• HFMA's New Jersey Chapter Cooks Up a Recipe for Meeting Success

    By Jennifer Erickson

    I had the joy of interviewing the committee leading the HFMA New Jersey Chapter's Annual Women’s Leadership and Development Session because, wow, they're impressive, fun, accomplished, creative, and did I mention fun? They had such a good time with their 2016 conference that I almost forgot to mention that they won a Yerger in 2016 for  “Improvement,” which means that they have iterated their methodology during the last three years and are a wonderful example of finding things that work. 

    Heather Stanisci, vice president of sales and marketing for Arcadia Recovery Systems, served as the committee chairperson, and she has a quirky sense of humor that resulted in some hilarious marketing. Stacy Bigos, director of economic and financial information for the New Jersey Hospital Association, Deb Carlino, director of healthcare compliance at Rutgers University, and Belinda Puglisi, director of payer services for Children’s Specialized Hospital, also joined our interview. This is the “we never missed a call” type team that I love to interview. They brought their all to the committee, which resulted in a collaborative effort in which each person felt full ownership.

    This New Jersey Chapter women’s programming committee has increased attendance 100 percent since 2014 by breaking the bonds of traditional healthcare programming and branching into more interactive participation, topped off with innovative marketing. But Stanisci said it best when she provided me with the “New Jersey Recipe for Success.”

    Their ingredients included:

    • 1 cup of networking (barista break)
    • 1 1/2 cups of participation (interactive sessions/self-defense and critical conversations sessions)
    • 2 heaping cups of creativity (creative, funny, and targeted session marketing emails)
    • A heavy pour of value (the bring-a-friend pricing).
    • A large handful of diligence (to plan the agenda perfectly and keep the flow or momentum).
    • A heaping spoonful of communications (weekly collaborative committee calls).
    • A pinch of laughter

    Mix it all together, and that is their recipe for success! Stanisci’s recipe says it all, but let me expand on each ingredient so you can replicate their success in your own chapter. 

    The barista break is a must-have. Yes, a the New Jersey event featured a barista on site who mixed lattes and espressos for the afternoon break, which quickly became a high-energy networking break. Stanisci commented: “We moved it [the barista break] from the end of the day last year to the afternoon break, and we got more networking, plus, IT WOKE EVERYONE UP!” She added, “This year, at the very end of the day, everyone was still there and engaged.” This small tweak made a huge difference.

    After the 2015 evaluations, which highlighted requests for "more interaction, please," the New Jersey chapter added topics such as, “How to Master Crucial Conversations,” which engaged participants by bringing to life, gut wrenching or not, those "difficult conversations, whether personal life or work life." Last year, they held an interactive session on self-defense during the networking session, which was a big hit.

    My favorite value-add was the bring-a-friend pricing. Let’s see, how do you promote the concept of inspire, learn, and connect with other women? Oh yeah, bring-a-friend discount pricing! It's so well-aligned with the purpose of "Women lead here" that it almost smacks you in the forehead with its brilliance. We all should consider ‘bring a friend’ pricing as standard practice.

    My hat's off to HFMA National Women Lead HERe as well for providing a framework for success. The New Jersey chapter gives credit to using the national framework to establish a strategy for success. I see it in the well-planned agenda to keep the flow and follow the theme, and I hear it in the weekly collaborative committee calls that are so necessary for early success. Most importantly, I feel it in the gloves-off creativity and breaking the rules of old.

    The New Jersey chapter’s best example of break-away program innovation is evidenced in their hysterical weekly marketing emails. Seriously, the email to promote the sponsored professional head shots is so funny that you could not ignore this marketing campaign. In fact, their open rate on this program’s emails was double that of all prior program marketing! Their committee created a template for a weekly email marketing piece to target one highlight of the program per week. The idea, as echoed by each person on the call, “everyone can find one thing they want to see, hear or do at the conference, so we needed to get that one thing in front of them.” The weekly emails used pictures and catchphrases to earn the reader’s attention quickly, yet they offered a brand flow. And, yes, it showed up in the increased attendance as well.

    In addition, this conference is the most significant example that I have seen yet of the full integration of female and male leaders, speakers, and panelists on the agenda.  The topic of “is this a women’s only conference?” is making its way across the chapters and is a natural evolution of any market segmentation. Are we inclusive or exclusive?  Why? Stanisci put it well when she said, “Leadership education, mentoring, and experience should come from men and women. Speakers and panelists should be both male and female because in her own career, men as well as women have played a crucial role in her development.”

    I enjoyed the conversation immensely, and as this market segmentation for women’s programming continues to evolve, I encourage each of us to take the same approach we are preaching: The best person for the job is who should fill the position—for the same pay and title. Thus, if the best speaker for a women’s leadership program happens to be male, should we not simply be gender blind? Should we encourage male participants who are integral in encouraging gender parity, until we all become gender neutral and ultimately gender blind? Clearly, attendees enjoyed the male and female speakers alike, as they equally received high marks on the evaluations. 

    I am not encouraging you to fill a quota of male speakers, but I am asking that we not exclude anyone from the conversation of gender parity, neutrality, and blindness. In fact, remove the word ‘gender’ and just develop leaders: That is what I learned from this interview. Well, that and the New Jersey chapter has a rock star, fun-filled committee.

    Jennifer Erickson is CEO of Kirk LLC. She is based in Scottsville, Ariz. 

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