and visibility, and then I can watch something else. Then maybe you know what? I can go back to watching it later on. So I think it gives us the flexibility, because our profession is super uber busy right now, too. We have families. We have family members that are sick with COVID. Maybe we can't take time off and go to those CE events that we're going to have eventually.
But the fact that this gives you that flexibility that you need, where you can still work, don't have to worry about getting covered at the hospital, and you can watch it on the weekends, give that engagement that we still provide in the networking lounges, and get to meet individuals that you probably would never have met before from all over the world and hearing their best practices of how they're getting through this, thriving and surviving in veterinarian medicine, and also getting to meet veterinary students, because, really, my big passion project is connecting veterinary students to these continuing education conferences.
I say this wholeheartedly, and I mean this, that when those vet students walk across that stage to get that degree in just a few short weeks, that's just the beginning of their education. It's just the beginning, and we're going to be there for them for the rest of their career. So we want to start early by creating and building that relationship and nurturing it early so they know that this isn't something for older people. This is something that you're going to need in about six months to get your continuing education on because medicine's wonderfully evolving. So we want to make sure that we nourish that relationship early on with them.
Now, with the growth of the virtual CE and easy access to this huge variety of options, what is it really that sets your organization apart from the other CE providers?
So we have the ability to seriously network and engage with the audience. So the attendees that come in, and they have seen other platforms that are in the space, and really do feel like it is the most immersive experience as immersive gets. That's the best compliment that really makes our team so happy, because of the look and feel of it, the exhibit hall, you can actually click on the exhibit hall booth, and somebody is actually there and they can say, "Hi." They type to you in the chat, "Hi. Welcome. I'm here for you. Thank you so much for your question." So you have that ability to chat and connect and create a sense of community within the virtual space, which is great.
The fact that I'm there live, I'm literally with most of the live sessions, and we take in audience questions. "Here you are. Here I am as a veterinarian. I'm also in the trenches with you also." I'm as authentic as authentic gets when it comes to these things, so the fact that I could take these questions and say, "You know what? This attendee is exactly feeling the same, and I just want to resonate and second what she's feeling," and then bring it to the speaker's attention. It's creating great engagement there, too.
So we have live Q and A with faculty that we do. We have half-hour faculty sessions with two speakers going on. We have about 150 to 200 people in those rooms that are asking questions just left and right, left and right, and just soaking it all in with this education. It would be something on practice management with internal medicine, and they're intentional. We intentionally choose those to have that cross-connection with technician anesthesiology, with wellbeing, for instance, all that, because, again, celebrate. Collaboration saves lives is what happens. So we really want to promote that. I think that's a really great benefit that we provide in the virtual space.
It really is great. I mean, let's face it. Our profession is notoriously known for being introverted. So this gives them the opportunity to ask questions without feeling like people are looking at them, and we can do polling questions and really get some great data from the profession, too, which is super solid. So I think that those are really added wins that we see.
So let's talk about live events. Let's start with what's your favorite thing, Dr. Christman, that happens at live events?
It's networking and friendships, is what it is. You may say you can do that in the virtual space. Can you really develop true meaning and purposeful relationships without having that face-to-face interaction? You and I both know, and those of you that are watching, you know human nature is to have a better meaningful relationship in person. The fact that I could see David really quick, and then I don't have to click out of a room anymore, because I just happened to catch him out of a session and say, "Hey, what's going on?" Then I see an exhibitor that I wanted to catch up with or a classmate from five years ago that's in the hallway. How cool is that, versus closing out the window? "Oh, you're on mute, David. You're on mute." We don't have to do that anymore.
I spent a year and a half on agendas, of agendas and agendas that were not happening, that was going from live to virtual, consolidating. We were going to have a live one in Baltimore, for instance, and the COVID capacities weren't met for what we needed, so we had to cancel that one. But we are going live for the latter half of the year, and you know who's really happy about that? Our people, and that's what we asked. We asked the attendees, "Would you be interested in attending?" and then the exhibitors and sponsors because you need to physically touch the equipment and see products and see them in action. It's one thing to see videos, of course. But, again, we're veterinarians. We're scientists. Veterinary technicians as well and practice managers. We need to see things.
If I'm seeing an event, I might go, "What do you think of that? What do you think of that equipment that's going on right there? What do you think of that demo?" You can't really exchange that kind of communication in the virtual space. It's hard to mimic that. So it's nice to be like, "Oh, I don't know if this is the real deal or whatever. What do you think about that?" So the fact that we're going to be able to have that in a live setting is much, much, much needed.
I know you have a series of events that are planned and that's coming up, and it sounds like you're going to be taking different approaches. Can you describe to us what should we expect?
Yeah. I mean, so think of giant exhibit halls with less capacity, of course. So we have to be compliant with COVID, and so we take it very seriously for both our attendees as well as for our Fetch faculty. So masks will be required. The meals will be individually wrapped, of course, like box meals, whatever, but it still doesn't take away from the great experience that you can have. Speakers can have their masks off if they feel so because they'll be socially distant away. But if they're going to have some interactions and those kinds of things, then, of course, their masks will be on.
So that's probably the biggest thing that you'll see, is that they'll be more spread out. So, fortunately, at the convention hall, we have plenty of space. When I saw these rooms, I said, "Holy smokes." Plenty of space. So it's going to feel large, but intimate at the same time, because you'll be able to still interact. The exhibitors are very happy to be coming back in the live setting. We're starting off the conversation with our attendees by saying, "We missed you. Welcome back," because we really did miss them. We're not going to have a hybrid situation in the Kansas City event. We really feel passionate about creating and establishing those relationships. Super uber important.
Everything's live. I mean, listen, we just had a year and a half or so of just sitting behind a screen. So we kind of really want to just make sure we bring it back to where it was and that authenticity, that wondering of asking questions and intrigue and, again, talking to audience members. We're going to have polling materials, which is going to be great using our smartphone technology. So you don't have to worry about having a microphone, passing a microphone around. You can still submit questions, and it'll be up on the screen. So the technology has been fantastic in terms of what we've learned and how we're pivoting towards that. But we really want to be present. You hear that at the table with your mom and dad. "Phones away. Phones away." That's how we feel about Kansas City. We want you all to be present and enjoy each other, because we are on the best profession on the planet.
So you're going to go straight live, live for the Kansas City event, which happens when? When is that event?
So August. I always have to check, because I know we just changed the date. August 27th through the 30th is when we're having it.
August 27th through the 30th live. Live, live in Kansas City.
Live, live, live.
>Some people are still just going to be scared. They may be affected for a long time. For sure you've done some, and you guys do such an amazing job serving your audience and finding out what their preferences are. How have you tempered your expectations? What do you expect in terms of attendance for your live events, moving forward?
Yeah. So we know that this year has a big question mark on it, of course, right? It's a year of uncertainty. So we respect that, by all means. So we expect the attendance to probably not be where it was pre-COVID. I don't think anybody would expect it to be where it was pre-COVID. I think we need to have another year under our belts and really see where we're heading, whether we're rounding the corner with this pandemic with vaccination. So I can't give you an exact percentage, but we're not expecting it to be very high and through the roof, but we want it to be there because that's what our audience has been asking us, to have a live event this year.
So we feel that according to the CDC guidelines and what Kansas City is providing us, we're going to be in a good spot with what we can do and deliver. At the same time, to what you were just talking about, every year they used to have a block party at Kansas City. It's amazing. If you've been to Kansas City or when it was CVC, they know it was huge, over the top. Unfortunately, we can't have that, but we have some fun surprises of entertainment that are going to be there, too.
Oh, anything that you can kind of tell us about now, a little preview?
Hopefully, there’ll be someone famous there! We're going to try to have some entertainment and some illusionist type of thing. We want you to have some fun at the same time. That's important to us, of course, too. It's one thing to get your CE, but you also need to have fun, because you want to do it with your friends and your colleagues. I mean, you haven't seen each other in a couple of years. So it's going to be great to at least catch-up.
But let's say we've probably got three camps. We've got people that really want to get back to places, people that maybe are more cautious, some people in the middle, but of those two kinds of extremes, what do you think going to be the driving force behind those who want to get back?
I think people want a sense of normalcy, and I think part of them going to these conventions or these shows or whatnot is going to probably give them that. The fact that they're going to learn and interact with one another and network, I can't even tell you. I've sat on every single live webinar since what, March of 2020, and at least five to ten messages come through as, "When are we going to be live again?" and "I miss my colleagues," because they're seeing each other's names in the chat and then like, "Oh my gosh. I missed you so much. I can't wait to see you. When can we square up and hang out at a future event?"
So that's the driving force, is the fact that you're going to see each other, are going to safely see each other, too. We're going to take all the necessary precautions. You're going to learn and have fun at the same time. So I hope and I really, really hope and I say this to my colleagues, too, this is how we move the profession and the needle together. We are very resilient. We are adaptive. We have done so much. Who would have thought we'd be talking about curbside? I just thought something like that would be good at Boston Market or McDonald's. Now we're curbside. So we know these things. We've got this down, and so we need each other to elevate and support one another. I can't think of a better way than just coming together and getting a CE on and just having some fun at the same time.
Before we let you go, why don't you go ahead and tell our audience here today, what is it that you want them to do next? How can they register for your events? What should they be following? Tell them. Take it away.
Okay. So you've got to check us out on dvm360.com, of course. That's where our home base is. We have The Vet Blast Podcast. So if you're interested for the live shows, fetchdvm360.com is where it's at, my friends. So fetchdvm360.com, and then of course on Instagram, so we have dvm360mag. By the way, we do interviews with all of our Fetch faculty. So we've been doing it, but I have 46 interviews that I'm doing with the Fetch faculty. It's great because you get to meet them, and you get to chat with them and then see if they're presenting at whether it be ... We're going to continue it, too, for the live events as well as for virtual.
So I think that's a lot of fun, too. So follow them on dvm360mag and then also on LinkedIn, too, Fetch dvm360 Conferences as well, then on Twitter, dvm360mag as well as Instagram, ... I said that. All right. Then I'm missing one. Oh, YouTube, too, dvm360.com. I think I got them all in. Did I say them all? Yeah.
I'm on social media, too, by the way. I'm on TikTok, David. I know you're not on there. You need to be on there, and you need to follow me on TikTok, dradamchristman52 on TikTok. I've got to do that one.
Well, Dr. Christman, thank you so much for spending a little time with us today, for telling us about all the adaptations and everything that dvm360 and Fetch events have been doing to still be able to deliver the value and the information that the veterinary industry needs to bring people together and to help them move forward in their lives and their careers Just as an industry really, really appreciate all that you're doing.
Thank you so much, really. I have to give a shout-out to my team. They're absolutely fantastic. The Fetch, dvm360 family, you guys are wonderful. None of this would be possible without amazing communication, almost all of us working from home remote to make this happen. So shout out to them.
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