Protecting and advancing the goals of face-to-face meetings is one of the objectives Johnnie White has as he begins his term as chair of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), a role he stepped into this year.
In addition to his responsibilities at PCMA, White (pictured) is the executive director of the Center for Education at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation and has been involved with face-to-face meetings, events and tradeshows for several years.
Here, EXPO checks in with White to see how his knowledge in the health care-event sector will help him succeed at PCMA, what non-medical events can learn from this niche market, and what’s next in the sector for event planners and attendees.
EXPO: How will your experience with health care shows help you in your new role at PCMA?
Johnnie White: I’ve been doing medical shows for most of my career, and it has taught me many things. When working in the medical field, you have to be data-driven. Physicians are all about research, and data helps them decide which way to go with a product, device or drug. From learning that, and then moving into the role at PCMA, I find that having data helps to push a goal or mission.
One of my initiatives is advocacy for face-to-face meetings and driving home the value of face-to-face meetings. Years ago, PCMA and a number of other industry associations came up with an economic impact study and provided data that shows when a meeting comes into a city that it helps the economy. Taking that same philosophy of understanding data, I want to take data and use it even more to help people understand the value of face-to-face meetings. I understand that research data helps physicians make approvals on devices and drugs—now I’m using the same philosophy of using data to help people understand how important meetings are.
EXPO: What new technologies being used at health care shows are applicable for non-health care-related events?
White: With medical events, we understand that anything that is interactive makes the learning more exciting and people will remember it. With medical events, there is a great deal of hands-on training—a physician learns very well by being able to touch and feel. Taking technology and that same philosophy, especially with mobile devices and tablets, we’re able to develop applications whereby the attendee can really interact with the program.
You can have an app for your show and the attendee can be sitting in that room and vote on different parts of the sessions when prompted by the speaker. On the medical side, they really want content fast—then and right now. Using mobile, you can stream a lot of your content live and that’s what we’re finding people want. Physicians might sit in one room watching the session and will maybe have their iPad or mobile device out and be watching another session in a different room on the other side of the convention center.
What we’ve learned just from consumers is that they want so much. If you go to a sports bar, there are screens all over the place and people are watching so many different things at one time. People are able to absorb so much content so quickly—if you take that philosophy and put it into meetings, you’re hitting attendees every way you can from what’s in the room or outside of the room with the devices they carry.
EXPO: What is the feeling in the health care event community regarding the Affordable Care Act? How is it impacting—or not impacting—the face-to-face medical market?
White: It’s definitely impacting things on the financial level. One of the terms of the Affordable Care Act is that there is about a 2-percent tax on the pharmaceutical and device companies. These companies will have to allocate money toward this tax, which will probably be coming out of the resources they provide to educational programs.
That’s going to hurt a lot of the medical meetings from a financial standpoint because companies cannot support education at the same level they used to. With this Act, it’s all about disclosure and resolving conflicts. We as organizers are going to have to help the companies collect information so they can disclose the interactions and transactions they have with physicians.