Optometric Management Tip # 137   -   Wednesday, September 01, 2004
What service can you promote?

Most practices are enjoying one of the busiest times of the year right now as summer comes to an end and kids head back to school, but many offices slow down as we move into late fall. If this is the case in your practice, there are steps you can take to keep things busy, and the financial benefits are obvious. So why don’t optometrists do more to control their own productivity, instead of just waiting to see what happens? It could be because we don’t think like business people – we think like doctors. Successful practitioners are good at both realms.

If you know your practice is about to enter a slow down, one idea you can easily incorporate is to host an in-office seminar for your own patients, and the general public. By creating an “event” like this, you actually make something happen; you create a buzz that permeates your office. Start by deciding what optometric service you enjoy providing, or are particularly good at. Make it specific – not too general. Here are a few possibilities – which one are you an expert on? After you pick the topic, talk to one of your staff members for assistance in planning an in-office seminar. Pick a date and time well into the future so you can send invitations and announce the event in the newspaper. You can probably present the seminar in your reception area, although other off-site locations work well also. You might pick a time right after your normal office hours in the evening on a weekday, so people can stop on their way home from work and your staff can just stay late that day. Serve coffee and cookies, or other refreshments.

Prepare a one page outline listing the major points your lecture will cover and print these on your letterhead for each attendee to take as a handout. This is all you will need for your own notes also – it just jogs your memory about what you want to talk about. You’ll know what to say in the speech – you’ve said it a hundred times before in one-on-one patient encounters, and this small group seminar is really no different. Have a stack of business cards and possibly a stack of brochures on the topic (published by the AOA or industry).

The best advice on the lecture is to keep it short (20 to 30 minutes) and not too technical. Allow time for questions and answers at the end – and encourage people to break the silence code and ask questions. This part makes the seminar a true success. You might even ask a friend to attend and ask a planted first question to get the flow going. Be ready to talk about fees in a non-apologetic manner, or include this in your talk so no one has to ask about it. Audio visual tools, like slides or transparencies are great, but they are not mandatory for a small group.

Depending on your topic, you may want to have a quick vision screening of some kind immediately after your presentation. You and your staff could rotate people through a couple of quick stations to test refractive error or IOP or whatever, to give attendees some valuable information that tells them if they are a good candidate for your services. If you do this, have a short disclaimer signed by each person, informing them that the screening is not a substitute for a full exam.

When you advertise the seminar, state that attendees must reserve a space, which allows you to obtain their name, address and phone number. Look the list over in advance so you see who the established patients will be in the group and their names will come easier to you. Have each attendee sign in upon arrival. People often arrive right at the start time or a little late – so plan to start talking about 10 minutes late.

I would run an ad in the local paper a few times announcing the seminar to the public. Everyone who reads it will view you as an expert on the topic – even if they don’t attend. A photo of yourself in the ad is a good idea. The seminar gives you a good professional reason to run an ad, and build your image. The ad will reach the whole community, so you may not have to send invitations to your patient base – but doing so will ensure a larger group.

Close your talk with advice on what the attendee should do next – like schedule an appointment that evening to see you in the near future.


Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management