Posters at medical conferences are marketing gold mines that are overlooked by the majority of people. Hiding in plain sight, posters are a rich source of good-news stories, client case studies and earned product placements.
Posters remain a popular format to share the results of research, new processes, and innovative approaches to solving challenges. When well designed, they are able to effectively communicate concepts and data to an audience using just visuals and text.
According to the American College of Physicians: “Poster presentations allow the author to meet and speak informally with interested viewers, facilitating a greater exchange of ideas and networking opportunities than with oral presentations. Poster presentations often are the first opportunities for young investigators to present their work at important scientific meetings and preparatory for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.”
Most medical conferences dedicate significant floorspace in the exhibit hall for posters (usually at the back) and have specific times when poster authors will be on-hand to answer questions.
The poster section is one of my favorite areas to walk through.
A Great Way to Learn
When I was first starting out in healthcare (and working for a Health IT company), poster presentations were my way of learning about the industry. Because I usually had to man the booth, I could not attend many breakout sessions. However, since the poster areas were typically in the exhibit hall, I would duck away at quiet times to read them.
Those posters really helped me gain a better understanding of our target market.
Even better are the designated poster presentations – where the author stands next to their poster. There are always posters with very little traffic during these times and I would make a beeline to the authors standing by themselves. As their only visitor, I was able to ask tons of questions, which they didn’t mind answering. Not only did I learn a lot, but I also forged dozens of new relationships simply by showing genuine curiosity.
Insights Into Challenges Clients Want to Solve
Posters are also a great way to gain insight into the challenges that clients want to solve. Here’s how:
- Walk down the rows of posters
- Note the topic/challenge from each poster
- Keep a tally
At the end you’ll have a list of challenges that organizations are facing AND your tally will tell you which of those challenges are hot-button issues.
Using this method, I was able to identify a challenge our clients were facing, 9 months ahead of our competitors. We were able to build new functionality into our product to address that challenge and were rewarded with increased sales while our competitors tried to catch up.
Source of Good News Stories
If you are in Marketing or Communications at a healthcare organization, posters are a fantastic source of good news stories. Everything is laid out for you in a storyboard: the challenge, research, results, conclusions and next steps. The story almost writes itself.
Even better, these posters often end up being hung up in the hallways of the hospital or academic institution. Don’t just walk by them, use the posters as the foundation of a good news story about your organization and your people.
Case Studies and Client Mentions
By far, the most valuable aspect of posters at medical conferences is the fact that they are a potential source of case studies and client mentions.
Consider the following poster example:https://participatorymedicine.org/epatients/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2011/05/Emory-ICSI-2011-poster-on-shared-care-plan.pdf, accessed 9 February 2020]
PLEASE NOTE: The above is just to illustrate a point, it may or may not actually represent a vendor’s product.
You see that screenshot in the bottom left of the poster? See the logo in the bottom right of that screenshot? Now imagine if you worked in marketing at that company. You’ve just struck gold and found a client mention! Now imagine if this client had previously not allowed you to mention that they were using your product.
Because this poster is being displayed in a public space, this vendor can now mention this client publicly.
In December last year, I had the opportunity to attend IHI’s Annual Forum which has a very large poster section in the exhibit hall. As I walked through the posters, I counted no less than 6 posters featuring screenshots from one software vendor and at least 4 posters featuring graphs from a particular data analytics platform. In all cases the vendor’s logo was clearly visible on the poster.
Yet, when I checked the websites of both vendors, there was no mention of the fact that their clients had posters at the IHI conference. I even checked their social media feeds – nothing. The kicker? None of the healthcare organizations appeared on their publicized lists of clients.
Here was a golden opportunity to add logos to those lists, and more importantly, a missed chance to create new case studies (and we all know how hard it is to get these…especially with actual numbers!)
The next time you are at a conference and there is a poster section. Be smart, spend time wandering the rows and look for the hidden gold.