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4 Mistakes Conference Goers Make

Hospital Management, Leadership Skills

By Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, Communication Solutions for Veterinarians

You earned continuing-education credits, shopped the exhibit hall, met new friends, and reconnected with classmates while attending conferences. Now you’re back to the daily grind. Your investment of the registration fee, travel, meals, and time away from your practice could be costly if you make these four post-conference mistakes.

1. Filing and forgetting conference notes

You picked up new medical knowledge, efficiency ideas, and revenue growth strategies at the event. Without implementation, these gems are worthless. Before you leave the conference, dedicate 20 minutes in the quiet of your hotel room or on your return flight to write the top three ideas you will implement when you return to your practice.

When determining goals, ask these questions to prioritize which choices will have the greatest impact on your practice:

  • How will this idea improve client experiences?
  • How will this idea enhance employee productivity and job satisfaction?
  • How will this idea improve patient care?
  • How will this idea increase hospital revenue?

Let’s say you attended my session on how to use technicians as physician assistants. If you follow my advice on shifting up to 20% of appointments from veterinarians to technicians, you will increase appointment availability, which makes clients happy. Technicians will work at the top of their licenses and skillsets, which makes employees happy. Delivering more technician appointments will improve patient care and generate revenue, which makes practice owners and managers happy. All four criteria are in sync, so this goal is a winner.

Michael Hyatt, founder and chairman of Full Focus and bestselling author, advises to make your goals SMARTER:[1]

  • Specific: Identify exactly what you want to accomplish.
  • Measurable: Quantify the result so you know whether you hit the goal.
  • Actionable: Start with action verbs of “increase,” “grow,” or “improve” instead of dreamy to-be verbs of “be” or “have.” A weak goal is “Be better at recommending early detection screens,” while a strong goal is “Increase compliance for early detection screens by 20%.”
  • Risky: A goal should make you stretch to the edge of your comfort zone but not be impossible. You’re not thinking big enough if you want to increase compliance 5%.
  • Time-keyed: Assign a date to every goal. A goal without a deadline is just a dream. Your goal would be to “increase compliance for early detection screens by 20% by June 30.”
  • Exciting: You need to be excited about achieving the goal. Otherwise, you won’t have the motivation necessary to keep pursuing the goal when you encounter unexpected challenges.
  • Relevant: Goals should be aligned with your practice and personal values and other goals. As a hospital manager, don’t aim to earn your certified veterinary practice manager credential and get a master’s degree in business administration the same year. It’s too much, and you risk failing at both. Do one or the other.

When writing goals, Hyatt advises to review them regularly. He does this weekly. Ask, “What’s the next step I need to take to move toward this goal?” When you review goals, they should inspire you to populate your daily task list with action steps.

2. not following up with new connections

You sat next to a hospital manager in a session about onboarding new hires. During the break, you talked about your phase-training checklists, exchanged business cards, and promised to email each other. Six months later, you discover a handful of business cards buried in the bottom of your backpack. You sort through the cards but don’t remember which manager had the awesome onboarding checklist you desired.

Write notes on business cards about your conversations and follow-up actions. At the end of each day, put a note on your calendar or digital planner with a reminder to follow up on a specific date. Send follow-up emails when most conference goers will have been back at work for two days. Your email should include who you are, what you discussed at the convention, and suggest next steps such as setting up a meeting, connecting with a colleague, or buying a service or product.

If your follow-up conversation merits a call or virtual meeting, book a date and time with your colleague before leaving the conference. Let’s say you’re a practice owner and meet an associate veterinarian candidate during seminars. Grab dinner together at the conference or schedule a post-event video call for a job interview. Because many practices are hiring, quality prospects may get snatched up quickly.

3. missing deadlines on show specials

You’ve been yearning for another dental unit and find the equipment you want in the exhibit hall. Better yet, a show special offers exceptional savings. You tuck the flyer inside your backpack and head down the next aisle of vendor booths. When you return to work, you discover that you missed the deadline and will now pay full price. 

Be decisive at the conference. If you’ve got the funds and tingle with excitement over the equipment purchase, buy it today in the exhibit hall. If you need to check with your accountant or corporate practice office, send an email today with the information and upcoming deadline. Purposefully deciding before the deadline will let you enjoy savings and delight your team when you return and explain, “I bought a new dental unit at the conference, and it will arrive Friday!”

4. Not sharing what you learned

You’re the practice owner and have four associate veterinarians. You attended sessions on internal medicine and orthopedic techniques and are excited to use your new knowledge. Besides benefiting patients, this know-how could help your associates. Schedule a doctors’ meeting to discuss your favorite pearls. Upload conference proceedings along with your notes on a shared drive or practice server where other doctors, technicians, and assistants can study the information, too. 

If doctors decide to update a protocol or introduce a new service based on what they learned at conferences, schedule a staff meeting to discuss details with employees. Explain the “why” behind the protocol change, share a written standard operating procedure, and create scripts of what to tell clients. Getting everyone on the same page before you roll out a new service or protocol will ensure its success. Whether you attended sessions on medicine, management, or client service, knowledge gained needs to be shared. 

Your practice invests thousands every time a doctor, manager, or support staff member attends a conference. Set aside time to write goals and engage your team in understanding and implementing ideas. Your strategic approach will pay rich dividends on continuing education.

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About the Author: Best known as the “Queen of Scripts,” Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, has taught communication and client service skills for more than two decades. As founder of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians, she teaches practical skills through online courses, onsite coaching, and conferences. Wendy was a partner in an AAHA-accredited specialty and emergency practice. Visit CsvetsCourses.com and YouTube.com/csvets to learn more.

Reference:

1. Hyatt M. The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting. Available at: https://fullfocus.co/goal-setting/. Accessed Jan. 8, 2024.