CHICAGO The Chicago Dental Society's Midwinter Meeting took over McCormick Place West last Thursday through Saturday with the upbeat theme “Teeth and All That Jazz.” Though a Frank Sinatra impersonator graced the opening session and a Bee Gees tribute band got dentists dancing at the Friday-night party, the conference had business and education at its core.
Changes to the format included bringing scientific programming onto the exhibit floor, so that the 30,000 guests were less torn between perusing the 600 exhibitor booths and attending educational sessions.
“Our midwinter meeting is one of the largest medical trade shows in the country, with a lot to see and do in a short period of time,” said communications director Keri Kramer. “We are always looking for ways to enhance attendees' experiences at the meeting and make it easier for them to plan their time with us. Also, we are very concerned that our exhibitors feel it is a good show each year, so we add incentives like exhibit-floor continuing education credit or patient-treatment courses live in the exhibit hall to get people on the floor and hopefully buying.” The guests “embraced these changes positively,” she said.
This was the third year that the meeting has made significant use of social media, and “this year we were really cooking,” Kramer said. In past years, one staffer was solely responsible for managing the event's Facebook page, “so we never had a company-wide shared strategy for using it for the meeting,” she said. “For this year's meeting, we added more staff as page administrators and committed to posting at least twice a week to the page. The increased activity on our end really fueled the engagement.”
During the run-up to the meeting, Kramer reported a 22 percent increase in the number of “likes” that the event's page received. “We also saw more engagement [such as] likes and comments on the page, and Facebook did become the number one referring page for our Web site,” she said.
Twitter also came into play. Before the event, the society offered all attendees a chance to learn how to use the networking service, and then used Twitter walls on-site to encourage interaction among guests. Throughout the meeting, staffers also live blogged and posted videos to the society's YouTube account. “We tied it all together by doing a daily email to attendees, recapping all our activity,” Kramer said. “This email was tremendously successful.”
The only disadvantage with making meeting content available online, Kramer said, “is the manpower needed to do it. As of yet, we don't have concerns that post-meeting content influences attendance at our meeting.” This year's exhibit space sold out well in advance of the gathering, as it has in years past, and Kramer estimated a 2 percent increase in attendance.