I’ll let you into a few trade secrets!
Did you know that many companies attend trade shows simply because if they didn’t show up they feel that people working in that industry might wonder why or what’s up? Sometimes they would rather be seen than have rumours spread that they might be struggling in some way. They might also take a larger stand to show us all that everything is rosy, the bigger the better.
My take on this has always been that attending trade shows never really generates the interest you want or might expect in your business, product or service and may have become a necessary evil in many ways. I’ve worked for both myself and many other leading international companies in different medical markets and I have never been afraid to say no thank you. Many companies see increasingly expensive exhibitions as the holy grail of “making it” and it sometimes becomes an exercise in showing off.
I see companies who attend the very same exhibitions year on year spending vast sums on stands, travel, expenses and staff time when they honestly know that there will be little real interest and no sales made but they feel they have to. They might also take a chance on attending a big international meeting and splashing the cash only to see very few delegates interested in finding out more about them.
Organisers know this and keep prices of exhibition space at premium levels and then sell all kinds of bands of sponsorships for vastly inflated fees creating a nice financial virtuous circle for themselves. These prices rise each year and companies continue to pay them.
Pic: A Big conventional EXPO
DHA in Phoenix, Arizona
Once DHA exhibited at ASTRO in Phoenix early in the new millennium at huge cost. We had a small stand, the smallest available located right at the far end of the huge hall and demonstrated our INVAC vacuum bag system that we also managed to get FDA 510k approval for. My co-directors thought that we should all wear kilts, one in recognition of my Scottish heritage and two so as that peopled would flood to our stand!
They were right in that we were very popular with the American’s especially the women but we sold nothing in the US.
Pic: There really is a formally registered ARIZONA tartan!
Why do companies offer expensive competition prizes to be won on their stand, free glasses of champagne and coffee from trendy machines among other inducements for you to step foot on their booth? They don’t do it for altruistic reasons I can assure you but to ensure that more footfall might generate one extra, largely unqualified lead.
So my feeling is that attending conventional exhibitions has somewhat become the “Emperor’s New Clothes” whereby when the company looks in the meeting’s mirror it sees what it wants to see.
The advent of social media has meant that you can access your target market and customers directly on a daily basis, minute by minute, hour by hour without the need to worry what other companies might think. One previous MD of a company I worked for initially would say that if you got a “qualified lead” at an exhibition you were not doing your job properly! I tend to agree that these meetings are essentially an exercise of fishing in large pond or deep-sea trawling where you simply hope to catch something but you’re not sure what!
RadPro 365 Live integrates social media and all other internet- based media tools within an innovative virtual exhibition format.
At RadPro 365 Live we use Chatbots to gather information and answer questions on products and services from delegates and so that is our version of AI based fishing (not Phishing) however we use this as a way to simply generate qualified leads from your virtual exhibition stand. These are passed on to partner companies for follow up. We also us Chatbots to guide people through the site and how to use it.
Pic: Chatbot icons
Your existing and new customers are now far happier to attend a webinar based or other virtual demonstration of your product which has become largely normalised in today’s internet of things- based world.
Therefore, I have long believed that we need a commercially successful and well attended virtual meeting in radiotherapy, not just in the UK but also internationally. Attending international, conventional meetings such as ESTRO and ASTRO are hugely expensive for both companies and delegates and when the meeting is over the exhibition is broken down and our investment in creating that interface between company personnel and both potential and existing customers vanishes along with the money spent. The poster displays also largely disappear and many of the presentations given simply echo in eternity.
I am not arguing that these meetings should be replaced, not at all but that a virtual version has its place. The vast majority of radiotherapy professionals in the world do not attend these shows and most have never been to one and so why spend all that money on capturing the attention of such a small percentage of potential customers. Costs to travel to international shows are hugely prohibitive for delegates while fees to exhibit as mentioned are truly exorbitant and many companies that I speak to feel that they are almost being ripped off.
In order to change the current status-quo I ask all radiotherapy companies to look in that aforementioned mirror, see the light and convince their customers and the larger world of radiotherapy professionals that enough is enough and let’s all get behind a virtual event!
Pic: Elekta’s virtual booth on RadPro 365 Live http://www.radpro.org.uk/elekta/
UK radiotherapy shows
In the UK we have annual meetings that represent radiotherapy professionals and UKIO and the SCoR weekend are but two examples.
At the UKIO (UK Imaging and Oncology) meeting this year June in Liverpool I spoke to the majority of radiotherapy companies who insisted that there were very few radiotherapy professionals regularly walking around the exhibit while their financial investment had been sizeable and so were deeply disappointed. This was not something that was unexpected as in 2018 a similar situation existed whereby by common consent it seemed that there were fewer than 50 or 60 real delegates working in radiotherapy, with a greater number of company personnel significantly boosting the numbers.
Back then there was some consensus in social media and other blogs that the radiology/imaging and radiotherapy components should split with two different meetings as even the radiology/imaging companies were saying that things had been much better in the past. UKIO is run by a commercial company who do a great job organisationally but that does not cover over the cracks. I would like to see a published breakdown of real radiotherapy delegates by profession (not including company personnel) for the past 5 years and some transparency in this.
The UKIO congress is organised by ROC, (Radiology Oncology Congresses) a charitable partnership of the British Institute of Radiology, The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine and The College of Radiographers who also hold their own dedicated meetings throughout the year and who I have regularly entered into dialogue with about my belief that the time has come for them to support and get behind a virtual radiotherapy event such as RadPro 365 Live.
UKIO is the marriage of UKRC (UK Radiology Congress) and UKRO (UK Radiation Oncology) that was named UKRCO in 2018 and had run for 2 years in this guise in 2016 and 2017 and now renamed UKIO in 2019. Before then these meetings ran independently for a while but the radiotherapy arm was not well supported and so the merger above occurred and the writing has been on the wall for many years and one that a series of name changes, splits and mergers has failed to alter a downward trend. I sense a big case of Deja-Vu here!
I even recall the event being called Med-X-Ray and held annually in Birmingham at the then named National Indoor Arena or NIA, largely at the time of the Monaco Grand Prix ( they had a huge Jumbotron TV at one end that showed the race as we set up our stand on the Sunday) and this ran for many years from around the turn of the millennium or earlier. This was a far bigger Radiology based event than UKRC with a huge exhibition but still poorly attended by radiotherapy professionals even then with RT being a bit of and add on. At this time ESTRO had not really got going full speed as an annual meeting and big exhibition and so the focus then was largely US based with ASTRO and AAPM taking centre stage but by default even harder for many radiotherapy people to attend.
Pic: NIA now called Arena Birmingham
The SCoR radiotherapy weekend is a small, UK based radiotherapy radiographer and student meeting held annually. I recall the very first one taking place in Blackpool with around 50 delegates many years ago where the presentations were very low-key and the exhibition essentially a table top for 5 or 6 companies. This has progressed to be a good annual gathering of radiographers but having attending many subsequently and made a huge effort to physically bring along and demonstrate leading edge equipment such as electronic brachytherapy systems to treat early stage breast cancer and patient motion tracking systems there was never huge amounts of interest and so a “passport” system was introduced by the organisers to ensure all delegates attended all stands to have their passport stamped. One lucky radiographer would then win the “grand passport prize draw” and so to me that sounds very familiar! I believe delegate numbers are well over 100 now but once again it is difficult to access this information. A virtual exhibition and congress has the ability to attract many hundreds of visitors per hour.
One take-out for me attending UKIO this year was that most radiotherapy companies would also like to return to a dedicated UK radiotherapy and oncology exhibition, break away from the joint venture but perhaps one that is organised and managed by the companies themselves. I would be happy to help here just as I am happy to run a virtual version of any new or existing event so that marketing budget spending is fully optimised and information presented is available to everyone at a later date. The virtual version of any event could be open to fee paying delegates at the time but then free to air to everyone else when it is over.
My first RadPro EXPO (as it was called then) virtual radiotherapy congress and exhibition concept started in 2011 and was the first ever virtual event dedicated to radiotherapy professionals worldwide. It was reasonably supported by some radiotherapy companies and organisations who each had their own virtual exhibition stand. This event ran for a month in July and then closed but as opposed to traditional shows where the stands are broken down and everyone goes home, the event was archived and available for anyone to view at a later date, meaning that exhibition marketing budget spent was never consigned to the bin as discussed above. The hit rate was measured in thousands per day!
The idea was simple in that a traditional exhibition layout map shown below was interactive and each stand location was a click link away to taking a delegate to an individualised virtual exhibition stand. Each corner of the may had the 4 key congress zones for each component, Poster and Papers, Videos, Presentations and Webinars/Podcasts. There is even a coffee zone where you can win coffee vouchers to enjoy while attending the show but no bad lunches!
Pic: RadPro 365 Live Congress layout map
This innovative congress allowed everyone in the radiotherapy community potentially to come together once a year in July, in an extremely cost effective and time efficient way to share radiotherapy information, without the need to travel or take time off work.
I stole the idea for the interactive map from the huge shopping precinct in Milton Keynes whereby if you wanted to find Marks and Sparks and were not keen to walk for miles to find it you simply clicked on the location map, up popped M&S with a description of its products and services and importantly where it was in the truly massive Centre MK!
Pic: Centre MK and M&S.
Our goal was that we simply wanted to give EVERYONE involved within the international radiotherapy community the easiest way to keep up to date and share knowledge and so our permanent 365 day, 24/7 all year-round version of our annual EXPO event was born following support and advice from existing users and re-named RadPro 365 Live.
How does it work?
The new 365 Live website format is intended to be an innovative radiotherapy virtual exhibition and conference which you can access from anywhere to participate in like your home, your office or even on your way into work.
The key is that if you want to submit a poster you don’t need to apply to a committee months in advance to present this or not as the case might be, you send it in and your peers are able to critique this online and ask questions of you and others in a forum based environment.
If you have recorded a webinar you can submit this for viewing by any of our readers at any time or advertise an upcoming webinar or presentation on the site. If you want to publish a clinical paper (proffered or not) or presentation this too can be submitted for review by your peers without the need to submit an abstract for acceptance as can a product or service presentation video or anything else really.
One of my main aims was to help bridge the gap between manufacturers and front-line radiotherapy staff without everyone having to pay huge amounts of money attending a traditional conference or take time out of work. This was not intended as discussed already to replace conventional congresses and meetings that have a vital, hands on, face to face, one to one role but to supplement them and allow ANYONE to attend and share information at ANY convenient time or place.
Together we try to give all brands within Radiotherapy a place to show-case their news and products and to support all radiotherapy professionals providing a place to share research work and start open discussions.
We need you!
For this innovation to be successful we need all the companies out there in the radiotherapy world to come together and say that we support a dedicated and cost-effective radiotherapy virtual meeting for the UK and internationally. You can email on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to do this but it won’t work without your support.
Pic: We need you!
I hope you like the 365 Live format and so feel free to email with feedback and questions anytime to email@example.com. The forum is updated daily with new clinical and product information, new companies and organisations and new jobs and events as they come online and so please come back again soon. There are now chatbots on each stand and on key pages to help you use the site. Each key page has a Q and A section for comment and reply at the bottom and so please use these facilities to get the most from the forum.
How to take part in RadPro 365 Live
There are essentially 7 main ways that you can take part and share information as follows;
1) You can submit clinical posters and papers, student dissertations and other clinical, product or research information in PDF format for the Poster and Paper Zone, share these with colleagues using social media and add and share comments, feedback and ask questions. Please send the PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org for uploading.
2) You can submit clinical power-point based presentations for the Presentation Zone in PPT format, share these with colleagues using social media, add and share comments, feedback and ask questions Please send the PPT to email@example.com for uploading.
3) You can submit clinical, product based or any radiotherapy videos from your company, organisation or hospital for the RadPro YouTube channel, please send only the weblink to firstname.lastname@example.org for uploading.
4) You can submit Webinars in MP4 format and recorded Podcasts to the Webinar and PodCast zone or send us any Youtube weblinks. You can also send us dates and registration information for your upcoming virtual presentations and meetings. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
5) Virtual Exhibition
There is also a fully interactive virtual exhibition where companies, organisations and hospitals display the latest information on their products and services while showcasing their organisation.
We will send you a simple template to create your own virtual booth in minutes if you wish to participate
Just click on the individual booths to read more on their regularly updated hot topics such as Press Releases, new Products and Services, Career Opportunities and Videos among many other areas of interest. The links will change frequently and so please return again as soon as possible!
RadPro will also regularly interview partner companies, organisations and radiotherapy professionals and present these in the PodCast zone. If you have some important product or service news, clinical feedback that you would like to “discuss” with our readers, please let us know!
There is also a Starbucks Coffee Zone where vouchers for Starbucks coffee can be won to be enjoyed as you participate. If you email the word Coffee to Jo@radpro.org.uk you could win a voucher up to a value of £25 to enjoy while on RadPro 365 Live.
6) Social Media
We promote your twitter and facebook feeds to all our users.
We will be looking to run a series of “TweetChats” through the year with our readers and so please email Jo@radpro.org.uk with any potential #Subjects for this that you would like to see us feature and that you want to participate in or perhaps be a “guest speaker”.
7) Education and Recruitment
Lastly, we have kept our popular Education and Recruitment sections to upload your upcoming events, courses, meetings and any career and job opportunities you may have or wish to advertise. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or to share with us some suggestions or feedback. We look forward to hearing from you.
Duncan Hynd – July 2019