Numbers Tell All PHARMA FIRMS STEP UP MEETINGS ACTIVITY Some lure physicians with celebrity autograph signings, some with CME, but however they do it, most pharmaceutical firms are spending more money than ever on meetings and events, according to newly released results (see accompanying chart) of the Physician Meeting and Event Audit (PMEA), operated by Scott-Levin, a unit of Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based Quintiles Transnational Corp.
The number of industry-sponsored meetings and events reached 280,000 in 1999, up from 70,000 in 1993, when the PMEA was inaugurated. Much of that growth is recent. Between 1998 and 1999, the number of events held for physicians jumped 25 percent. Nearly half (45 percent) of these events were "dine 'n' dash" dinner meetings, where physicians are invited to a restaurant for a meal and a discussion of a pharmaceutical company's new product. Only 18 percent were hotel-based meetings--although physicians are far more likely to accept hotel invitations than restaurant invitations.
"These numbers fit with my experience," says Richard F. Tischler Jr., PhD, president of RF Tischler Jr. & Associates Inc., Mt. Airy, Md., a CME consulting practice. "My clients are not only expanding the number of companies they work with, but the business for each of those companies is really growing."
Why the surge in activity? Some of it can be put down to a busy season of new product introductions. For example, the fastest-growing events budget in the first half of 2000 compared to a year ago is that of Glaxo Wellcome, which has two new products to promote, one an inhalable flu medicine, the other to relieve irritable bowel syndrome. As is often the case with new therapies, promotion involves first building awareness among physicians of the problem the new drug solves--for example, irritable bowel syndrome--and then promoting the drug as the solution to the problem.
It is at the awareness-building stage that pharmaceutical firms may turn to CME providers to help get information out about the condition. Yet offering CME is no sure thing in terms of physician acceptance. Physicians were slightly more likely to accept invitations to non-CME events (51 percent) than CME meetings (44 percent). The study suggests that this may be due in part to physicians' ability to obtain CME from many sources other than pharmaceutical company- sponsored/supported events.
Tischler points out that physicians targeted for these kinds of meetings are likely to be the same ones who already have easy access to CME, but that there remains a population of physicians in rural areas, for example, that are underserved in terms of both access to CME and invitations to pharmaceutical company meetings.
Another possible reason for the upsurge in meeting and event activity may be the convergence of increased pharmaceutical rep staffing with the increasing inaccessibility of physicians while on the job, according to Lori Sterbakov, associate product manager for Scott-Levin. "Many HMOs and hospitals won't let reps into the office anymore," she says.
Medical conference organizers can take heart in the fact that spending on meetings and events is up. Many CME providers have worried in recent years that pharmaceutical company direct-to-consumer advertising budgets would swell and crowd out meetings budgets. It seems, according to the study, that they were half-right: Direct-to-consumer advertising is still growing, but meetings budgets are growing, too.
As a founding member of the Society of Independent Show Organizers and a former senior managing director with Penton Media Inc., Michael Hough knows his stuff when it comes to putting on a successful.
He shares his acumen in his book, The Profitable Trade Show, due to hit the stands in mid-December.
Among Hough's pearls: Tip #9: Don't Do a Show Daily. Hough says doing both a show daily and an official program isn't a good idea because they can compete for the same ad revenue. His answer: "Kill the elaborate four-color show daily and replace it with a two-color, two-sided, tabloid-sized daily update inserted each morning into the program. And charge big bucks for an exclusive sponsorship."
Hough is offering a special deal for "charter buyers" who order the book before publication date. A pre-publication price of $99.50 ($149.50 after publication) includes the book, a Tip of the Week e-mailed each Monday morning until publication date, and a weekly e-mail update for three months thereafter.
For more information about Hough, his book, and how to order it, visit his Web site at www.profitabletradeshow.com.
What's in a Name? PLANSOFT IS NOW MPOINT, WITH NEW MEETING PRODUCT PlanSoft's completely redesigned meeting planning Web site has a new address: www.mpoint.com. The updated site is one of a host of products from Cleveland, Ohio-based PlanSoft Corp. that are in "advanced stages of development," says Ed Tromczynski, president and chief operating officer. "We couldn't call them all 'PlanSoft,'" he quips. Hence the rebranding of the site, the first of many new branded products to be "brought to you by PlanSoft."
The newest of those products is Meeting Management Solutions, a set of customized, online tools aimed at professional planners at large corporations and associations. The new tools will reside on customers' customized sites, which can be set up on an intranet, extranet, or the Internet. What's new here is the ability to track meeting management and spending across an entire organization. Meeting Management Solutions adds this functionality to the site selection/RFP capabilities users will still have access to via mpoint.com.
A fee structure for the customized sites is still being worked out, according to PlanSoft spokesman John Opdycke. There will be a setup fee, which will include the online customization and training of an organization's users. Ongoing support may be available for an additional fee. PlanSoft also is looking at charging a per-meeting fee to the customer rather than charging a commission to the hotel.
As for the redesigned site, one of the biggest changes is in the property search function. Instead of filling in numerous search criteria, you get instant results after just one field is filled in. You then continue to narrow your search with each new field you fill in. This "step search" method was designed to ensure that a user never gets a "zero" result. It is also meant to make it easier for less experienced, occasional planners to use the search tool. Experienced searchers may find it exasperating to have the site go off and start searching when the only criterion entered is, for example, "Northeast"; however, you can eventually drill down to the list you want, and PlanSoft's individual property listings are still the best on the Net.
Another highlight of the new site is the comparison page: choose up to eight properties and have their vital stats displayed simultaneously in columns across your screen. The site's other content--a job board, five discussion forums each moderated by an expert, and lots of how-to articles--also have been updated, all based on a year's worth of user feedback, Tromczynski notes, and are particularly important for developing an interactive community of planners at the site.
For more details on PlanSoft and other meeting planning sites in cyberspace, check out "The Offline Guide to Online Tools," beginning on page 41. You'll also find an expanded version of the guide posted at our Web site: www.meetingsnet.com/dot-comreview, where you can post your own reviews of Web sites. --Alison Hall
High on Philly HEALTH CARE CONGRESS CATCHES GOP WAVE The Greater Philadelphia Health Care Congress (GPHCC) hopes to ride the wave of success of the Republican National Convention held in the city this past summer. And keeping the momentum going was Karen Dougherty Buchholz, president of the Philadelphia 2000 Host Committee, and featuredat the Congress' most recent event at the Ritz-Carlton in September.
"Everyone is genuinely thrilled with how the GOP went; we're still riding the high," Buchholz says, "and people who are pitching conventions for Philadelphia can point to this success." Nearly 300 members of the GPHCC heard Buchholz's remarks, which included talking about tools created for the GOP Convention that can be used to lure other events to the City of Brotherly Love. Among them: A venue book that showcases more than 1,000 attractions available for convention and meeting events--some with medical relevance, such as the medicinal plant garden at the Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians--is now available for all future conventions in the city. "The venue directory is universal," says Buchholz, "because depending on the convention, the cover can be changed to reflect the group, so that it looks like a publication specifically for them."
It may seem unusual to have a nonmedical keynote before an audience of physicians, nurses, and other health care-related folks. But it's all by design, says Tom Muldoon, president of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and founder of GPHCC 12 years ago. "The only thing we don't talk about at these events," he says, "is health care."
About one-third of all conventions held in Philadelphia are, he says, so it's only natural to have health care leaders embrace the hospitality industry as part of their public service. Their buy-in is crucial to the continued success of meetings in Philadelphia. Muldoon estimates that the GPHCC is responsible for one-third of the CVB's medical related bookings.
Membership in the congress is at a high of about 580 right now, but a core group of 300 people representing hospitals, medical and nursing schools in the region is solid. The event at the Ritz attracted about 160 people in the health care community, and not just any people. "Most are prominent members of one or more national medical society, and these are the folks who can open doors and influence people," says Muldoon.
CHICAGO: NEW LABOR RULES PASS EARLY TESTS Radiological Society of North America officials say their first meeting in Chicago since the city resolved its much-publicized labor problems was an unqualified success. They are so pleased that they have agreed to return to the Windy City through 2010.
"Everything went fine," says Janet Cooper, RSNA's managing director of convention operations. "It was very smooth."
RSNA had threatened to bolt from Chicago because of the city's high labor costs and trade show restrictions, but is among a number of organizations giving high marks to a labor agreement that took effect on January 1, 1999. The new agreement is designed to reduce the city's chronic labor woes and beef up hotel room availability. (See "Chicago--No Longer Singing the Labor Blues?," MM, December 1998, page 15.)
David Noonan, deputy executive vice president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a member of the Chicago Customer Advisory Board, which had urged the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau to resolve its labor problems, says he's satisfied the new labor system is making a difference. "Those who have been there are reporting much smoother operations,"he says.
Nevertheless, meeting planners eyeing future conventions at McCormick Place or the Navy Pier may want to be cognizant of some potential hitches.
First, the labor agreement is expiring at the end of 2000. City officials are confident that the reforms will remain intact when the agreement is renewed, and they characterized the negotiations as focusing on general economic issues rather than the terms of the 1999 agreement.
Second, while helpful to exhibitors, the changes have done little to make life easier for the people who actually run the meetings, says Glen C. Ramsborg, PhD, director of programs and meeting services for the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
His staff was frustrated by labor rules requiring them to use union workers to distribute materials to meeting rooms, rather than simply distributing the materials themselves. Even though he praised CTB staff for doing everything they could to make the meeting run as smoothly as possible, Ramsborg said the labor rules complicated AV setups and jacked up the expenses for a banquet because he had to pay union members $5 for every chair they set up.
"The changes so widely publicized mainly had to do with exhibitors," Ramsborg said. "In my 18 years of doing this, I've never paid for the placement of chairs." He estimated that the labor rules added 5 to 10 percent to his costs. However, he said the association will likely return to Chicago because the attendees were highly enthusiastic about the city.
Under the labor agreement, union workers are paid time-and-a-half, rather than double time, for working evening and weekend hours, and the two unions involved in booth construction have formed a unified labor pool. To reduce meeting hassles, exhibitors whose booths are 300 square feet or smaller can assemble their own booths; and staff, speakers, and exhibitors can plug in their own computers and other equipment. In addition, hotels have agreed to provide large enough room blocks for mega-shows and offer more competitive room rates. --David Hosansky
All Work, All Play Who better to know about playground safety than orthopedic surgeons? They often are the ones who treat the broken bones. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons took their knowledge--and their muscle--to the streets during the academy's annual meeting in Orlando in March and, as a community service project, built a safe, handicapped-accessible playground for the Magnolia School, many of whose students have disabilities.
About 250 people--doctors and their families, AAOS staff, and volunteers from the community--gathered at the school and built the playground in one day. Of course, lots of planning went into the project, says Lawrence E. Rosenthal, PhD, deputy executive vice president and CEO of AAOS. "It started months before, and from the beginning with the design, the local community was involved," he says. In fact, students at the Magnolia School used crayons and paper to show what they wanted in a new playground, and those ideas were incorporated into the plans, Rosenthal says.
AAOS enlisted the design help of two nonprofit organizations for the Magnolia School structure: KaBOOM! (www.kaboom.org) and Boundless Playgrounds, groups dedicated to creating safe and accessible playgrounds throughout the country.
Funding and physical labor for the playground came from Orlando community organizations such as the West Orlando Rotary, Silver Star Lions, Orange County Schools, West Learning Community, and a number of orthopedic industry firms and organizations.
The project also served to launch the academy's new national injury prevention and awareness program, "Prevent Injuries America!" Doctors will get out their hammers and saws again at the AAOS Annual Meeting in San Francisco in 2001. The project was honored by the American Society of Association Executives at its annual meeting in Orlando in August as a winner of ASAE's Summit Award in recognition of innovativecommunity service.
Dot-com Doorway IACVB LAUNCHES MAJOR FOR-PROFIT WEB INITIATIVE Members of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus turned out in large numbers at its annual meeting this summer, where CVB execs learned about the umbrella organization's new Web venture called The Official Travel Information Co. (www.officialtravelinfo.com), or OTIC, based in Milwaukee.
OTIC, a for-profit entity, will serve as an Internet "front door" for nearly 1,000 CVBs and tourist boards across the globe. With it, CVBs aim to stake their claim as the "official" source of destination information to tourists and professional planners alike in an attempt to compete with the for-profit dot-coms, like Travelocity, which already have established e-commerce platforms, according to William Hanbury, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee CVB.
Hanbury spearheaded the development of OTIC, along with William Peeper, president, Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Hanbury recently announced his resignation from the Greater Milwaukee bureau (effective December 31) in order to devote full-time efforts to running OTIC.
Eight technology partners have signed on as OTIC partners, including StarCite, cvent, and Passkey. --Betsy Bair
Offline Evolution MIMLISTERS GO FACE-TO-FACE Q: What has 800 brains, 25,000 years of meeting management experience, and a big mouth?
A: The hottest place for meeting chat in cyberspace, the Meeting Industry Mall's listserv, better known as the MIMlist.
If you don't know what we're talking about, crawl out from under that rock. With more than 800 members from both the meeting planning and supplier sides of the industry, MIMlisters, as they call themselves, chat online about everything from hotel negotiations to creative welcome gifts.
And in a new twist, members are emerging from behind their computer monitors to meet face-to-face at industry events. How can they spot one another? MIMlist badge ribbons are the private handshake of this active online community, the nod of one MIMlister to another.
The invention of Rodman Mary-mor, CEO and founder of Berkeley, Calif.-based Cardinal Communications, the MIMlist was launched in March 1999. The discussion is strictly noncommercial, with a well-known enforcer. Marymor enlisted his long-time friend Joan Eisenstodt, a Washington, D.C.- based meeting planner, as "listmistress," who rules with a white-gloved fist. As the self-described "princess of protocol," Eisenstodt is on top of any violation of listserv policy, such as attempts to mine subscribers for e-purposes. No one's been thrown off the list yet, but Marymor says it's come close a few times.
So what do 800 meetings industry people talk about? You name it. Current events, business news, and the great dot-com brain drain are perennial subjects, as are questions about tipping,, and . Some-times humorous, sometimes serious, MIMlisters are likely to have an answer to any question imaginable. Eisenstodt remembers one obscure request: Where do you find those cocktail party clips that go on plates to hold your drink? Immediately, four people offered an answer, she says.
Eisenstodt is happy to take some of the credit for the listserv's success. She reads every single posting, which takes her up to four hours every day. "It's a passion," Eisenstodt says. "The things you love, you fit them in. I've always wanted my own salon, and this is it."
To join the chat, register at www.mim.com/mimlist.
THE DISCOUNT EDGE The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre is positioning itself as an attractive venue choice for meeting planners--a rental discount of 40 percent launched last year has been extended through June 2001. The move, says HKCEC's Director of Business Develop-ment Allen Ha, is one that will keep the facility competitive in a growing destination market. Among the other incentives, HKCEC has frozen all rental rates through December 2001. For more information, visit HKCEC on the Web at www.hkcec.com.hk.
Medical Shows Surge It's boom times for medical shows, which are showing the highest growth rate in two years, according to Tradeshow Week's "Semiannual Medical Show Report." The overriding factor, say show managers surveyed by Tradeshow Week, is strong seminar programming.
Some of the fastest-growing shows held between January and June 2000 were Health & Safety 2000, with a 50 percent increase in net square feet; Pri-Med South, climbing 32 percent in net square feet (see related story on Pri-Med, page 37); the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, increasing 26 percent in net square feet and 41 percent in attendance; and the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery, which increased 46 percent in net square feet and 47 percent in attendance.
Other highlights of the report: * Overall, medical shows grew 6.3 percent in net square feet in the first half of 2000.
* Exhibiting companies jumped 4.6 percent, double the growth of last year.
* Attendance was up at nearly half--48 percent--of all medical shows.
* Of all the medical shows reporting, 71 percent were managed by their sponsoring organization.
CLARIFICATION *I appreciated seeing Anna's [Anna Chinappi's] piece on needs assessment in the September/October issue [page 25]. There is a small but large correction I would like to make, if possible. Five to six lines from the last part of the article there is a phrase "someone on staff who is responsible for CME." It should read "someone who is responsible for quality management." They are the folks in hospitals who have the data I am talking about.
Don Moore, PhD Manager, Continuing Medical Education
The Queen's Medical Center, Honolulu NUE