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What Other Types of Meetings Can Learn from the Medical Segment

Liz King and Lindsey Rosenthal asked three industry journalists—moi included—to weigh in on meeting trends for their BlogTalk Radio show Event Alley this afternoon. We each were first asked to talk about trends in our specific niches, which for me of course is medical, and now religious, and how these trends could inform the industry as a whole.

Having just spent way too much time reading 287 pages of the final rule of the Sunshine Act and attempting to synthesize all the information and initial reactions into something that hopefully is at least somewhat readable, I probably bored people silly (honest, I tried to keep it short!). But I do think there are at least two important things to share from what pharma and device manufacturers are being asked to do with their meetings, and how continuing medical education providers managed to dodge a bullet. To wit:

The Sunshine Act provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which just was passed in final form last Friday, requires pharmaceutical and medical device companies to track and report everything they spend over $10 on healthcare providers who come to their meetings. Meals, travel, honoraria, and everything else they spend on speakers on their speakers bureaus, clinicians involved in research, advisory board members—anything that involves spending a sawbuck on a doc, they have to track as of August 1 this year, and report it to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, which in turn will publicly post the information on its Web site.

As it was  originally written, the Sunshine Act could have also included CME activities. So at their big 2012 annual event, the annual conference of the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions, some concerned continuing medical educators got together and started spreading the word that this, essentially, could put some of them out of business. Individuals, companies, organizations, and the CME lobbying group wrote letters, called their congresspeople, and generally made it almost impossible for legislators to ignore the fact that accredited CME does not warrant this type of scrutiny.

They pulled it off: The final rule specifically exempts most accredited CME, though non-accredited activities still will have to be tracked, and there are some details that Still will need to be worked out.

So why should you care? While their issues may not be yours, the lesson I'd like everyone to take from this is just how important it is to pay attention to what’s going on legislatively. While I seriously doubt the Sunshine Act drafters intended to include CME in the reporting requirements, it would have happened if providers hadn’t noticed and lobbied against it. No one knows your business like you do, and it’s up to you to protect it.

Another thing to take away is that perceptions count. Meetings professionals need to pay close attention to what they spend, how they spend it, and who they spend it on—remember the GSA scandal? And let’s not forget about AIG, whose fallout actually merited coining of the phrase "The AIG Effect." Pharma tends to be the canary in the coal mine when it comes to regulation, but it could happen to you. Be proactive about your meeting's optics and, if you don't want to read about it in The New York Times, don't do it.

I know, that's really specific, but hey, what can I say? They also have to deal with all the other issues every meeting professional faces nowadays, from making the meeting design more experiential and engaging, building in some sort of way to give back to the local community or a charity, and making their events more sustainable, which my fellow journalists eloquently spoke to on the show (you should be able to listen in here).

Religious meetings are a little more in tune with association meetings in general, working on engaging their members before, during, and after events with social media, doing more with less, and expanding internationally.

I went last on one question and the other two panelists basically said what I was thinking, but I can answer it here because, well, because I can! They asked what we would like to see change in the industry as a whole this year, and while I certainly hope that death by PowerPoint, bad WiFi, too-small graphics on slides, etc., etc., are on the way out, those are all just elements of bigger problem.

I love the way Kristi Casey Sanders put this in a post on the Liz King Events blog, so I’m going to steal it and say I’d like to see us move from concentrating on the user interface, or logistics of an event, to the user experience, or getting people emotionally involved and engaged in the event, what she calls the UI/UX concept. It’s been trending for a while now, but I’m hoping 2013 is the year we really get on board with finding cool ways to surprise, delight, engage, and involve people in meetings and events. Logistics of course are important to getting to a good user experience, but we can’t stop there. Let this be the year meeting planners stop being meeting planners and start being meeting designers and architects.

So what are the biggest meeting trends you see for 2013? What trends outside of meeting specifically are you tracking because they could potentially affect your event or your attendees?

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