A strong professional community makes for an appealing—and invaluable—meeting destination.
Content is king, especially for professional meetings. Despite the increasing desire for novel experiences and non-traditional venues, attendees’ first consideration when deciding to attend a meeting is the quality of the educational content—they go to learn new information and improve skills, according to the The Experiences Institute’s Decision to Attend Study.
Sherrie Schulte is vice president of education for the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), an association for professionals involved in the development, management, and use of safe and effective health technology. Its annual meeting—the AAMI Exchange—is the gold standard in education for medical devices. “Our attendees come for the educational content,” Schulte said. “The industry is constantly changing so we have to provide education that keeps up.”
One of the organizations’ top priorities was finding a meeting destination that with a strong medical community. In 2019, the AAMI held its meeting in Cleveland, home to the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, the MetroHealth System, and biomedical organizations such as BioEnterprise. “The strength of the city’s medical community is a draw for our attendees,” Schulte said. “We’ve passed on cities that didn’t have a medical community that we could draw speakers, presenters and attendees from.”
The 2019 meeting featured more than 130 speakers in 80 sessions across 10 educational tracks over three days. “The number of presentations we’re doing every year is expanding,” Schulte said. Many of the meeting’s speakers were local to Cleveland, including the keynote Dr. Toby Cosgrove, former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, who spoke to AAMI CEO Robert Jensen in a fireside chat styled Q&A that closed out the conference. It was a new format for AAMI, and attendees reported that they wanted to see more of it with high caliber speakers like Cosgrove.
“It was an awesome presentation,” Schulte says. “The relationships we cultivated in Cleveland made it possible. We’d been trying to get Dr. Cosgrove to speak at a meeting for years, but it was a challenge. Here, he didn’t have to travel to talk to us.”
The strength of the local professional community allowed AAMI to try another new format—a Shark Tank-style pitch competition for companies working in artificial intelligence and deep machine learning in the healthcare space. BioEnterprise supplied the judges and five organizations pitched. AAMI CEO Jensen was so impressed by the quality of the pitches, he doubled the prize money. MediView AR, an augmented reality company based in Cleveland, won the competition and $10,000. “The city made it possible for us to bring in high-level speakers and new offerings for attendees.”
The city also made the 2,500-attendee meeting feel big in other ways, with welcome signs at the airport and down the road into downtown. “They made us feel welcome,” Schulte says. “The attendees loved it.”
The meeting’s official end was a reception at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “We usually have 500 attendees at the final reception. At the Hall, we had 900 attendees,” Schulte said. We packed the place. It was a really good experience.”
To learn more about Cleveland, visit www.thisiscleveland.com/meetings.