After 80 years, you’d think that the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association (HCEA) would become old and stodgy, but nothing could be further from the truth.
This year’s HCEA Annual Meeting, held in New Orleans, June 26-29, 2010, addressed the challenges its members face internally and externally; from having limited time to be away from their offices, to finding new ways to market to physicians, as well as the challenges facing the city of New Orleans itself. The meeting theme, “Big Challenge; Big Opportunity; Big Easy” was integrated throughout the program elements.
While Saturday afternoon, prior to the opening of the meeting, offered members a chance to play golf, it also provided the opportunity for 80 members to volunteer for the Beacon of Hope project, where they cleared six lots of debris. According to a Beacon of Hope spokeswoman, this was the largest volunteer group ever assembled to help out.
New Orleans puts on its best
The meeting kicked off with New Orleans style hospitality, which always includes food and music. Food stations were set up throughout Generations Hall, a venue near the convention center, so attendees could sample dishes from restaurants such as Arnaud’s, Court of the Two Sisters, Emeril’s and Mothers, as well as dance to the uniquely Cajun sounds of Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters. The evening was sponsored by the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc.
The following morning, the opening general session keynote speaker, political pundit James Carville was passionate about New Orleans, his city, and the failures of engineering that have twice put his city at risk; i.e. Katrina and the BP Gulf Oil spill. Carville, whose consulting prowess has involved him in more international than domestic projects lately, convinced the audience that the culture and resilience of the people of New Orleans would triumph over these disasters. According to New Orleans sources, there are now more restaurants in the city than prior to Katrina and the meeting business is booming.
A robust exhibit hall
A traditional New Orleans marching band led the grand opening of the exhibit hall immediately after the general session. Exhibitors who are stalwarts at the meeting were joined by a number of first time exhibitors such as The Wooten Group, Mauk Design and Deckel & Moneypenny Exhibits.
The exhibit sessions, four in all, were unopposed. To help attendees navigate, HCEA introduced its new mobile app that will continue to provide instant, year-round access to HCEA information. Finally, a “Giving Back” raffle held in the exhibit hall further benefited the Beacon of Hope program and Habitat for Humanity. All HCEA regular and associate member attendees received four raffle tickets in their registration materials; one ticket for each exhibit hall session. For each ticket placed in the raffle ticket tumbler a donation was made to either Beacon of Hope or the New Orleans Habitat for Humanity. All that was required was attendee participation. HCEA donated extra food to a New Orleans food bank and leftover exhibitor materials to a local school district. HCEA also encouraged exhibitors to implement charity give-back programs rather than offering giveaways in their booths.
Education available nowhere else
Probably the reason most people attend HCEA, besides the networking, is the industry specific education offered. In addition to the sessions which covered compliance and new topics in pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical exhibiting, education was available in the exhibit hall at the HCEA booth around such issues as the FDA’s Bad Ad Program, Federal Healthcare Reform, and State Laws and Regulations. The educational program gave attendees many choices specific to their jobs and concerns, as well as to their own levels of experience. From basic budgeting information and sharing best practices to implications for Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), and exploring compliance in the era of federal reform, the choices were abundant.
There were also sessions that addressed the different types of membership; regular: corporate exhibitors, associates: association members and supporting: suppliers to the industry. Suppliers could not only augment their knowledge about the industry, but could also be exposed to RFID practices and outcomes, as well as new offerings in interactive media. Associations and regular members had the chance to explore both sides of shared issues at the usual roundtables, as well as at new sessions such as the Sponsorship Mash-Up where panelists from both industry and associations discussed the challenges of creating sponsorships that were compliant as well as effective.
2010 meeting attracts 213 new attendees
The attendee count at the annual meeting was approximately 665; 88 regular member companies were represented, 33 associations and 179 attendees from supporting companies. More importantly, in addition to the 25 new exhibitors, 213 first timers attended the meeting.
A closing party at the New Orleans Marriott featured some casino games to get members ready for the 2011 Annual Meeting, June 25-28, at the Wynn, Las Vegas; however, the next morning two more education slots were featured, and at breakfast outgoing President Nancy Hoppe handed the gavel to new President Karen Kingston, CME/H, CMP, B. Braun Medical.
HCEA is the only association dedicated solely to improving the effectiveness of all conventions, meetings and exhibitions for the healthcare industry. HCEA represents organizations involved in healthcare exhibitions and conventions. For more information, visit hcea.org.