Last year, I wrote an article that shared five ways to get value with only a week to go before the annual HIMSS conference:
- Attend as many meetups as you can
- Search for sessions where your target audience will be
- Download interesting presentations ahead of time
- Plan on visiting media booths
- Buy coffee for a stranger
I received a lot of positive feedback about that piece and recently I was encouraged to write a follow up now that we are a week away from HIMSS19. But rather than cover the same ground, I thought it would be more valuable to share five Pro Tips that anyone can use at the last-minute to help squeeze more value from being an exhibitor at a conference.
Whether you work at a Health IT Company or for a healthcare provider, the following tips are for you.
Pro Tip #1 – Snap your own stock photos at the conference
Being an exhibitor at a conference is the perfect time to snap a few photos that can be used in campaigns throughout the year. Use your phone camera and take pictures of:
- Your logo on your booth, materials on the desks, on giveaways
- Your booth from different angles
- People in your booth (with the logo visible)
- Staff interacting with clients (take some with just your staff, others with your client – which you should get permission before using)
- The crowds at the conference, preferable in your booth
- The exhibit hall
The photos of your booth and your people can be very useful on “About Us” web pages, in the quarterly PowerPoint presentation by Marketing to executives, or when a reporter wants to write a story about your participation at the event. The photos of the crowds and the exhibit hall can be useful for blog posts that summarize the event or for follow-up email campaigns relating to the conference.
Bonus: Usually staff are dressed up in the booth, either in uniforms or in business attire, which gives your photos a professional look.
Pro Tip #2 – Add to your swipe file
Getting the attention of your target audience is tough. There are dozens of other companies and organizations that are competing for mindshare from the same individual – even if you aren’t direct competitors. Take the opportunity to collect one or two brochures/handouts from the other exhibitors around you.
When you get back to your office, take out everything you have collected and place them on your desk (or boardroom table) in a haphazard manner. Then place your own materials in that pile and stand back. Do your materials stand out or do they blend into all the other stuff you collected? This exercise will help you see what an attendee sees.
From my own personal experience, I can tell you that this exercise is always humbling. I’ve had to go back to the drawing board many times after seeing what I thought was a great stand-alone piece get lost in the crowd of other materials (hello hot pink and bold greens!).
After snapping a few photos of the pile, choose one or two of the best materials and add those to your swipe file – the file you keep of all the best materials, regardless of whether they are a competitor or not. Swipe files are a great source of inspiration and come in handy when you need to create new materials.
Pro Tip #3 – Study the exhibitor map and account for travel time between meetings
For large conferences, like RSNA and HIMSS, it is helpful to know the layout of the exhibit hall so that you can give yourself enough time to get to your meetings on time. There is nothing worse than being late to meetings that you have pre-arranged.
It can take upwards of 15min to walk the entire length of large exhibits area – something most people forget about when booking back-to-back meetings. My general rule of thumb is allocate at least 30s for every row and aisle that you have to traverse. For example, if I am at 435 and I have to get to 1205 (assuming rows of 10 and aisles of 100) then I will need to walk 8 aisles and 3 rows to get to my next meeting. At 30s for each, I would estimate the travel time to be about 5 and a half minutes.
Why 30s? because this accounts for dodging around people and running into someone you know, quickly saying hello before excusing yourself with a promise to connect right after this next meet you have scheduled.
Pro Tip #4 – Show up early to your onsite booth selection appointment
At most large healthcare conferences, existing exhibitors have the opportunity to select next year’s booth location while onsite. Normally exhibitors are given specific appointment times for their booth selection. My recommendation – show up 15min early.
The best case scenario is that someone ahead of you is late and you will get their spot since you are already there. Worst case scenario you arrive early and have time to study the map of next year’s conference and narrow down your selection to a specific area of the exhibit hall.
When I was an exhibitor at HIMSS, I would often arrive early and use the interactive map to find where my competitors had chosen booths. I would also note the locations of entrances, escalator directions and the dreaded utility pillars. Being early meant I wasn’t rushed into making a bad booth decision for the following year.
Pro Tip #5 – Engage with social influencers after the event
If you don’t have someone dedicated to social media during the conference, it can be difficult to fully engage with the influencers who are attending the event. However, there is a still an opportunity to cultivate relationship with these important individuals by reaching out after the conference is over. It just takes a little elbow grease.
When you are back at the office, spend time on the social media platform (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc) and do a quick analysis to find out who were the most active users or who garnered the most engagement (likes, RTs, etc). There are some free tools out there, like Symplur for Healthcare hashtags and conferences on Twitter, that automatically track conference traffic.
Once you have identified the top influencers, reach out via direct message and engage them in a conversation. I find it helps to start by “I really enjoyed reading through your tweets at conference ABCD. I didn’t get the chance to meet you but maybe we can find time at your next conference.” Caution: Do not immediate try to sell your organization or ask the influencer for anything. You are just starting to build a relationship. The goal is to engage in dialog not jump right into the pool together.
So there you go, 5 pro-tips on how to get value from your conference participation when you find yourself with just a week to go before the big event and you haven’t had time to adequately plan.
- Snap your own stock photos
- Add to your swipe file
- Study the exhibitor map and account for travel time between meetings
- Show up early to your onsite booth selection appointment
- Engage with social influencers after the event