The Only 5 Reasons to Ever Attend a Conference
In 2015, I attended the Health IT Marketing & PR Conference (HITMC) on May 7-8, in Las Vegas. My initial plan was to do a review of the conference, but conference reviews are super boring. So, I wrote about how to make the most of any conference experience, ever, instead.
HITMC is slated as a “unique event for health IT marketers and PR professionals to learn about the latest trends in marketing and PR from both inside and outside of healthcare.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect — it was my first time; their second year — but what I got was a well-planned, fun and intimate experience with lots of great, actionable learning. Also, a hotel room that was 85% mirrors.
What business did we have being there?
Our agency does a lot of highly targeted lead gen via educational content creation and distribution. We’ve gotten really good at marketing to hard-to-reach audiences — like doctors.
In addition to networking with some (truly wonderful) humans, HITMC seemed like a great opportunity for me to hear from folks who need our kind of expertise, while also learning a few new tricks to take back to the shop.
The Only 5 Reasons to Ever Attend a Conference
Here are 5 valuable takeaways I got during HITMC — and always aim to get from any conference I attend, ever.
1. Market Research on Speed
Attending a product conference is a clever way for a shop to learn a lot very quickly about an industry’s pain points, and what those in-house marketing teams are (or aren’t) equipped to do about them. It’s basically a focus group with an open bar.
The most lamented pain points I heard at HITMC after a few #ontherocks?
- Health IT vendor: “Doctors buy our software/sign up for a trial, but we can’t figure out how to get them to actually use it.”
- Health IT marketer: “People are clicking our landing pages, but they don’t convert.”
Now, in his welcome remarks, HITMC co-founder John Lynn deemed the conference’s unofficial theme Give Before You Get. He’s right; it’s every great content marketer’s mantra. And a conference is the perfect place to give and get collaborative tactical problem solving from smart people with fresh eyes.
Which is probably why it might not actually be too weird to see four lanyard-clad marketers huddled over an iPad in a bustling Vegas nightclub, excitedly offering advice on how to optimize those ineffective landing pages, oblivious to the group of tipsy models —and every other person — happily grinding away all around them.
2. Proof of Concept
You’ve got a solid idea, but your boss or client isn’t buying in? Conferences are also a great way to get validation.
Because there’s a good chance that one of the game-changing tactics getting so much love during your conference’s breakout sessions, is also the very one you’ve been trying to pitch, or want to pitch soon.
When you’re at a conference, be sure to gather relevant case studies for your arsenal where you can. Thanks to HITMC 2015, I’ve now got at least three solid proof points to help push my case for an important client strategy I want to propose.
3. Completely Unrelated Brainstorming
Other than the shower or car, there is no better place to have amazing ideas about other things, than at a conference. Maybe it’s the inspiration-charged energy bouncing around the room. Maybe it’s the sweet leather-bound notebook you got in your swag bag. Either way, I had at least seven exciting campaign ideas during HITMC that have absolutely nothing to do with our healthcare clients.
Whatever alchemy is at work — when you are at a conference, somehow you can suddenly see entire idea frameworks with startling clarity. Don’t worry about being distracted. Get it down in your notebook, ASAP. (There’s a cool pen in your swag bag, too.)
4. Freelance Strategy
If the conference is thoughtfully balanced, in addition to the inspirational/aspirational talks, there will be at least a few speakers who just get right down to brass tacks. They trade platitudes for realitudes (yeah, that just happened), giving a very candid breakdown of how they deployed a hard-to-master marketing strategy you really want to try, failed a little, regrouped, then totally nailed it.
And they’re so compelled by the mad science of it all, they will draw you a map and mark the land mines. Use real numbers and replicable formulas. Recommend specific resources. Kindly answer your brain-picking questions during the final Q & A…all 20 of them.
Charismatic Health IT marketing wizard Colin Hung gave an inspiring AND highly actionable talk during HITMC, on how to engineer and deploy a Loyalty Program in a uniquely complex market.
His strategy could probably work beautifully in any old market — it just happens to also work in a highly regulated one. Like healthcare. This was incredibly exciting to me. I abandoned my notebook and pen, and photographed every one of his slides. Thank you, Colin!
5. A Speaking Role
A big part of going to any conference is realizing halfway in that you should have been one of the presenters. And then you find yourself spending one of the less inspiring sessions excitedly outlining your own talk.
If you love a conference and plan to attend again next year, make sure you end up on the stage. And don’t leave this one without reaching out to the conference organizers and getting that conversation started.
HITMC is one of those conferences you go to and get unexpectedly pumped. It’s a smart, FUN, close-knit community, convening to share actionable advice you can use right away. And it’s one we’ll absolutely want to be a part of again next year. Maybe on the stage.
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