If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve been to a hospice trade show. I mean, they are a no-brainer, right?

Trade shows have been around for a long time and there is no doubt that when they first emerged, they were consistently providing value to both the attendee and the vendors involved. But have times changed? Has technology changed the value that trade shows provide to vendors and attendees?

I think we all would agree that, historically speaking, trade shows have been awesome for both vendors and attendees, but lately we have found ourselves continually asking the question:

“Are trade shows still worth it?”

It really is an excellent question. This article answers this question by first covering the following:

The Intention of a Hospice Trade Show

The intention of a hospice trade show is to create a centralized environment for hospice organizations and hospice vendors to network, learn, and win new business. In theory, the concept of a trade show is bullet proof. You gather all the hospices within a specific region to attend an event where they can learn about upcoming changes and connect with other hospices in the region. You have the exhibitors pay for the entire shebang because you are putting them face to face with potential customers. The hospice attendees will walk around and talk to all the various hospice vendors to learn about all the different products and services that exist in the hospice industry. The hospice vendors are happy because they get to promote their new products, services, and overall message of their company to hospice organizations.

I mean, how often do you get to shake hands with the owner of a hospice and tell them about all the new and innovative things that your company is launching? Hospice trade shows were built with the best of intentions, but no matter the intentions, there are always unintended consequences. 

Has the Internet Changed the Value of Trade Shows?

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Imagine a world without the internet. Without emails.

Before the internet, the only way to learn was to go to the library, college, or trade shows. The only way to network was to go the the annual state trade show and meet all the hospice organizations and their staff. As a hospice vendor, the only way to get the word out about your company was by physically visiting the hospice, snail mail, land-line phone calls, and, you guessed it, trade shows! Going to a trade show takes the cake compared to all the other options.

Before the internet, the answer to our question was quite an easy one,

“Yes! Of course trade shows are worth it!”

But what about now? We are connected instantly with people all over the world. Just a click away.

We have emails. We can fly from coast to coast all in the same business day.

Not only has technological advancement helped hospice vendors sell their products and services; it has also helped hospice organizations take the process of shopping for vendors to a whole new level. Instead of waiting for the annual state show to meet all the various hospice vendors, a hospice can simply use Google to shop for what they are needing.

Seriously. Talk about evolution. Years have passed, society continues to advance, and trade shows remain relevant within the hospice industry.

But why? Are they even worth attending these days?

The Hype and the Truth

Have you ever ordered a product with great reviews on Amazon only for it to turn out to be the worst product ever?

The reviews were not accurate, the pictures of the product were not even close, and the description was also a lie! Just because everyone is raving about something doesn’t mean it is worth buying.

Trade shows can sometimes leave you feeling the same way. All your contacts and colleagues are head over heels about the upcoming trade show, yet, you’re sitting at your desk wondering if you’re the only one thinking it’s all just a massive waste of time.

The blind leading the blind.

Just because everyone is going to something doesn’t mean it is worth attending.

May I propose that the expectations and reality of hospice trade shows have been and will continue to deviate?

The Expectations vs Reality of Trade Shows for Hospice Attendees

Expectation: Go to several seminars to hear doctors and hospice executives speak about topics that earn you CEU’s.

Reality: Listen to several seminars of people who have no business doing public speaking and earn CEUs. Plan to fall asleep at least once.  

Expectation: Expect to talk to several hospice vendors and learn about companies you never knew existed. 

Reality: Awkwardly avoid conversation and eye contact from all of the exhibitors as they try and lure you into their booth space. 

Expectation: Expect to have a great time and enjoy time outside of the office with your hospice team. 

Reality: You actually have a great time and grow closer to your hospice team. 

Expectation: Expect to meet new people and learn more about how other hospices are coping with all of the new regulations. 

Reality: Meet very few new people and have surface level conversations with them. (this is partly because most hospice organizations attend in groups of 3 or more people. When you attend a trade show with a group of 3 people, you don’t feel the need to branch out. By nature you will stick with the people you know and are comfortable with. 

The Expectations vs Reality of Trade Shows for Hospice Vendors

Expectation: Expect to meet with several hospice executives and hospice owners. 

Reality: Meet several hospice nurses who have no idea what vendor they use at their own hospice. 

Expectation: Expect to have great conversations with everyone that walks by your booth. 

Reality: Give hundreds of  branded items away to hospice nurses like it’s Halloween and the nurses are trick-or-treating. (And awkwardly tell other exhibitors that they can’t have any of your giveaways). 

Expectation: Expect to learn more about your competitors and what new services they are offering. 

Reality: Have cordial conversation with competitors and talk about everything other than hospice services. 

Expectation: Expect to generate new leads and hospices that are looking for a solution that you provide. 

Reality: Email all of the people you had great conversations with and never get a reply. I mean NEVER. Perpetual radio silence. 

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Reasons Why Hospices Attend Trade Shows

  • Because all the other hospices are attending (this is known as The Crowd Theory).

  • Because they earn Continued Education Units (CEU’s) at these trade shows.

  • Because it gets you out of the daily grind for a few days. 

  • Because they want to hear a specific speaker talk about a specific topic. 

  • Because they enjoy the atmosphere and being around other people within the hospice industry.

  • Because it can be written off as a business expense (and yes, no matter what you might think, ALL hospices are businesses).

  • Because they want to reward members of their staff with a trip. 

  • To have meetings with the hospice vendors that they do business with. 

  • To learn about upcoming changes in regulatory compliance and reimbursement rates. 

  • Because they have gone in year’s past. 

  • Because they enjoy seeing all the different hospice exhibitors and hearing all the different services and products that are available to them. 

  • Because it can be a team building experience to spend time with colleagues.

Reasons Why Vendors Attend Trade Shows

  • Because they want to acquire new customers. 

  • Because they want to stay relevant within the hospice industry

  • Because they want to promote new products and services of which they are proud.

  • Because they enjoy traveling and getting to know other hospice vendors in the community. 

  • Because they can learn more about what their competitors are up to. 

  • Because they can take their current clients out to lunch or dinner. 

  • Because it is a great opportunity to put their company in front of hospice executives and owners. 

  • Because it is a habit. They have always done it. Why stop now?

The True Cost to Attend for Hospices

Attending a state show is much less expensive than attending a national show. This is because the cost of airfare and hotel rooms are significant. We have created an easy way for anyone to calculate how much it actually costs to attend a hospice trade show. Now keep in mind that our formula doesn’t take into account the value a hospice organization receives after attending; And that is exactly how we want it. We want to simply provide you with the cost alone. This will allow you to decide for yourself whether or not it is worth attending a hospice trade show. See a physical number just might make you reconsider going or not. 

You have to put in a value for each field for this calculator to work.

Number of Attendees
Conference Length (days)
Hotel Cost per Night
Air Fare
Average Salary of Attendees
Registration Fee per Attendee

Prefer to do the math yourself?

Total Cost = (# of Attendees) * ((Conference Length * Hotel Cost Per Night) + (Air Fare) + ((Average Salary of Attendees/2080) * (8 * Conference Length)) + (Registration Fee per Attendee))

8 = work hours in a day

2080 = unit for converting salary into “hourly” wage

Time Cost = ((Average Salary / 2080) * (8 * Conference Length))

The True Cost to Attend for Vendors

Hospice vendors typically pay more than a hospice attendee to attend a trade show. This is especially true if the hospice vendor wants to purchase booth space to be an exhibitor at the conference. The number you generate from our formula will only reflect the cost. It does not take into account any of the potential value that a hospice vendor could gain from attending. For example, it might cost $9,000 to attend a 3 day hospice trade show. But what if the hospice vendor/exhibitor were to gain a new customer at the same trade show? The number our formula gives you is only intended to allow hospice vendors to make better decisions about a trade show being worth attending or not. 

Are Hospice Trade Shows Still Worth It?

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing I hate more than when I read an article that concludes with the author not taking sides, or providing an answer to their own question, or any sort of opinion on the subject of their article. This is not one of those articles.

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For Hospices: Yes, attending a trade show IS worth it (queue the gasping).

For Vendors: No, attending a trade show IS NOT worth it (queue the gasping again). 

I have provided my opinion and answer to the question of whether or not hospice trade shows are worth attending. For Hospice Organizations, I do believe they are worth it. Considering the cost required to attend, CEU's earned, and overall experience of being with colleagues in an environment of all things hospice, my advice is to keep going or get yourself signed up if you haven’t been. Keeping up to date on rules and regulations is just one of the many reasons why it is worth attending as a hospice organization. 

For vendors, I believe they are not worth attending. Considering the high cost required to attend and purchase booth space make it a relatively easy decision. If the hospice attendees that go to these trade shows were owners and executives, I would have a different answer. However, the fact is, nurses and boots-on-the-ground hospice employees are the ones attending these hospice conferences because they are the ones that need to learn and earn CEUs to satisfy their licenses. 

Disclosure: This article was not written or intended to promote or demote trade shows, conferences, or events related to hospice. My only intention was to answer the question honestly. I do hope this article helps your hospice organization or vendor company make a better decision on what shows to attend and what shows to skip!

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Jordan Evans

Director of Business Development at Palliative Drug Care

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