It was indeed a great pleasure to attend my very first HCEA summit. Chicago was cold and the snow helped me break some ice with everyone I met (see what I did there?). It was a great place to meet some of the leading stalwarts of the healthcare event industry and learn from them.
Being the noob in the room, I focused on listening rather than saying, especially since I knew I’d have my say later on, in blogs and articles. The morning sessions, presented by the Michael ‘twins’ offered an interesting perspective – one that was quite contrary to the panel discussion after lunch.
Both of them spoke about the importance of customer/physician engagement that goes beyond just a booth visit or collecting lead information. They also made impassioned arguments in favor of using data and digital tools to reimagine event execution. Finally, both of them had interesting perspectives on how to assess event ROI in the future.
After a quick lunch, the discussions went back to more familiar topics like vendor selection and RFP processes for convention services. All panelists agreed that building personal relationships was an extremely important step. Check out what Twitterati had to say.
Here are some of my key takeaways from the event:
The attendee is changing. Physicians and healthcare buyers have always avoided booths and being accosted by Sales / Marketing executives at booths. The nature of their business is changing and this requires them to change the way they engage at events. Fewer doctors now work in solo businesses and patients research everything a physician prescribes before reposing faith. As a result, HCPs now want to learn and benefit as much as they can from time spent at a conference.
Sales/rep enablement at events is gaining ground. Like one speaker said, it is important to lug all your CRM data on your back and carry it to events. Intel recently had a live sales pipeline dashboard running at its CES booth. There are no reasons why healthcare and medical equipment brands cannot approach events in a similar way (even if you cannot display the dashboard). For a very long time, returns from events have focused on leads and booth footfalls. Now sales-oriented, 1:1 interactions and pre-scheduled influencer discussions with physicians will become as important. After an event, the key thing to report will be the depth of the engagement enabled.
Events will be a key offline HCP touch point in the online world of marketing. As a result, it will also be treated with a similar yardstick as other digital marketing channels. Events will have to capture much more data than it currently records, and then also analyze this data to provide better customer or target insights. The immediate impact of this will be felt in the ease with which event teams will be able to establish ROI from events and also optimize their future investments (e.g. larger booths versus more meeting rooms or speaking sessions).
Brands will respond gradually and not overnight. None of what I’ve noted here or was discussed on that fine Thursday is likely going to be implemented soon. The industry is likely to make changes in small, subtle ways rather than make any big-bang changes. Given that we still function under severe federal regulations, we may even lag behind some other industries in terms of being early adopters of new ideas and methods. Nonetheless, everyone seemed to agree that these trends are critical and need to be addressed.
I had a really great time at the HCEA summit and look forward to meeting everyone again at the Annual Summit in August. Till then, do keep in touch and keep the conversation going!