NHS IT conference season has got off to a flying start with thousands of delegates piling into London Olympia’s exhibition and conference centre earlier this week for Healthcare Efficiency Through Technology Expo (HETT EXPO).

The HETT EXPO is only a one day event hosted in a considerably smaller venue than most of the other conferences in this sector. It gave the impression of a rock music gig with EXPO staff having to use crowd control to get people into the exhibition and delegates being held outside of the conference sessions due to over capacity. This could only mean – the organisers had got something very right or that healthcare IT is well and truly high on the agenda as we edge towards the end of 2012… possibly a combination of the two!

One of the key things that stood out, in what appeared to be an informal and even intimate environment, was the lack of hierarchy between the delegates, exhibitors and speakers alike. Despite there being a designated speakers’ area, it was great to see many of the high level speakers at the event mingling between the stands and openly talking about their sessions and other topics with wandering delegates and listening to what suppliers and the NHS alike had to say.

But perhaps the biggest difference about the event was the audience that HETT EXPO attracted. A hand-show in the morning’s main session confirmed around a quarter of attendees were IT directors (probably a fairly common figure at these events nowadays) around a quarter were clinicians or doctors, but perhaps most interesting was the significant amount of people attending from local authorities.

Healthcare technology has finally opened up to the world of local authorities, councils and public health. But the question is, is healthcare technology ready for it?

Take this example, which I overheard whilst wandering around the exhibition myself.

Local Health Authority (LHA) delegate to exhibitor: “So, what do you guys do?”
Exhibitor: “Most things but we’re best known for providing electronic patient records.”
LHA delegate: “Oh, so do they integrate? I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how some systems don’t work together.”

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Exhibitor: “Yes they integrate. So, where are you from?”
LHA delegate: “I’m from a local health authority.”

[SILENCE]

The exhibitor had no idea how to address this individual, the challenges they faced in their organisation, the way that their products or other products on the market might be able to help them and perhaps even why they were there!

The delegate moved on, taking a freebie with him….

While the councillor was probably perplexed by the terms EPR, HIE and PACS, the exhibitor seemed equally confused about why they were there and what on earth to say to them!

As a PR and marketing company, we often get asked what events are of value to exhibit at or attend. Of course, most often our response depends on the type of audience the company is trying to reach. So if you’ve signed up to a show such as EHI Live next month or any other exhibition for that matter, here is the most crucial piece of advice.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

You can have the biggest stand, the most inventive freebies, or be the most well known company in your field, but if you do not know how to get your messages to your audience, whether it be patients, chief executives, IT directors, clinicians, nurses, GPs or members of local government, then there will be little value in your organisation exhibiting at all!

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