Monday, April 23, 2018

NatCon18 – A Healthcare Conference Like None I’ve Ever Attended Before

Photo Credit: @AdamJBecker
The 2018 National Council for Behavioral Health Conference (NatCon18) taking place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center renewed my excitement for healthcare conferences. The venue was very clean, well appointed and accessible, the ‘conference content’ was attractive and interesting, conference ‘support opportunities’ were quite unique, and the attendees were - at least to me - atypical; to paraphrase Wallace of ‘Wallace & Gromit’ fame: 'the NatCon18 event was like no conference I’ve ever attended.'

What Made the NatCon18 Event a Unique Healthcare Event?

In this post I’ll share why I claim the above and some resources that interested parties can access to learn more about this year’s NatCon18 conference.

A Nice, Accessible & Reasonable Healthcare Conference Venue

The Gaylord National venue is just right for the 5000+ attendees of the NatCon18 event: it’s a very nice hotel/conference property close to a major airport, has lots of dining, entertainment and retail options all within easy walking distance of the hotel, and offers plenty of meeting and networking space for conference attendees.

Behavioral Healthcare Conference Content

What I’ve been able to experience of the NatCon18 event and explore so far is information, insight and ideas conveyed via largely well-designed, well-located and useful event signage and printed materials. And there were plenty of 'blue-scarved/blue-tied docents,' navigator stations and the always detailed conference information and bag of materials provided upon registration. 

The sessions covered a good mix of both ‘business’ and technical topics share via various digital and hardcopy format. One thing I’m looking forward to are the poster sessions available of the huge touch screens located in the ballroom lobby area.

The following are some resources to learn more about the NatCon18 event:

#NatCon18 Tweets

Support Services – Becoming More Common at Healthcare Conferences

One of the interesting aspects of the NatCon18 event was that the organizers provided a good range of ‘support services’ that I’ve only recently begun to see at other larger events. The following are among the services I’m talking about:
  • Wellness Rooms 
  • A Mother’s Room 
  • Free Headshots – and not just cheapies but attendees were fawned over by makeup artists from Nordstroms 
  • Free Massages 
  • Manicures and Hair Stylists - Relache Spa
  • An Oxygen Bar
  • Take-a-Break Lounge - with lava lamps!
  • LinkedIn Bar - To help enhance personal profiles
  • Film Festival - showing behavioral health movies
  • Quiet Spaces – An entire set of rooms were available for people to use on-demand
Photo Credit: @NationalCouncil

Non-Traditional Services & Diversions Not Seen at Healthcare Conferences

The NatCon18 event organizers also offered additional opportunities and services for attendees to de-stress, center themselves and interact with others:
  • AA Meetings 
  • Transcendental Meditation Sessions 
  • ‘Pet-a-Pup’ Park
  • A pseudo-sandy beach – Complete with Adirondack chairs, beach balls and a view of the Potomac river 
  • A couple billiard and ping-pong tables 
  • Corn Hole game 
  • A Coloring Wall 
  • Bocce Ball lane

And Cheap Psychiatric Help – actually really good lemonade - that was free – not 5 cents as most psychiatrists charge. :)

A Note About NatCon18 Event Attendees, Speakers & Exhibitors

Not that it’s here nor there, but the attendees, speakers and exhibitors at the 2018 National Council for Behavioral Health conference were quite different than those I’ve typically met at other healthcare conferences - particularly HIMSS and AHIP Institute. The mix between ‘business’ and technical disciplines was an obvious difference. And my impression was that conference attendees were mostly older, seemingly business-focused and pre-dominantly female. The level of interaction with others at this event - vs. individuals walking around heads down on their smart phones was quite noticeable.

Moreover, in the conference sessions I attended, the speakers were not touting the latest and ‘greatest’ technology and spewing 'solutions-oriented mumbo-jumbo' as much as they were sharing information about the business of behavioral health and their insight and ideas about opportunities for technology to help address an scale behavioral health needs.

The NatCon18 event gave me the impression that it was a more informative, openly sharing and consultative experience rather than the more technology-focused, hard sell often experienced at many of today’s healthcare conferences.

More About the 2018 National Council for Behavioral Health Conference

In a following post I’ll share more details about the NatCon18 event including more links to available conference content, information created and shared by other NatCon18 attendees, some social media highlights and any interesting pictures and graphics I can find. 

In the meantime, be sure to follow the #NatCon18 hashtag, the @NationalCouncil Twitter account, the National Council Facebook account, and the 2018 National Council of Behavioral Health social media ambassadors

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