Venues will do well to understand needs of healthcare event clients: industry players

PRESSURED event budgets and funding for medical society events, along with stricter requirements on compliance with pharmaceutical codes that impact meetings, are some of the key challenges facing healthcare event owners and planners today, found a quick poll conducted with attendees of the Healthcare Meetings Forum Asia last Friday.

In such a climate, venues will fare well if they “spoke the language” of healthcare event clients, said Mark Handforth, founding director of UK-based Compliant Venues, which assesses venues to support them in meeting the needs of healthcare meetings and provides skills-based training to help venues be “appropriate and truthful”.

“Marketing of venues is quite linear, covering many sectors and event types. However, the healthcare sector is very specific and sometimes the marketing messages may be misleading for this market. We help venues and their staff understand that, which will in turn give them greater confidence in interacting with domestic and international healthcare event clients,” Handforth said.

Explaining the meaning of “appropriate language”, Handforth said: “A hotel or venue’s operation personnel or salesperson will not just be talking to healthcare event clients about F&B, they will have to be ready to discuss their capability to support transparency reporting and event compliance (to pharmaceutical codes).”

“Many hotels and convention centres want a piece of the (healthcare events business), but if the director of sales, for example, lacks the right language of this sector, he or she can very quickly be pushed aside by a client who needs to work with an educated partner.”

Compliant Venues publishes online independent reviews of venues that are worded with healthcare event clients in mind. Clients may then use the information to “speed up their venue decision-making process”.

Currently the company only reviews venues in Europe, although there are plans to expand its reach to Asia.

While Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre does not yet carry such accreditation, its CEO, Arun Madhok, said the venue is already seeing much success with medical and healthcare meetings and events.

Suntec Singapore has a dedicated sales team familiar with regulations affecting such business functions, a specialisation that Madhok believes has benefited the venue.

Madhok said: “Today, although medical and healthcare events represent 30 per cent of the key events we’ve hosted, we still see significant growth opportunities in this area. We are regarded as the venue of choice in Singapore for medical and healthcare events and they form a key part of our business strategy.”

Understanding the legal and budget constraints faced by medical and healthcare associations and companies is important, opined Madhok, who said his team “not only comprehends a large portion of the pharmaceutical codes but also offers solutions to help reduce event costs for healthcare event clients”.

Examples of options include flexible function spaces that allow clients to hire less space and bento lunch boxes which are convenient for “time-strapped doctors who often need to eat while watching a presentation”.

Madhok favours the idea of being accredited as a healthcare event compliant venue by “preferred third-party partners”.

Meanwhile, Handforth is also keen to support education programmes in Asia to improve awareness and understanding of pharmaceutical codes that impact events, among corporate event planners, venue owners and event agencies.

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