How to decide which medical tourism conference is best

 

International medical tourism and medical travel conferences, exhibitions and workshops are promoted as way of helping you to build knowledge and enhance your international network.   However, are most of these events really adding value for their delegates’ businesses?  After attending many such events either as a delegate or as a speaker, I’ve come to realise that only a small number really deliver what they promise. Here’s how I choose whether to attend or not:

Is this actually an “international” event?

I’ve seen a lot of organisers promoting “international events”, by simply rebadging a local event as an international event.  The reality is that the conference usually takes place in the local language, the majority (near to 100%) of the delegates are locals and there are no networking opportunities at all with foreign professionals or buyers. In most cases, the quality of promotion of these events outside of the host country is poor.  Just ask yourself “how can these organisers believably support foreign buyers or patients if they can’t even communicate effectively in an ‘international’ language, or run a conference to international standards?”

Is it really a “medical travel” event?

Many organisers still confuse medical travel events with medical conferences, which is why I look at the amount of clinical content on the agenda.  While the fine detail of open heart surgery or a breast augmentation is acceptable for medical conference participants, delegates at medical travel events are often not interested in this level of clinical information (let alone seeing all the pictures!).  Attendees interested in medical tourism are not just clinicians; they include business managers, agents and politicians and have a diverse content interest.

A knowledge tank or just a promotional opportunity?

Another big failure during international medical travel events is when organisers don’t set strict expectations with their sponsors.  I’m wary of the number of presentations by sponsors because I find that when sponsors take over, the delegates lose out.   A classic example is a presentation from, say, a local hospital group, that doesn’t include any useful knowledge on lessons learnt or the detail of a successful medical tourism case study.   Instead, it’s one long self-promotion which assumes all delegates are potential buyers for their business.

Are agendas and speakers visible before you buy?

For some medical tourism events I’ve looked at, there is a promise of “exceptional speakers and content”, but unfortunately nobody can see the speaker names or further detail unless they buy the pass. The reason for keeping this hidden is simple: the organiser hasn’t worked it out yet. Serious international event organisers develop their agendas well in advance; key speakers are clearly visible to prospective delegates in advance, so buyers can make an informed decision on whether they attend.

Will I learn something new?

I’m very cautious about medical tourism events organised by commercial event companies.  Running a successful event for this sector requires industry expertise and a strong network of international contacts.  I’ve seen non-specialist organisers openly plagiarise (and in one recent case, literally copy and paste) agendas from other medical travel conferences and present this content as ‘new’.

Having worked in this industry for many years, I’ve also seen the rise of ‘parasite’ events.  Commercial organisations, looking to profit from a well-respected high-profile conference, arrange their own event for the sector just beforehand.   They might even promote their event using similar pictures, delegate packages and content wording, to persuade someone new to the sector to attend their conference instead.  Again, agendas may be hidden or speaker details are sparse.  Buyer beware.

What does your pass buy?

I find that organisers offer expensive passes for VIP “invitation only” events.   Tempting though this may be… that you’ll get access to something important (although often there’s not much information as to why it’s so exclusive), this is often a ruse to just subsidise the event.  You may get into an impressive venue and location but it’s likely a large cut of your pass price will remain with the organiser, who will be using it to offer discount or free passes to others to desperately bump up numbers.

In other cases, I’ve seen commercial organisers (often those mentioned above who simply plagiarise content) hike the price of the pass but then minimise costs by hosting only a small number of speakers, with no extras offered. I went to a one-day event recently, with just five speakers and not even a glass of wine at the end!

Save your money and get real value

So, a few final pointers that will help save your money and time and let you get value from participation in a medical travel event:

  • Check the event history. Is there a history behind it, how many years has it been running, or is it just an ‘event attempt’?
  • Check out the organiser. Are they medical travel specialists or event organisers just ‘passing by the neighbourhood’?  Someone dealing with engineering conferences one day simply doesn’t have the knowledge or the contacts to run a successful medical travel event the next.
  • See if everything is transparent. You should have a clear idea of the agenda, key speakers and all other opportunities surrounding the event.
  • Read ratings and reviews.  If the organiser has made sure that no reviews have been posted publicly, this might be something to worry about.

Visit IMTJ Events for a listing of the medical travel events taking place in the next few months.

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