Medical conventions are facing more competition than ever. Not only does the organizer compete with other conventions for exhibitor and attendee dollars, but event budgets are under pressure for savings and redistribution to optimize the marketing mix. Further, digital channels, both within and outside events, produce results that are easy to measure, directional, and expected. With increasing attention on the value of meetings, "best" and "necessary" are becoming relevant filters for exhibitor participation. Clearly, meeting organizers have both incentive and opportunity to strengthen exhibitor partnerships. In this first of a two-part article about organizer tactics for attracting exhibitors, we focus on three: transparency in attendee demographics, attention to expo hall traffic drivers, and communication of changes in organizer marketing efforts.
Transparency in Demographics
Regardless of the exhibitor’s success metric, whether qualified leads, pre-scheduled meetings, press coverage, social media attention, or other factors, greater information about attendees is essential. For example, when asked to define their target prospect at a medical convention, exhibitors might say “physicians in specialty x, y, or z.” However, when probed, they might also express interest in sub-segments, such as Fellows or residents. Or, they might want to know clinical setting or user vs. influencer relationship to specific therapy areas.
Virtually all of our projects involve reaching out to organizers to gather attendee demographic information that is either not captured, not readily available, or ambiguous. Organizers can further enhance their appeal to exhibitors by going beyond basic demographics and offering new data such as: 1) meeting uniqueness: share of attendees and by specialty that attend only this particular meeting, or 2) meeting importance: share of association members that attend the convention, or 3) growth: year-to-year attendees by specialty. These metrics become opportunities for organizers to tout their meetings as best and necessary.
Focus on Traffic
Drivers Many organizers pay considerable attention to improving expo hall traffic, but often the ideas implemented aren’t fully recognized or understood. Further, communication can be challenging given the many demands placed on event managers’ time. Imagine if organizers asked exhibitors each year for the best traffic driver ideas they’ve experienced in other conventions, and clearly communicated their own drivers to prospective and returning exhibitors. Specific ideas include: improved use of expo hall space adjacencies, increases in unopposed hours, embedded hospitality on the expo floor, frequent podium mentions, expo-touting “screen-saver” slides in session rooms, and more. Traffic- drivers are a win-win when both sides know what’s possible, desirable, and successful.
Communications of Marketing Changes
Meetings are constantly changing to meet the needs of their industry, yet it’s easy for exhibitors to overlook this fact when making convention selection decisions. In a study we conducted for a major medical device manufacturer, of the major meetings within a particular medical specialty, most of them were planning significant changes to their marketing focus in the coming year, including targeting new physician and specific non-physician groups. New marketing efforts and revised content directly influence who attends the meeting, and therefore, the exhibitors’ opportunity for success. Thoughts? We’d love to hear them.
HEALTHCARE CONVENTION PROGRAM STRATEGY
Introducing the Convention Program Scorecard as a strategic marketing tool
The Convention Program
Scorecard is a framework for evaluating a convention and event program and is
customizable based upon metrics important to the participating company. In my
HCEA session with my co-presenter from Medtronic, Inc., we explained the
process and how to: identify the right metrics for your business; score
conventions in which your company has an active or potential interest; and
interpret results of the Scorecard. Benefits to the exhibitor include: a
prioritized set of recommended convention investments, appropriately set
expectations, and strategies for improving convention outcomes.
- Presented at HCEAConnect, Denver
–Kathleen Wilson, Clearpoint Exhibit Intelligence
In the first installment of this two-part article in the June/July HCEA News, we acknowledged the competitive pressures on attracting, maintaining, and growing a convention’s exhibitor and sponsor base. We cited pressure on event budgets and increasing redistribution of dollars to other marketing channels as undeniable. At the same time, we suggested that there are many opportunities for organizers to increase exhibitor support. We explored three specific tactics: creating transparency in attendee demographics, giving greater attention to expo hall traffic drivers, and improving communication of changes in organizer marketing efforts. In this second part of the article, we’ll look at three additional tactics organizers may consider: enabling analysis of scientific session topic relevance, innovating in post-event reporting, and increasing acknowledgment and implementation of exhibitor feedback.
Analysis of Scientific Sessions
An exhibitor that prioritizes its convention budget often looks to key metrics to determine how much to allocate to a given meeting. As noted in our previous article, arguably the most important metric is composition of the professional attendee audience. At the same time, many exhibitors appropriately view relevance of the scientific sessions to their product or therapy areas as also highly important, as well presence of specific speakers. However, conference programs focus on the attendee audience, and exhibitors face a challenge in researching session relevance despite the categorization of session tracks, or themes.
Let’s say an exhibitor serves the diabetes market. Further, let’s say the company’s therapies have particular relevance to cardiovascular implications. Such an interest may cut across tracks, so if the company attempts to size up share of sessions relevant to its business, it must do a manual tally. We have helped multiple exhibitors comb through scientific programs, generally .pdfs or flipbooks, to pick out key words, categorize topics, slice and dice sessions for relevance. Imagine how this could be simplified. If organizers provided an easy way to search the program via key words, tagging, or dynamic highlighting, these calculations could be much faster and more reliable.
Innovation in Post-Event Reporting
Many organizers we speak with are interested in improving post-show reporting to better serve the needs of their exhibitor base. Sharing ideas for innovation could prove useful in retaining the exhibitor base. Such ideas that we’ve encountered include:
· Conducting and disclosing results of an independent audit of attendee numbers and composition;
· Quantifying social media reach, such as number of individual companies using the congress hashtag;
· Results of attendee surveys including open- and closed-ended questions about satisfaction with the expo hall.
The post-congress report is also a fitting tool to thank advisory boards and sponsors. What if, given the relevance of scientific session topics addressed above, the organizer also provided a profile of attendees by session? After all, the sessions attract the audience, which then attends the expo. Any additional information about the sessions can only assist the exhibitor in optimizing its presence at the event.
Acknowledgment, Implementation of Exhibitor Feedback
Many organizers do a great job of seeking feedback from their exhibitors. What we hear less often, though, is evidence of whether the feedback led to actual changes in the conference. Best practice is for organizers to be punctual in post-event surveys and then also and importantly to communicate to current and prospective exhibitors what is being changed based on feedback. The importance of the “we heard you” message can’t be overstated. Regular feedback and summarized changes are not just seen as a good idea by exhibitors, but such initiatives help build their trust and thereby, retention.
Thoughts? We’d love to hear them. Please contact us.