The rains of tropical storm Debby lashed Orlando during the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association’s (HCEA) Annual Meeting (June 12-16), but nothing dampened the enthusiasm for education that brought approximately 650 people to this year’s annual meeting.
This year’s meeting saw a seismic shift in emphasis. Although regulatory issues, anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, measurement and ex-U.S. doctors attending meetings in the U.S. were critical topics, the focus was on face-to-face marketing, the integration of social media and staying connected within the industry.
After a pre-show charity golf event and a corporate social responsibility activity that found members working with the organization Give Kids the World, the first sign that there was a new sheriff in town was the keynote speaker, Jim Spellos, CMP. By his own description, a meeting professional turned geek, Spellos helped his audience understand the role that social media sites play in enhancing communications. From publishing curated content to using Pinterest for event promotion, Spellos de-mystified social media and challenged HCEA members to start thinking about the current state of marketing and PR.
Spellos’ message that social media is about extending the conversation was a dominant theme throughout the meeting. The conversations that occur between exhibitors and healthcare professionals, between associations and exhibitors, and between exhibitors and suppliers were all in play during the meeting. HCEA allows all three groups to network and interact throughout the conference whether in the exhibit hall, at functions or at the tables and chairs where people could meet outside Hall W at the Orange County Convention Center.
A new president also took office. Sue Huff, director of global programs at Medtronic, who had been the chairperson of the 2012 Annual Meeting committee and is a vocal advocate for the rights of the exhibitors, spoke at the business luncheon about the work that lies before the association.
Geri Shaffer, a 32-year industry veteran, formerly of Aesculap, received the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her tireless efforts on behalf of HCEA.
Unlike many of the association meetings that members attend, HCEA maintains unopposed exhibit hall
hours. Exhibitors ranged from exhibit houses to interactive technology providers, from hotels and convention centers to caterers. A good mix of products and services made the hall interesting and lively.
On Sunday, attendees could attend special education sessions in the exhibit hall. A trend that is catching on not only at HCEA but at meetings across the spectrum, this year’s education included Tony Erpelding presenting “10 in 20 Ideas for Exhibit Design;” Cindy McCormick talking about “10 in 20 Ideas for Professional Development;” and an open forum, led by Cassandra Costello of Actelion and Gregg Lapin from American Osteopathic Association that explored how organizations are charting their own paths to compliance. A relatively new feature, the education in the exhibit hall has grown in popularity in the two years that it has been part of the curriculum.
Much of the day-to-day work for HCEA is handled by association committees, and during the last hour the exhibit hall was open, members could sign up to participate on committees during the coming year, including the marketing and PR committee, membership, research, education and the committee that plans the annual meeting.
HCEA’s next educational, face-to-face meeting will be the Healthcare Convention Marketing Summit in January 2013. Next year’s Annual Meeting will be held in Austin, Texas, June 22-25, 2013. Throughout the year, HCEA offers webinars on important healthcare convention marketing topics. For more information, visit www.hcea.org.