that require them. The rules and regulations are everywhere. There’s the European
Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries
and Associations, ones in China and Japan
and South Africa and Peru. … It’s just so
hard from a meeting planner perspective.”
Medical Meeting Planner
The main point of difference in the pharma/medical meetings segment is between
regulated and non-regulated meetings.
While planners of most any stripe can
handle the logistics and other elements of
non-regulated meetings, such as medical
company sales meetings, when healthcare
providers are entered into the equation
it’s a whole new ballgame that requires
specialists leading a planning team.
“Some of the larger companies may have
60 people on their planning team,” Bondurant said. “I would expect the agencies,
such as Maritz or Ashfield [Healthcare],
have staff that is fluent in the regulated
[items] and some that are not doing that.
They may not need to know the regulations
in general but need to understand what
each individual company’s interpretation
of the regulations are.”
Fortunately for meeting planners,
suppliers and the organizations that rely
on them, certificate programs are available
to help steer the way, especially when it
comes to regulated meetings. Following
are three of the major healthcare meetings
certification programs currently available.
What is SmithBucklin
seeing in the healthcare
Healthcare meetings (for
physicians, scientists, clini-
cians, nurses, allied health
or administrative staff) are
all affected by the changing workforce. At-
tracting younger generations to healthcare
professions as well as to the organizations
that serve them is the number-one priority
for a lot of stakeholders in the industry.
Many of our client organizations are seeing a sea of retirements affecting membership and attendance. They want to ensure
the association is viewed as a primary
source for education. To do this, healthcare
meetings today are focusing on providing
education that younger generations need
while also offering networking opportunities
and experiences that appeal to them.
Additionally, the industry is facing
mergers and acquisitions that affect the
vendor side (sponsors and exhibitors) of
healthcare meetings as well as members
and attendees. Where a community once
had three independent hospitals serving
its residents, there is now one hospital
system. This could mean one decision
maker instead of three. Attracting the
decision maker to your meeting is key because that’s who the vendors want to see.
We’re focused on communicating with the
decision maker—before, during, and after
Also, influencers have a powerful impact
on the adoption of new products in the
healthcare industry. We are helping vendors
identify those influencers and market
directly to them through attendee testimonials. For instance, nursing organizations
are using video testimonials as part of their
vendor outreach efforts.
What are some key things meeting planners should know about this segment?
Education is the number-one driver for
attending these meetings. It’s different
from other industries, where networking or
viewing new products, for instance, might
be their main reason for attending.
In healthcare, attendees value face-
to-face education and the ability to earn
15-plus continuing education credit hours
in three days. So, the education you provide
must be high quality. Most programs must
be accredited, so attendees can maintain
licenses and other credentials. It also must
be relevant to the changing healthcare climate. Your attendees must be able to return
to their hospitals, medical offices or labs and
apply what they’ve learned immediately.
For example, the American Society for
Health Care Risk Management’s annual
conference traditionally offered six concurrent session rooms during the day with the
opportunity to earn 16 continuing education credit hours over three days. Additionally, they offered three 7 a.m. programs
(We call them “eye openers.”) in two of the
concurrent session rooms for attendees who
wanted to earn an additional three contact
hours. For some people, the trade-off of
sleep for a total of 19 contact hours is well
worth it because they can earn what then
need for their credentialing goal in three
days and be done.
Another aspect of healthcare meetings
(as opposed to business or trade association
meetings) is that the attendees are paying
out-of-pocket for the registration and travel.
Often, they are not reimbursed by their
employer. So, healthcare meeting organizers
should be cognizant of costs, especially if
they want to attract young professionals.
Look for more hosted-buyer programs, scholarships and young professional discounts.
How are regulations affecting the
Regulations are the new normal. They are
top-of-mind for healthcare associations
and their meetings’ organizers. We want to
do the right thing, so our meetings will be
compliant for our attendees.
The advocacy and government relations
arms of these organizations are critical in
staying ahead of new government rules and
policies that will affect their members and
How have meetings in this segment
changed in recent years? What components of meetings in this segment are
different than in other segments?
Fueled by new technology, business and
trade organizations have been adopting new
elements to their conferences that enhance
the overall experience. Some healthcare
organizations are following suit, which is
necessary to attract new members and
Still, the traditional offerings are valued
by attendees. For example, poster sessions,
especially for a highly scientific audience,
are a critical part of a conference. We’ve
helped to expand poster session hours
where attendees connect with presenters
and earn additional contact hours, increase
dedicated show floor space or changed the
location to be more front and center, and
provide the technical support for e-posters.
What other thoughts do you have about
Diversity and Inclusion will continue to be
an important part of healthcare meetings.
Some of our client organizations are taking
steps to ensure that there is diversity in the
makeup of organizations’ board of directors
and committee leaders.
Benjamin Rabe // Event Director // SmithBucklin // www.smithbucklin.com