Almost 400 dental office managers will be converging upon Nashville, TN for the 7th annual American Academy of Dental Office Managers Conference this September. Dentists from across the country are sponsoring these office managers and business support staff to meet and talk with over 70 exhibitors over 3 days. So, how does a dental office manager make the most of this conference to bring back value to her practice?
There are 4 steps to make the most of a dental conference:
- Follow up
Step 1: Preparation
Before you leave for the conference, take some quiet time to write up the biggest challenges you’re facing in your practice. Maybe it’s recall rate or case acceptance or hiring – write up specific questions and concerns that you will ask both exhibitors and other attendees. Ask your dentist for his thoughts on the biggest challenges he would like to improve – and include these topics as well. If you keep statistics for your practice, write down some of your numbers – this will be a great opportunity to do some benchmarking when you meet office managers from across the country who may be willing to share their numbers as well. Look through the www.dentalmanagers.com website and check out the exhibitor list – print this list and write out questions you have for specific vendors.
Gather plenty of your business cards, a blank notebook for notes and a folder with your practice challenges and exhibitor list and notes. Another great way to make the most of your conference time is to focus on your dental practice management software – think about the steps you take to manage insurance, present treatment plans, update health histories, etc. Write down any questions or problems you’re having, ask if there are faster or easier ways to accomplish your regular tasks and always ask the software rep to show you the newest features.
Step 2: Arrival
Once you arrive at the conference, pick up your welcome packet as soon as you can. Be sure that you get a copy of the attendee list – look for anyone you might know or others from your state. Keep this list with you so you can add notes to remind yourself of the people you meet – and then easily get in touch after the conference. Check for schedule changes, event tickets and start times for the days (they often change each morning).
You will also get a current copy of the exhibitors, show specials and speaker notes and biographies. Sit down with your preparation materials and put your notes in order to match the exhibitor list, so you know what you want to ask each vendor.
Step 3: Attend
Always attend the opening speaker – they are the top billed, highest paid and usually the most well-known and will set the tone for the conference. Check the agenda for any classes you will attend and look for the open times. During the open time, don’t go back to your hotel room! Start at one end of the exhibitor hall and visit each and every booth – have your folder with practice challenges available and if you think the topic matches the vendor, then ask the vendor for their ideas on your particular challenge. If you don’t see a match, then just ask the vendor to either tell you a little about how their products would help your practice – or ask what’s new? Now, get out your notebook and take notes – company name at the top & then what you’re learning, pricing, sales, new ideas, etc. Even if this seems like a product/service you’re not interested in, it’s nice to find out what is being offered – and remember, your dentist isn’t there – the better notes you take, the more value he receives in sending you!
By the end of your conference, you should have several pages of notes from talking with each and every vendor. When you run into your dental practice management software company booth, here’s where you pull out your specific software questions. Or, just ask them to show you what’s new (there’s always something). Usually major conventions have trainers (I know Dentrix trainers are always at the ADA and ODA) and this is a great opportunity for no charge to ask the trainer to show you how they would do a certain process on the software. For example, ask the trainer to show you how they would find out unfilled hours or how they would treatment plan and sequence an STM series – perhaps there is a new way with their latest upgrade that’s faster than what you’ve been using?
Networking at the conference is also a worthwhile activity. Be sure to stay on topic – don’t waste your time chatting about celebrity gossip when you have the opportunity to start conversations about dental office management – when is the last time you found people actually interested and experienced in what you do every day? Trade business cards, talk about the challenges your facing and ask others how they’re handling them. Ask for comparables – how much unfilled time do they have in their schedule? How much did they invest in their website? This is another great way to use your folder of practice challenges, just to see what other dental practices are doing. If you find real value in a conversation, then exchange business cards and email each other later on. Again, take notes for your dentist about the other practice, so he can see how your practice compares to others as well.
Step 4: Follow Up
You made it home! Most likely worn out from the trip and now you’re a few days behind at work. Join the club. Give yourself a couple days to catch up on the important charts, etc. but then sit down in some quiet time and gather all your notes, business cards, and materials from the conference – now you’re going to create a report for your dentist so he can see what you learned.
To create this report, label the conference with date and then start with #1 – write the vendor name and a description of what you learned and how it might apply to the practice. Continue with #2, etc. until you have covered every vendor, networking contact and speaker at the conference. After this list, create a new section for “Ideas I want to implement” – perhaps you talked with a vendor that you think could really help your practice to gain more new patients, this is the place to write down exactly what you want to do – call the vendor, invite the rep to come in and meet with the dentist, get comparative pricing, etc. This section is gold for the dentist – the more ideas you are ready to implement as a result of attending this conference, the better opportunity to measure practice success. If the dentist can measurably observe improvement thanks to your attending a conference, then you’re most likely earning the opportunity to go to another conference in the future.