The group was so large, and the questions and answers came so fast and furious, that Nancy Elder, CAE, principal of Nancy Elder Associates, could have used a pair of running shoes as she tried to hustle the microphone around the room during a session on hot topics in. It was held during the Professional Convention Management Association’s annual Convening Leaders conference, January 9–12 in Las Vegas. Here are a few of the challenges the meetings professionals in attendance had on their minds.
How do you get physicians to spend time interacting in the exhibit hall? Food and coffee go only so far.
One idea to get docs to stick around awhile was to include activity centers where they could try out cutting-edge technology or attend an educational activity. One person said her group created a suturing competition that generated a lot of buzz—and kept attendees in the expo to see which resident would win. “Whatever you do, tie it to something they’re passionate about,” suggested one person.
Another attendee said her organization instituted an “expo-only” registration for decision-makers who might not have the time for or interest in the educational sessions but who do want to check out potential purchases their staff are requesting. The organization charges a nominal amount because the idea is to drive more people to the show floor, not to make money on the expo-only registration. They also provide exhibitors with free registration coupons that they can hand out to customers. About half of the participants said they include product theaters in their exhibition area, but their experiences seem to be mixed. One tip: Make sure the product theater slots don’t compete with continuing medical education sessions.
And when it comes to tracking who’s on the show floor, tread carefully if you want to use RFID technology. One person said her attendees were “up in arms about it” when they used RFID to track attendee traffic in the exhibition hall. “The key is to have an opt-out option,” advised one attendee. “You must ensure your materials say you’re using RFID only for tracking purposes.” Another person pointed out that you could eliminate all personal data so all that’s being tracked is a number.
What do you do with
Social media appears to be making inroads with some of the medical meeting professionals in the room, with a few saying they had staff members tweeting about sessions, and they had audience members tweeting questions to speakers instead of running a microphone around the room. Others were posting some videos from their meetings on YouTube.
Many either had recently developed or were planning to develop a mobile app that includes, at a minimum, a map of the conference facility and an itinerary builder. Getting a pharmaceutical company to sponsor the mobile app also seemed to be a no-brainer. As one person said, “The mobile app was not a hard sell—it went in about five minutes.” But before you negotiate with the mobile app developer, think about whether you want a one-off app for the meeting, or something you can use year-round.
Poster sessions have long been a staple at medical meetings. Are e-posters starting to replace them?
E-posters have a lot of advantages, respondents said, and people tend to like being able to search by topic and e-mail the authors. The more interactive the online e-poster session, the better, they said. While some physicians will complain about missing the one-on-one interaction of live poster sessions, it helps if you can get the message out early to members about benefits like e-searches. Some said they organize both live and e-poster sessions. Understandably, the e-poster views are down during the show but tend to spike afterwards. Despite concerns that moving poster sessions online would hurt attendance, most said it hasn’t had that effect.
What are your burning issues? E-mail editor Sue Pelletier with your challenges.