By Brenda Rinehart, MBA, CRA, FAHRA
March 2013—Washington State has been hosting quarterly meetings since November 2010. Since that time we have graduated from local area meetings to hosting regional meetings with our partners in Oregon. We just completed our second successful AHRA Northwest Regional Meeting on January 31, 2013 in Olympia, Washington.
The primary difference between our local meetings and regional meetings is attendance and duration. Generally we see almost double the attendance at our regional meetings, and we schedule them for half day sessions due to the travel involved between states. Because we have been successful with many AHRA local and regional meetings, our group is often asked what it takes to put on a great meeting.
First Things First
The first thing needed for a great meeting is a core group of people who are willing to take on the challenge! We have been fortunate to have a strong core group here of 3-7 people who work together to make the meetings successful.
The second thing is strong vendor support. Again, we have been fortunate to have several vendors that have been willing to assist us by purchasing booth space, which pays for the food, door prizes, and speaker honorariums. We generally schedule 2-5 vendor booth spaces at each session, depending on our identified need for funds. At our last session on January 31, 2013, we were honored to have Hitachi Medical Systems, Core Medical Imaging, and Toshiba Medical Systems generously sponsor our meeting.
At our last meeting, we had presentations on “The Role of Radiology in The Healthcare Continuum” by Ingrid Lund from the Advisory Board, “Tomosynthesis/Slot Beam and Pediatrics” by Robert Irvine of Core Medical Imaging, and “Restoring Healthcare Imaging after the Disasters in Haiti” by Dr. William Crenshaw. We have found that teaching hospitals, vendors, and universities can be excellent sources to find speakers for these events.
This is where networking comes in. Whenever we host an event, we ask for volunteers to host the next event. We generally get a few a responses from people we can call on for a great location. In our experience, hospitals and college campuses are the easiest and least expensive options. Each site comes with a set of rules that must be followed, and occasionally we have elected to not use a site because of the sites restrictions. Having a few to choose from can make the set-up a lot easier. When a site is chosen, we ask for directional signage and instructions for parking to post on the website.
For our local meetings in the evening, we just order dinner or hot appetizers and beverages for the time before the sessions begin. For our half-day meetings we order food for lunch and snacks for breaks, beverages, and coffee service for late morning meetings. In addition to the food and drinks served between the sessions, we set aside time at the end of the event to network with colleagues over food and cocktails. This is a relaxing time that ends the meeting on a high note.
Door Prizes and Other Niceties
Door prizes are optional but our group really appreciates them. We try to raffle 3-4 door prizes through drawings held between sessions. This sprinkles in some fun. We have had speaker gifts in the past for speakers that are volunteering their time, as well as gifts for those hosting the event. The Washington group has a section on the AHRA website for posting information that our core group can access, such as information for upcoming meetings or hand-outs from prior sessions.
Planning for the Next Event
It has been our experience that it is best to gauge the interest of the group for the next meeting location during the current session and not to plan meetings too close together since it can result in lower attendance. If there is enough interest in a location we will start to put the program together and gauge interest again a month or so later, before we commit to catering, etc. Gaining the support of the vendors early is key to having everything go smoothly. There is a form to fill out for the AHRA, and the support received from the group is tremendous.
It is my sincere hope that everyone sees the value in the local meetings. The things we can learn from our colleagues are priceless, especially in a rapidly changing time like this one. Local meetings build our networking opportunities and have a positive impact on AHRA membership.
Brenda Rinehart, MBA, CRA, FAHRA is the regional director of imaging services at Confluence Health System in Wenatchee, WA. She can be reached at email@example.com.