Directly Speaking - I Beg To Differ

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President
July 8, 2011

I beg to differ!

I’ve read the Spring Meeting evaluation comments, and I have to say that I beg to differ and hope that those few who had some issue with this year’s exhibit program will read this.  Then I hope they put future Spring and Annual Meeting exhibit programs to good use! 


At the ICHP/MSHP Spring Meeting this year, we (the ICHP staff and meeting planning committee) concluded that in order to produce the revenue we needed, make the exhibit program worthwhile for the exhibiting companies and provide an affordable  meeting for our members, we had to make some scheduling changes that several of you apparently didn’t like.  That’s a shame but keep reading, I know there is something to be learned here!


For those who didn’t attend the meeting and for those who did and didn’t approve of our new meeting format, here’s what we did.  The meeting runs all day Friday and most of the day Saturday and offers up to 10 hours of continuing pharmacy education, two lunches, two continental breakfasts, an exhibit program and a poster session.  The cost for participation in the exhibit program is $1000 for a single booth and $1500 for a double booth.  These are the same prices we have charged in the past at the ICHP Annual Meeting for two two-hour exhibit sessions. At the ICHP Annual Meeting, there has been one two-hour exhibit session on Thursday afternoon and one two-hour session on Friday at lunch during the three day (Thurs-Sat) event.  We know pharmaceutical industry representatives don’t like working on Saturdays just like most of you, so that’s why there has been no exhibit on Saturday.  If we keep the reps happy, it’s easier to keep the companies coming back.  We also know that in order to make this exhibit program worth their company’s investment, which is not just the cost for the space, we couldn’t cut the hours too much from the Annual Meeting’s four hour total. 


So we scheduled the exhibit program during our morning and afternoon break times for 90 minutes each!  These breaks usually run 30 minutes for refreshments and restroom use, so the additional hour each for time in the exhibit hall seemed fair.  Yes, that’s a lot of time in one day, but this year with this format we attracted 44 pharmacy related exhibitors and four colleges of pharmacy for a total of 49 booth spaces filled.  (The Colleges of Pharmacy don’t pay the full prices but pay enough to cover the costs for their space.)  That’s nearly 30% more exhibitors than two years ago at the previous ICHP/ MSHP Spring Meeting!  That’s a lot of revenue!   And the exhibitors were very pleased with the format!


So here’s the first important little secret I would like to share with those who felt the exhibits were wasted time:  Those booth fees from happy exhibitors keep your registration fees as low as they are!  That’s right, I said it.  The pharmaceutical industry, wholesalers, technology companies and the rest are still carrying the load for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy students who attend these great live continuing education programs!  And I for one am very grateful for their participation!


And here’s the second little secret I need to share: You could actually learn something if you would earnestly engage in reasonable conversations with these vendors.  Vendors spend big bucks (but not near what they spend at ASHP or APhA meetings) to be there and talk to each and every one of us!  They want to talk with you and tell you all about the new medications, the new indications, the new technologies, the new products and the new services they offer.  Sure they are there to increase their market share in a very competitive market place, but they also want to make sure that if you already use their products, you use them safely and appropriately.


It’s been a long time since I worked in the trenches, and for only having worked a couple of years in those trenches I don’t know if any of these companies would consider me a true decision maker.  However, year after year I went to ICHP and ASHP meetings and spoke with the exhibitors about their products and services, and there wasn’t a single time that I didn’t come back to my pharmacy department without a new idea or product that we didn’t eventually at least evaluate because of an interaction in the exhibit hall.  I don’t consider myself that persuasive a salesman or force to be reckoned with but rather just someone who brought back a new idea that someone else found useful.


Yes, the free pens, notepads, calculators, stress toys, flashlights and whatever else you used to grab in the exhibit halls of yesterday are gone, but there’s still a lot of great information, ideas, products and services to learn about.  A discerning pharmacist will be able to separate the product from the presentation!   A discerning pharmacist will take what they see in the exhibit hall and prioritize their future journal readings to determine just how much real buzz there is with that new product…just how much that new product can improve patient outcomes or just how much that new technology will cut costs down the road.  A discerning pharmacist or technician uses every opportunity to explore new products and services to see what may be in their future before their administrator, director, manager or supervisor tells them it is.  If you think about it in terms of continuing professional development (CPD), you can move your practice ahead just as often in the exhibit hall as you can looking up a drug info question, digging through charts or phoning a friend.  CPD comes in many forms and from many sources.  If spending time in the exhibit hall seems like a waste of your time, make it a CPD adventure!


These two 90 minute breaks during the Spring Meeting are a waste of time if you don’t engage in the opportunities that are offered in the exhibit hall.  However, you’re the one that has wasted the opportunity and the time, not ICHP and the meeting planning committee. 


ICHP can create statewide meetings that don’t have an exhibit program, but if we do, you better be ready to pony up a registration fee that could be twice the price!  Maybe we should try it once and see how many participants take issue then.  Perhaps some will complain that they actually miss the exhibit program. I sure would have back in the day.  I’m guessing that the complaints about price would be limited because those who felt the price was too high would just not attend.  But I also believe the number in attendance would drop because the principle complaint would become registration fees that are too high!


Not every aspect of a pharmacy meeting has to offer continuing education credit or a meal.  There are a variety of ways in which you can learn about new therapies, technologies or efficiencies.  Value comes to those who are truly interested in discovering it, making it or stumbling onto it wherever it exists!  It’s time to reconsider your position on exhibits, learn wherever you can and utilize every opportunity available! 

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