Arranging a healthcare conference is one of the tougher tasks for any event manager. Occasions of this ilk are always governed by a series of regulations but add the NHS into the reckoning and this increases tenfold.
Essential reading comes in the form of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s code of conduct and more specifically its clause 19.
Sure enough, the ABPI sets the ground rules for what is and what is not acceptable in any gathering of medical minds. Be in no doubt that flouting the rules will bring your conference into disrepute.
One of the primary focuses of this document is location and the suitability of any venue. On review it becomes difficult to justify hotels as a viable option.
At a headline level any meeting point must be conducive to the event itself. So what exactly does that stipulate? In short, that no obvious distractions can be present; ‘learning over leisure’ is a mantra to work by.
Distractions are though rife in the majority of leisure hotels – and understandably so. Everywhere from the Hilton to the ibis is geared towards the customer experience.
A stayover may involve time at a spa, swimming pool, beauty salon, theatre, golf course, arcade or similar in-house facility. Such choice is only amplified if the venue mooted is somewhere famous like Sun City in South Africa. And despite providing light relief to tourists the very presence of the aforementioned threaten the legitimacy of a healthcare conference.
Undeniable is the lure of 18 holes, which may just prove stronger than that of a debate on new medicine; and therein lies the problem, extra-curricular activities spark a loss in focus.
Workarounds can be sought, including the cordoning-off of certain parts of the operation. Seldom though will a hotelier be willing to prioritise the needs of a select few over those of the paying public. This is where Lane End come into their own; they have been designed for business conferences and training specifically and do not accommodate leisure bookings at all.
A purpose built venue, Lane End offers a functional space for meetings and conferences. Moreover its design is unique, guaranteeing that all important privacy and exclusivity in equal measure.
Hotels synonymous with entertainment are best avoided altogether as they certainly blur lines. An absolute no-go would be the Las Vegas Hilton for instance, despite Elvis leaving the building. Remember also that companies and hotels cannot sponsor or organise any form of entertainment during your stay.
An oft forgotten drawback of hotels is the sheer lack of privacy that come with them. Lobbies are packed full of those checking in, those checking out and those simply loitering as they await their next excursion. Anyone slated to attend a healthcare conference is likely to get caught in the midst, making for a confusing start to their day.
Elsewhere the cost of any conference is something tightly regulated. A sizable deficit is something atop of news agendas, with the NHS seeking to plug a hole some £1billion deep. Extravagant outlays for seminars, workshops, study days and the like then would be ill-judged.
Such debt rules out a good number of hotels. Indeed the best chains charge top dollar for the hiring of meeting rooms, while those lower down on the pay structure fall someway short of the standards required. Happy mediums meanwhile are few and far between.
Those arranging healthcare conferences should never scrimp on quality but must be on the lookout for good deals. The £378m spent on such events last year is likely unsustainable.
Budgets - and the controlling of them - extend to what the ABPI refer to as sustenance. Any hospitality afforded for a healthcare conference cannot exceed a level at which an attendee would reasonably be expected to pay themselves. An allowance of under £30 is typically advised.
Significantly no handouts are permitted for spouse nor partners. A hotel – with the obvious presence of accommodation and attractions – heightens the unpopularity of such a ruling. Nonetheless no payment can be given to doctors or other prescribers for the rental of rooms around the time of a conference. Not only that but no compromise can be thrashed out either – even charitable donations are outlawed.
To save confusion, it best to avoid the scenario altogether.
Hotels provide somewhat of a one size fits all offering. That is to say they host generic conferences and may not boast equipment particular to the needs of a healthcare equivalent.
Sadly the inclusion of Wi-Fi, overhead projectors, microphones, widescreen monitors and appropriate lighting is by no means a given. In fact the chances all of the above will be included within a set price are extremely low. That being the case, emphasis will then shift to event organisers to hire additional resources from third parties, at extra expense.
The rooms themselves may also fall below expectations. Hotels doubling up as conference facilities are likely to put said rooms to use elsewhere – namely for weddings, corporate dinners and the like. As a result the décor – though aesthetically pleasing – may not lend itself to a meeting of medical professionals. Suitability is something better realised at a venue specialising in conferences solely.
The latter will also be able to provide breakout areas a hotel cannot guarantee. Conferences as involved as healthcare ones necessitate regular intervals, whereby attendees can mingle, catch-up on e-mails or seek refreshment.
A dedicated conference centre will likely offer an adjoining room for those very purposes. A hotel, by contrast, may very well have an entirely separate conference taking place right next door. This is far from ideal and undermines any argument seeking to justify leisure hotels.
Parking is often an afterthought when it comes to the organisation of a healthcare conference but it can create all manner of problems for those in attendance, particularly when directed to a hotel.
Bays are likely to be taken up by everyday guests which threatens the likelihood of securing a space. As highlighted earlier in this article, expecting hotels to prioritise your requirements is unrealistic – which means you run the risk of leaving attendees dissatisfied.
A safer option would be to host your event somewhere like Lane End, where parking comes as part of the overall package.
In conclusion, hotels serve a purpose – and a very good one at that. Dedicated conference facilities however serve their own function – one better suited to healthcare events. Going with the latter will ensure you not only satisfy attendees but those running the rule over such occasions.
If you would like to know more about Lane End Conferences’ facilities or think we might be able to help your organisation with hosting a healthcare or pharmaceutical event, please get in touch or call us on 01494 881 171.