Trick Or Treat

A manifesto on hospice conferences.

Hospice conferences are funny places.

And there are TONS of different opinions about the usefulness of them.

Whether you ask attendees or vendors, you’ll most likely get similar differences in opinion.

The opinions usually sound something like:

“I come to NHPCO every year and LOVE it!”

“I have no idea why we keep coming to this show…”

“We came this year because we are looking for a new EMR software!”

“Well, we came last year but these conferences just keep getting worse and worse!”

It’s a mixed bag.

Much like the candy your kids come home with after trick or treating through a few neighborhoods.

P.S. If you aren’t looking through the “Homemade” items in your kids Halloween bags, then you might want to start. #SmartParenting

Let’s just say not all homemade cookies are made the same. #QualityControl

But I digress.

As someone who is fairly new to the whole experience of a hospice conference, I can’t help but draw a parallel between Halloween night and the exhibition days.

When the clock strikes 7:00 PM, in comes a mass of people with empty bags soon to be stuffed with fliers, candy, and swag.

Don’t believe me?

Well, you’ve either been in the game for too long, or you’re living in denial.

The place is an adult’s only, high-stakes trick or treat festival.

Only difference is there are cheesecake, cookie, and coffee stands everywhere which act as jet fuel stations for all parties involved.

Have you ever poured gasoline on a fire?

You’re still with me?

My hat is off to you, but if you’ve made it this far, I’d recommend pushing through. I’m only getting warmed up here. And trust me, just like fine wine, this article gets better with time. So drink up!


The other thing you should probably know is “Trick or Treat” doesn’t exactly fly at a hospice conference.

Sure, given the desperate state of most hospice exhibitors, you’d probably be greeted with a smile and even given some extra candy, but we are better than that people!

We are better than that.

On the other hand, “Hi, what does your company do!?” is a much more appropriate translation of “Trick or treat”.

Now, not all trick or treaters are the same.

We all know those kids that are decked out in the full green dragon jumpsuit and therefore feel they can get away with the infamous Silent Snag.

Silent Snag! Did he just say “Silent Snag!”

Yes, yes I did.

I thought it was common courtesy to never and I mean NEVER talk about the Silent Snag?

Well, I like to break the rules every once in a while. So sue me. Anyway, back to the point.

Surely no one would try to pull off a Silent Snag at a hospice conference!

Oh friends, if only this were true. But the sad, humble truth is we have some Silent Snaggers among our hospice community.

Do they know that we know?

I honestly don’t know. I’m afraid to break the news, so I usually just watch in awe. It’s like seeing a unicorn. You don’t call it out. You don’t say anything to the person standing next to you. You just watch with awe. Jaw dropped.

The Silent Snag practitioner is truly an expert at their craft.

You see, they are the rule breakers of the game.

For a holiday that really comprises of little to no rules, it seems borderline absurd that someone would knowingly break the only rule of trick or treating.

The game of trick or treating is simple enough to explain to a child and then they can safely(ish) navigate the murky waters of Halloween night.

If you’ve forgotten the common courtesy of trick or treating, here’s the rules for reference:

  1. Wear a costume

  2. Find a house

  3. Ring doorbell

  4. Say, “Trick or treat” when the door opens

  5. Wait patiently while stranger administers candy into your bag, barrel, backpack of choice

  6. Say, “Thank You!” (Optional)

  7. Walk next-door

  8. Repeat Step 2

A child on a good slow carb diet could sustain this loop for almost an indefinite amount of time, barring any restrictive parents not wanting to have enough candy to feed a small colony for weeks at a time.

Compare Halloween with Christmas and I think we can all agree the rules of Halloween are much, much simpler.


I’m glad you asked.

  • No spending limits.

  • No elaborate Secret Santa strategies

  • No “What in the world do I buy for Aunt Lorraine?”

  • No “Does this sweater make me look fat?”

  • No “Babe, that’s way too much eggnog, you remember what happened last year?”

Spoiler alert - he doesn’t remember what happened last year.


Come on Susan, stay with us here.

Halloween has its faults just like any other holiday, but at least it’s a simple one.

Seth, what in the world is the Silent Snag? Why are you dragging this explanation on?

It’s not an intentional run around my friends, and I do apologize for the delay. I know you are sitting on the edge of your seat.

The Silent Snag is best explained by describing its two methods.

The two ways you could observe this phenomenon in the wild.

One of which is bold.

The other is downright crazy.

Silent Snag Practitioner #1 - The Piggy Backer

The Piggy Backer is a Silent Snag practitioner who sticks with an equally sugar incentivized, but more vocal trick or treating partner. You’ll know the Piggy Backer because they will be completely silent during the candy retrieval process.

They completely skip Step 4 people.

They just skip it.

They literally do not say anything.

No “Trick or treat!”

No “Hi, what does your company do?”

Not even a simple “Hi!”


Just in case you needed a visual.

Just in case you needed a visual.

Crazy right?

Wrong. It gets worse.

Which brings us to Silent Practitioner #2.

Silent Practitioner #2 - The Phantom

The true master of the craft won’t even piggy back off of a colleague’s verbal “Trick or treat.”

The true Silent Snag practitioner (Or Phantom as we like to call them) will approach your booth, smile and make eye contact (only if you’re lucky), take a pen, a few pieces of Snickers and maybe a Baby Ruth if they’re really feelin’ frisky, then, without even reaching a complete stop, swoop by your booth and move on.

Not a word is said.

And you (The vendor) are left standing there asking yourself what the heck just happened.


I mean, you start to wonder if you’re literally losing your mind and starting to see things.

Vendors out there, can I get an “AMEN!?”

This situation is awkward for everyone involved.

You (The vendor) just wanted to have a conversation with someone. Heck, it’s your job.

You (The attendee) just wanted to get a little sugar buzz before the next mind numbing lecture.

You don’t want a new EMR nor do you want a new PBM, heck, you probably aren’t even the decision maker!

Going to a conference and shopping for a new vendor is like going to your neighborhood Blockbuster and renting a few DVDs to watch tonight.

It just doesn’t happen anymore people.

RIP Blockbuster.


Anyway, and so you now have heard my case for why hospice trade shows are really just adult, high-stakes trick or treat conventions.

Some final thoughts…

This article is going to upset some people. I recognize that.

This article is going to (hopefully) make some people laugh really hard. I also recognize that.

This article is going to be 5 minutes of your life that you are never going to get back. Yep, that’s a reality too.


But one thing this article is not, is wrong.

It’s a dog and pony show people.

Say “Trick or treat.”

Get your candy.

And let’s keep this capsized boat of trade shows afloat for another year so the vendors can keep getting some days out of the office and the attendees can keep hanging out with friends and living it up for a few days.

Heck, I’ll drink to that.


Seth Lewandowski

Project Director and Editor of SONO It All