Friday, April 20, 2018

Insight into How Healthcare Conferences Must Evolve in Order to Remain Relevant – Part 1

This is supposed to remind you of a Jetson's-like 21st Century Registration Desk
Healthcare conferences are popular ways to bring people together in one place where they can discover and share information, insight and ideas on a specific theme; and create or extend personal relationships. And suck the money and time from literally 100’s of 1000’s of attendees. Anyone who been to more than a handful of healthcare conferences over the last decade knows it’s time for a change.

Last Friday, April 13th I hosted the weekly Health Information Technology Social Media (#HITsm) tweetchat and the theme of the chat was ‘How to Evolve Healthcare Conferences in the 21st Century.’ 


During the hour-long chat, 66 participants shared 540 tweets on the topics listed here.

In this first post of a four-part series, I’ll share information about what chat participants thought healthcare conference organizers, exhibitors and attendees can do BEFORE a conference to make their event more valuable. The topics included those physically attending the event AND those who may follow along remotely. 

In the following three posts I’ll share chat participant insight about the DURING (two posts) and AFTER of a healthcare conference.

Note: To make it easy on the reader – and most importantly ME – I’ve removed all the Twitter handles, hashtags and in less than a handful of instances, corrected a few tweets to make them easier to read. You can read the entire, verbatim transcript here.


What Should Healthcare Conference Organizers Consider When Planning Their Event?


Smart organizers will recognize two things: 1) clever marketing notwithstanding the audience pool is larger externally than in room, 2) Matter more during, before and after the event. A one and done event fades fast. 

One key we've found to any conference strategy is the importance of getting the right people in the room that understand the culture you want to create. Everything else just accelerates that key effort.

Most tangible value is relevant information. Consistent and clear information that communicates the value of the conference and provides attendees a sense of what to expect

Stale content is not well-received and wastes time. Before launching an event, it's imperative for conference organizer to ensure that it is not redundant and truly differentiated in its approach. Creativity with bringing tech to bear is critical.

Have a good understanding of the target audience. Not every conference is for everyone. That being said, if make content known, can get let unexpected attendees assess potential value.

Enlist down to earth people to provide their insight into their specific needs and why they want to attend the specific conference. I'm rather tired of caricatures of Big Shot CEO's but little else.

I know it's a business. But taking long view, delivering value over long term, can make a conference stand out on the year's calendar. I could go from HC conference to conference like I was following the Grateful Dead, but

Make sure there is a focus or theme to a conference. Make clear what differentiates this conferences from others. What are the top 3 things attendees can expect to gain from the event?

Depends on objectives of organizers. Offer value. No more 'me too' programs with usual suspects saying the same things to the same audience. Less talk, more action? #boring

Show point of how conference is distinct from others, also show how this year's conference is distinct from prior years.

I agree with the gestalt here - any conference is best positioned as part of a broader conversation, and the organizer should create pathways to & for the conversation before, during & after the IRL event (without worrying too much about monetizing everything)


Healthcare Conference Organizers: Stop Demanding Speaker Proposals So Early


You know what's interesting - you submit your prospectus months before the conference. For me, my topic evolves over time. Wish I could edit and give more info closer to the event. 

This is so true. I understand why it's necessary to have deadlines, but it is really hard to predict that far in advance.

To that point, one thing that gets me is having to submit proposals so far in advance. If conference does "hot" topics, hard to predict 7-9 months in advance.


Include More Patients and Authentic People Who Work in Healthcare’s Trenches



Have meaningful and authentic pathways for patient participation and travel. That's how you provide value.

Provide scholarships & financial aid to patients. Have a smart hashtag & live stream the conference for FREE! Knowledge is a human right.

Have meaningful and authentic pathways for patient participation and travel. That's how you provide value.

Put real Patients on panels. Have patients lead panels. Put patients in leadership positions on organizing committees.

If conference hosted by an organization, identify ways people can volunteer or become involved with the org. How I've got in with a couple of places.


What About Fees & Incentives for Attendees of Healthcare Conferences?


Offer early bird registration and ensure everyone knows what's included with it. Make sure the agenda is posted early and offer networking opportunities. 

And perhaps offer them a discount for providing some referrals, content or other general value to the organizer, attendees, prospective attendees or others?

Make sure that speakers get free registration - and maybe more.

Prizes are always a great incentive! Whether it's door prizes to get them there, swag to shower them with, or even offering a prize to a lucky winner that registers by a certain date.

Incorporate fun material about the event and the host city, too. Provide some insight into how attendees can leverage their travel and lodging expenses.

Share Value via a Comprehensive Healthcare Conference Agenda


Allow more detailed exploration into the details of what will be shared by presenters. The typical short paragraph and three sentences about "What You'll Learn" is too little. 

Provide Basic, Intermediate, Advanced program listings, so you don't go into something over your head

Share educational literature and info graphics along with mapping of the facility and surrounding.

Part of the responsibility of making a conference a great experience lies with the attendee to do their research and preparation.

I love when conference organizers put agenda & speakers out so I can research topics & develop questions prior but I also love when I get local details & can study the logistical map & where I will be going throughout day so I can preplan - I only have so many energy pennies

Organizers could provide recent experience of speakers. Not a fan of attending sessions only to find I'm more informed than the speaker.

Email reference material early. It's nice to research the speakers, content, bills, laws, etc surrounding the event before arriving.

BONUS: Confession Time - I once published & distributed a conference agenda to attendees at the event; only to discover that I had gotten EVERY room # wrong! The devil is in the details! Check your work people!

Make ALL Conference Content Available Digitally!


Create comprehensive digital agendas that are easy to read and digest, and allow attendees to plan their conference strategy meticulously 

Our digital agendas provide for direct connection between attendees, speakers and influencers (speaker/attendee bios hyperlinked to social media accounts)

Distributing slides to attendees online. Sharing speaker info or profiles. Putting things like Twitter handles directly on badges to enhance name/face/human-to-human recognition.

We've also created branded conference landing pages that only attendees can access with all conference details and files available

Make Everything Your Healthcare Conference Offers Easy to Find


Create a hashtag, RSS feed, live blog, and/or other means that attendees and prospective attendees can use to monitor conference developments and engage with others. 

Don't make me download an app or sign up for a conference-specific site to get access.

Follow the lead from Auto Malls and group exhibitors based on their functional focus. i.e. keep similar vendors in the same area. I shouldn't have to jump all over a huge hall to visit with similar vendors.

An interactive guide that gets attendees familiar with talks that will be given, keynote speakers, a look at technology that will be featured. Get them excited to attend!

Establish the conference hashtag in advance! If it's changing from previous years, let people know!

Have regular tweetchats leading up the event is great and can unveil topics of interest. Sharing speaker Twitter/LinkedIn profiles also helpful.

I like the idea of hosting a webinar for newbies to the event (especially large ones). Get them acclimated beforehand and give them a place to ask questions. It's like appointment TV - tune in together!

Healthcare Conferences: All About the Networking


Conferences are best for Social Networking - not online. Anything that they can do to help "birds of a feather" to meet in person 

I'm a big fan of knowing who is presenting, sponsoring, AND who else is already REGISTERED to attend, in advance. It makes planning a whole lot easier, and even creates a sense of FOMO that can drive attendance growth.

The conference should be a piece of an ongoing conversation, never just a onetime event

There are reason$ why only the sponsors of conferences get the attendee email lists. That's what they're paying for by sponsoring the conference

A large value of the conference from a vendor’s perspective are pre-arranged meetings outside of conference program schedule. Provides a time to re-engage with clients and deep-dive into problem- solving and brainstorming.

Reach out to attendees tweeting the conference hashtag. Invite them to schedule a product demo at your booth or register for your speaking session or after party.

Participate in the social and digital community (channels, blogs, webinars, local events, etc.) in a meaningful way year-round. Not just in the months leading up to the event.

More Insight on Healthcare Conferences


If you thought the above was helpful, wait until you see the next post cover the ‘DURING of Healthcare Conferences!’ Over 110+ ideas, experiences, needs, and desires shared by #HITsm chat participants will be shared across the following general categories: 
  • Conference Content – Including speaker materials, graphics, video and sharing to attendees 
  • Speaker Qualities – What makes a good speaker? What do they do different than the boring presenter? 
  • Sharing & Engaging with Physical & Remote Attendees including social media, live-streaming and new approaches 
And a bunch of other stuff!

In the meantime and as always, consider following me on Twitter where I share information about healthcare data, technology, and services as @ShimCode

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