ABTS Convention Services: Expanding Your International Audience
What's new for meetings and conventions at your organization that you're most excited about?
For the first time ever, we have learned how to benefit from utilizing online medical educational programs to promote face-to-face meetings. Using online technology, we can engage more international doctors, in many different languages, through their local opinion leaders to better market the association's annual meeting. Considering only 15 to 20 percent of international doctors are currently invited by sponsors to [attend] U.S.-based medical meetings, there is still a large constituency to reach.
What are meeting planners asking for now that they weren't asking for a year or two ago?
International medical meeting planners are looking for new ways to maximize their investment when sponsoring doctors to [attend] U.S.-based association meetings. Due to economic distress and new government restrictions, we will see a diminishing number of attendees at events. However, these planners are exploring new educational avenues, which the medical-association community should take the lead on. Meeting planners in developing countries have more freedom from local governance, but face challenges [understanding] content delivered in English. Currently, the majority of large medical associations have at least 50-percent international attendance. For this reason, some planners provide translation support.
Who has been your mentor in the meetings industry?
I would not be able to identify just one person, as I have had several great examples of planners who effectively engage their international audiences, such as upcoming PCMA Board of Directors Chairman Johnnie White of [the] Cardiovascular Research Foundation, or Lisa F. Cohen, manager [of] international education programs for AAOS [American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons] and member of IMSHAN [International Medical Societies and Health-Related Associations Network]. Many of our industry planners have come up with brilliant and effective ways to increase their global attendance through educational programs and strategic marketing and networking.
What is your leadership style?
I believe embracing new technology trends and business methodology is key if we want to survive this rapid globalization. We must quickly adapt to continuously evolving technologies and speak to a broader audience.
What are you most looking forward to in 2013?
We are launching an app designed for international meeting planners to access hotel inventory for the many medical conferences we currently represent. We hope we can help them quickly manage their meeting needs within an easy, virtual environment supported by one of our international managers.
What is the biggest challenge — and the biggest opportunity — facing the meetings industry today?
The biggest challenge is to [emphasize to] our association planners that the current industry's “terms of engagement” are constantly changing. We must find new and creative ways to attract and sustain global attendance. Those planners who are quickly adapting some of their existing policies are benefiting from international growth and achieving success.
President, ABTS Convention Services