With all the issues that confront the healthcare convention industry — attendees' time and budgetary pressures, the increasing proliferation of regulations, and the continued consolidation of exhibiting companies — how can you build and maintain a position of dominance in the marketplace? Here are seven customer-service strategies that can help you ensure that your event is the meeting to attend within your segment.

  1. Communicate the message in multiple formats

    Make sure that you use a variety of methods to provide meeting materials to attendees and potential attendees, including printed brochures and e-mail messages, and by posting information on your Web site.

  2. Go beyond lectures

    Is your meeting providing education in a variety of delivery formats? Beyond the lecture format, create opportunities for self-paced learning, computerized offerings, poster sessions, education provided on the exhibit hall floor, and other nontraditional formats.

  3. Facilitate networking

    Are you providing attendees with the tools they need to maximize their time at your meeting? There are many online programs that enable attendees to plan their meeting itinerary, set up appointments with exhibitors, or schedule their exhibit hall visits. These tools can enhance your attendees' meeting experience and increase face-to-face interaction between attendees and exhibitors.

  4. Welcome international attendees

    Facilitate registration and attendance for international attendees by providing invitation letters, on-site international help desks, and other services for this important group of participants.

  5. Enhance exhibitor service

    Be sure that you communicate the demographic make-up of attendees to exhibitors so that they are prepared to market to their target audience appropriately. Provide all the services that exhibitors need, and negotiate the best rates from the vendors that provide those services. An exhibition is a costly investment for a company and it is your responsibility to help exhibitors maximize their opportunities with a variety of cost-effective services.

  6. Stay abreast of regulations

    Are you knowledgeable about the newest regulations issued by groups like the Accreditation Council for CME, the Office of Inspector General, the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association? It is imperative that you stay on top of developments in the regulatory arena — these issues not only affect the commercial support so important to healthcare meetings, but they also affect industry exhibits and how the entire educational program is developed and presented.

  7. Listen up!

    Are you reviewing evaluations and utilizing your customers' comments and suggestions to make improvements to your program and services? Attendee focus groups, exhibitor advisory committees, and other forms of feedback from your stakeholders are all vital avenues for understanding their needs. You need to listen in order to ensure that your meeting is the meeting they will plan to attend each year.

Jane Dahlroth, CEM, CMP, a 27-year meeting industry veteran, is vice president for JR Daggett & Associates, a meeting and exhibit management and consulting firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas. Reach her at jane@jrdaggett.com.