The team at the Virtual Telehealth Innovation Forum and Teladoc Health continues to hit it out of the park with the preparations for their virtual conference. I received my welcome package at the end of last week, which includes “a notebook to capture thoughts” along with “cocktail making materials to unwind at the end of day 1 with our guided mixology session.” The cocktail supplies included a jigger, an insulated tumbler (courtesy of NTT Data), and an engraved cocktail shaker to commemorate the event. A girl can never have too many martini shakers, and the tumbler is the perfect accessory for my upcoming efforts as a pool sitter for my neighbor later this week.
They also emailed a shopping list for the martini-making session on Tuesday. The State Street Martini looks simple yet elegant: vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice, and basil. I have everything but the elderflower liqueur. I’m pulling long shifts in the ED the next couple of days, so I’ll be the person at Total Wine when they open on Tuesday morning so I can pick up the final supplies and get home for the conference sessions.
Another aspect of the virtual Telehealth Innovation Forum is for everyone to lunch together using a Grubhub gift card on Tuesday. I received an email over the weekend notifying me of my new Grubhub account and inviting me to set my password, so everything is happening as planned. The only element I’m missing is the supply package for the virtual volunteer activity on Wednesday, but I suspect it’s en route based on a random USPS Package Tracking notification I received.
I’m curious whether putting an event like this together is more or less stressful than trying to do one in person. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know the marketing teams of some of the major vendors pretty well and know how exhausting it is to put together an in-person show.
Earlier this year, I was accused of being negative towards marketing professionals when I wrote about the HIMSS rebranding efforts. I’m not going to deny the fact that I still find it annoying when companies spend too much time talking about their brand as opposed to talking about what they do or what they make. I loathe press releases with phrases like “our brand is reflected in our new color scheme” or when they attempt to explain nonsensical-sounding company names selected after mergers.
So far, my impression of this week’s conference and the surrounding communications are that they represent branding done right. They didn’t have to come out and say “our brand, with its clean, hip graphics and soothing light teal color typifies martini-loving healthcare folks,” but rather they’re letting their materials do the talking for them. Let’s hope the conference lives up to the hype.
I’m intrigued by the whole virtual conference transformation. I figured that without having to rent conference center real estate, pay for security, order signage, and provide an assortment of questionable finger foods and cheap drinks at the obligatory opening reception, that online conferences should be cheaper. That’s not the case with most of the conferences I’m seeing advertised.
Certainly organizers are playing up the fact that you don’t have to pay travel or hotel expenses, but they’re not discounting much off the fees. Most are not offering truly interactive sessions, so I can’t imagine they are spending as much money on conference software as they would have on hotel ballrooms or the trimmings. If someone really wants to put a believable message out to attendees, they should specifically note how much less their attendees will spend on exorbitantly-priced but mediocre coffee outside an exhibit hall, or how short the line in their kitchens will be for their beverages of choice.
Looking at international flight restrictions that are likely going to persist for months, it’s hard to imagine that an in-person HIMSS21 is even on the table. The US is doing so poorly with this that it’s going to be amazing that anyone from a country that has the virus under control would want to come here. A friend of mine from Australia that was scheduled to visit the States this fall told me his airline wouldn’t ticket anything for him this calendar year. I shamelessly booked my Las Vegas accommodations outside the HIMSS room blocks right after the Orlando hotel debacle, so on the odd chance that the virus “disappears” as was previously predicted, I’ll be covered with somewhere cheap. It won’t be as classy as my last stay at the Venetian, but $300 per night is steep, especially when you’re paying for it yourself and not charging it off to your company or health system.
One of the conferences I was supposed to attend in April was postponed to September, but with the COVID-19 cases on the rise in the South, it’s been canceled altogether. Although Southwest Airlines extended the expiration dates on tickets for flights during the first peak of the pandemic in the US, these tickets were somehow outside that window and are going to expire in October.
This is a weird year for me. I’ve only been on two planes the entire time, and I have to say I’m eager to go somewhere other than my house or to a medical facility. Since the tickets are use it or lose it, I’m tempted to book a random flight to a part of the country that’s relatively unscathed, if for no other reason than flying two segments would let me preserve my frequent flyer status and I’m out the money regardless. Too bad many of the beaches I usually frequent are in hot spot areas because I could use some sand between my toes about now.
I’d love to hear from marketing folks about your plans for virtual meetings and seminars. How does the planning of the different types of events differ? Is there commercially available software that meets your needs, or are you having to cobble solutions together? Have you had to institute special processes to make sure presenters are camera-ready in an appropriate environment? You can speak on the record or I’m happy to keep you anonymous. This is your chance to let the entire healthcare IT community peek behind the curtain of the new normal in professional meetings.
For attendees, what are your thoughts? Good, bad, or indifferent? Leave a comment or email me.
Email Dr. Jayne.