Caitlin Kinney

the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

To young professionals (like myself), networking can be a somewhat daunting venture. So when asked to attend my first tradeshow, SHSMD (Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development) Connections in Chicago, I was a bit apprehensive. After all, a tradeshow is much more than standing in a booth and passing out flyers (as I quickly discovered), it is at its core, days of networking. You have to be “on” at all times. You have to represent your company in the best way possible for days on end. No breaks. And the funny thing is that I thought I knew what I was signing up for. But my experience was so much more than what I anticipated. It was the ultimate learning experience.

Above all, I learned firsthand that tradeshow marketing can be one of the most effective forms of marketing, if you do it right. If you do it wrong, it can be a colossal waste of time, money and opportunity. SHSMD brought us face-to-face with hundreds (1,700 to be exact) of people in the healthcare marketing world, many of which could be potential clients. And in order to say our time in Chicago was well spent, we had to make connections, and quickly! We wanted people who passed by our booth to remember us and, more importantly, our brand. That was the primary objective. So, I marched into the convention center flanked by Una Newman and Bill Swanston, two of the best in the business, networking pros with the ability to create real connections and turn them into relationships lasting for years. Game on.

Additionally, the conference brought together healthcare professionals from around the country, as only SHSMD could do. This allowed us to not only connect to thought leaders in the industry but also connect to a refined pool of knowledge, touching anything from best practices to new ideas. And with the healthcare environment changing more swiftly and more dramatically than ever before, this conference could not have come at a better time. Lectures, workshops and peer networking events covered the gamut of the healthcare industry, including, but not limited to, the latest trends and innovations in marketing, planning, communications and PR, business development, and physician strategy.

I left Chicago drained, but in the best way. What I experienced can only be described as educationally intense. But, I also left SHSMD Connections grateful for the new community into which I was adopted. Because as a marketer watching the healthcare industry enter uncharted waters, SHSMD and its members are the best strategic resources out there.

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