THIS YEAR'S HEALTHCARE Convention & Exhibitors Association Annual Meeting, held June 4 to 7 in New Orleans, boasted a whopping 70 increase in educational sessions, focusing on the latest developments in exhibit management. Since it's important for meeting and convention planners to stay abreast of the exhibitor trends, we asked Jeremy Williams, CEO of Photosound Communications, a long-term active member of HCEA and a speaker at the HCEA annual meeting, to give us some of the highlights.
What are the emerging trends?
The key trend which some companies grasp very well and others are slower to adopt is the process of measuring the effectiveness of exhibit activities. Many companies don't understand why or how they should measure this, which is remarkable given the budgetary amounts spent at most healthcare conventions.
Some companies have advanced and refined their data capture with real-time online Web reporting of statistics of their exhibit activities and traffic builders, and I predict we will see more of this in the next 12 months.
Another key trend is the personalization of content to the individual customer — a “marketing to one” approach that uses intelligent systems to identify exhibit visitors as they approach the exhibit booth. For example, the content of interactive exhibit panels can be tailored to show specific information for individual attendees based on pre-activities and surveys. Some of the intelligent systems currently on the market transmit a signal from a microchipped badge to the booth, which in turn triggers a personalized welcome message for the attendee as he approaches the booth, drawing the attendee to even more personalized content once at the booth.
One of the most important trends is the integration of exhibits into the long-term sales process. There is often a lack of shared data between the marketing personnel at the exhibit and the reps meeting with the physicians in the field. After the event, there is no reference to the physician's attendance at the event, or the exhibit interaction that took place and the key outcomes from the interaction. This directly links back into— where is the true value of an exhibit? It's not necessarily on the floor but an integral element of the long-term sales process. We are seeing more of a drive to create a chain of activity, from which all parties learn on an ongoing basis, rather than stand-alone experiences.
What does this mean for exhibit professionals?
First, I think it is important to work closely with all stakeholders to define clear and measurable objectives for each activity. In the past, a successful exhibit was often measured by the number of physicians visiting the booth. Now there is a greater emphasis on measuring the quality of the interaction that took place. SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) objectives must be set in order to effectively measure the results. Here are some examples of SMART objectives:
to communicate the brand's “efficacy message” to 75 percent of convention attendees
for 2,500 physicians to participate in activity X, which will convey three simple key messages
for 4,500 physicians to be immersed in a product experience for a minimum of nine minutes over the duration of the show
The trends I outlined — personalized content, data capture and reporting, integration of the exhibit into the long-term sales process — are driving new technological developments. Some of the most effective data-capture systems are those that engage the physician in an educational activity while collecting valuable information, such as interactive quizzes or case studies that test knowledge and understanding of specific therapies.
For more information about healthcare exhibit management, visit hcea.org.
Sue Potton, CMM, is president, Photosound Communications Inc., Princeton, N.J. E-mail her at susan.potton@PhotosoundUSA.com.