My Tradeshow High Horse
By Annie Oakley
Perhaps you’ve read HIStalk posts in the past – particularly after HIMSS – lambasting the poor showmanship of exhibitors at tradeshows. Eyes down, phones on, beckoning smiles nonexistent.
You may also have read subsequent reader comments from said exhibitors attempting to explain away their need to ignore attendees for the sake of an incoming service call. I get it. Everyone has multiple jobs to do while at a conference. I’d be surprised to find a healthcare professional – provider or vendor – who doesn’t wear multiple hats these days and gets taken advantage of by 24/7 connectivity.
But, like many others out there in HIStalk land, I say turn your phones off when you’re in the booth. If you need to take or make a call, exit the exhibit hall.
I’ve been on both sides of the booth at tradeshows over the years, and so I feel qualified to get up on my high horse for just a few more paragraphs about my recent trip to the HFMA ANI show. It was an experience that left me optimistic about the tradeshow experience overall, but left me with a bitter taste in my mouth on more than one occasion.
The HFMA staff and volunteers were incredibly helpful, always had smiles on their faces and good attitudes to back them up. The majority of exhibitors that I had a chance to approach were pleasant to speak with. Some were downright engaging, leaving me with lasting positive impressions of their employees and brands. Most were extremely patient in explaining revenue cycle concepts and challenges – not easy completely absorb on first go round.
The “booth babe” phenomenon continues to die a slow death, unfortunately. I found out during an educational session that HFMA membership is 60 percent women. Do exhibitors really think they’ll attract female attendees with models dressed up in racing gear? I saw one male attendee look happy enough as he posed for pictures with them, and I shook my head in shame. Is that really how you want to get your leads? Is that really the impression you want to leave people – mostly female people – with?
Drew Brees was on the show floor for a time signing autographs, an attraction which drew a few dozen folks into a line that crisscrossed the exhibit floor. Now that’s a way to create buzz without alienating anyone.
One more comment, then I’ll get off my high horse. Exhibitors, please don’t be stingy with your giveaways. You and I both know that come the last day of the show, you’ll be moaning and groaning about having to ship them back. I approached one booth BECAUSE of their unique giveaway, but was immediately turned off when the rep, thinking I’d already been by, gave me the cold shoulder. I pleasantly explained to him that we had indeed conversed the day before, but I had not acquired any of his trinkets. He apologized – sort of – and actually said he hates having to talk to people twice! Buddy, if you don’t like talking to people twice, maybe you shouldn’t be in sales.
This particular conference was a great experience for me overall. The positives far outweighed the negatives. But, it’s true what they say: one bad apple can spoil the tradeshow bunch.