Develop the Optimal Medical Meeting Strategy

by Jeanne Mendelson

Jeanne Mendelson authored an article in Associations Now providing strategies to help medical meeting planners navigate significant changes in the healthcare industry. Read More

ASAE-LOGO-01Medical meetings have taken a hit over the past few years, and regulations, smaller budgets, and virtual learning have meeting planners scratching their heads on how to minimize the impact for members while getting hit from all sides. Challenges are everywhere.


Regulations like the recent Transparency Reports and Reporting of Physician Ownership or the Investment Interests section of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also commonly referred to as the “Sunshine Act,” have affected how much funding companies can give and in what way their names can be attached to a meeting, as well as how corporate representatives can interact with medical professionals.


Registration numbers are being affected by travel and professional-development budget cuts. While licensing and certifications still require continuing education, institutions are expecting their employees to satisfy these requirements on their own dime. With medical professionals often paying their own way, they are becoming increasingly selective on the meetings they attend.


E-learning is also creating a new competitor with increased opportunities to get continuing education credits through low-cost online courses, webinars, and virtual events.


Despite these significant challenges, medical meetings can and are still succeeding. Following are some strategies to help your medical meeting get past these hurdles:


Partner With Industry

Building key industry partnerships can strengthen an event and generate additional revenue. When working with industry partners in this tough economic and regulatory climate, it is important to paint a good picture of how the association’s long-term goals align with a partner’s goals. Explain how a partnership will help drive growth for both the industry and the association. Allow industry partners to become part of the discussion; give them a seat at the table. It may not be appropriate to have industry representatives at the board table, but creating an industry advisory council is a great way to show that you are looking to advance the practice and industry together. Giving industry partners a voice about the strategic goals is great way to create buy-in and pave the way for long-term funding commitments.


Additionally, attaching industry sponsors to the meeting rather than specific events and products helps eliminate any regulation violations around sponsorship visibility and educational content. For example, the World Conference of Interventional Oncology (WCIO) has been partnering with industry to grow the organization’s annual conference and meet the needs of a larger target market. This partnership has resulted in a 10 percent increase in sponsorship dollars, year over year.


Integrate Technology

Do not compete with technology. Embrace it! There are many cost-effective ways to integrate technology into medical meetings to enhance connectivity opportunities for attendees.


Start by adding a virtual component to your meeting. Hybrid meetings are becoming increasingly popular and associations are finding that they enhance—not compete—with the live event. In addition to increasing revenue by capturing attendees who may not have traveled for the event, a virtual event can connect your meeting globally by integrating online feedback into the event.


Consider creating a conference app that includes a floor plan, schedule, and attendee contact list so each attendee has all the information they need at his or her fingertips. Apps also allow attendees to connect and interact with presenters by asking questions and providing feedback through an audience response system (ARS) feature. Moreover, the ARS feature allows virtual attendees to participate, further engaging all attendees and increasing the overall interactivity of the meeting.


WCIO increased attendee engagement during their 2013 annual event by offering a conference app. More than 50 percent of attendees downloaded the app, logging on more than 30,000 times during the three-day conference.


There are also numerous free technology tools that can help bolster your live event. Using social media channels—like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn—to market your event allows you to connect with attendees and push out content at no cost. Social media is also a great way to engage and attract younger attendees to your event.


Do Not Abandon the Basics


Never under estimate the power of face-to-face networking. While everyone is connected 24/7 and information is at our fingertips, in-person connectivity is still the best way to network. Be sure to enhance onsite opportunities to connect with peers, access the experts and “test drive” new technology. Highlight your networking opportunities and the technology you are using to enhance those connections. Prospects will have the chance to see what they are missing, a great way to market your next event!


By employing some simple strategies to enhance your meeting—building strong industry partnerships, leveraging technology, and harnessing the power of face-to-face networking—healthcare associations can significantly grow their medical meeting despite the many challenges facing them today.


Jeanne Mendelson is executive director of the World Conference of Interventional Oncology and senior manager of SmithBucklin. 



This article was originally published by Associations Now.