Aaron Crane: There’s real value to be found in exhibit halls
Workforce gaps, cost inflation and revenue cycle inefficiency are driving unprecedented pressure on margins, while our communities demand greater value. Today’s healthcare finance leaders are grappling with at least one ― if not all ― of these issues. And they’re looking for solutions.
As I travel around the country to various HFMA regional and chapter events, however, I’ve noticed tension just below the surface. It’s most evident in the exhibit halls ― where despite a virtual smorgasbord of potential business solutions to the issues above ― there’s a low volume of interaction between provider attendees and our business partners and sponsors at their exhibits. If providers have issues and sponsors have solutions, why is there diminishing activity?
Sponsorship support enables our regions and chapters to deliver top-notch education and networking events. Our business partners also value that education and networking. Both, however, are understandably secondary to the opportunities for lead generation and revenue growth.
Earlier in my career as a provider, I remember the trepidation I felt walking through those halls. I just knew that if I even talked with an exhibitor, I’d wind up committing millions for a solution that wouldn’t work. So my usual plan was to not make eye contact with anyone, grab stuffed animals for the kids and then get out as quickly as possible.
Yes, there’s some tongue-in-cheek here. Exaggeration for effect. I do know, however, that I’m not the only one who has ever hesitated to enter an exhibit hall. So today, I’d offer a more reasoned perspective as I have aged and experienced many conferences.
To my provider colleagues, I assure you there is real value in those halls: Solutions to problems you are working feverishly to address. Conversations are free, and education is certain. Because there’s usually more than one choice for a particular issue in the same exhibit hall, I now attend these events with the express intention of having three conversations with solutions providers in areas of immediate interest. Sometimes I end up having five or six. And I’ve never experienced a hard sell. Sure, there’s been follow-up, but it was welcomed.
Business partner colleagues, please dial it down a bit. I don’t think the over-the-top tactics lead to a better outcome. Don’t waste your money on celebrity lookalikes. Don’t grab people walking down the aisle. And skip the flashing yo-yos. (Personally, however, I do like the golf games, shopping bags and a good pen with blue ink.) And remember, CFOs aren’t the only decision-makers at these events.
And to those of you planning regional and local events, I encourage you to look to the example set by HFMA at the national Annual Conference. Considerable thought and effort have been devoted to redesigning the traditional exhibit hall experience to better offer opportunities for providers and business partners to come together to discuss potential solutions to today’s pressing healthcare finance issues.
And that’s really what it’s all about. A sustainable U.S. healthcare system and improving the cost effectiveness of health will only come through partnership and better collaboration. Our resource-rich exhibit halls are a perfect place to Ignite the Spark.