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HTN @ HLTH'22 - Reflections on Value of the Conference from HTN Community Members

December 12, 2022
Topic Analyses

After attending HLTH, there were a number of questions popping up in the HTN slack around value that folks got from investing in the conference. Our hypothesis, based on conversations while at the conference and after, was there would be a pretty big divide between those who found value and those who did not. So, we wanted to test that hypothesis and, in doing so, try to help arm HTNers with a bit more information to help inform your investment strategy in conferences like this going forward.

A few things to note here:

  • We received ~40 responses from community members – while not a large n particularly considering ~8,500 people attended (according to HLTH), we still think it’s helpful data
  • This is not meant to be an in-depth analysis with a lengthy narrative but rather some tangible, straight (and not massaged) data – take from it what you will
  • If folks appreciate this, we’ll try to make it more of a standard process. So let us know what you think and any feedback/suggestions you have going forward.

Respondent Demos

We had a mix of folks across different company stages and types, with a slightly high concentration of earlier stage companies.

Value across Company Stages and Goals

If you’re questioning attending next year, the vast majority of the survey respondents either found, or anticipate finding, the investment to be worth it AND plan to attend next year investing either the same amount or more.

Initial reactions probably aren’t too far off from reality and nearly 90% anticipate getting value out of the conference…

…but given the time lag to be able to assess ROI, we’ll use the question of whether folks plan to attend next year as the proxy for value as we look at different cuts of the data.

While the majority of the group saw value, when you look across different cohorts, goals and investment types, you start to see some indication of where the value is more and less consistent.

There was more variation in early-stage and bootstrapped companies as they evaluate attendance strategy for next year. Obviously, this is particularly important given these types of companies presumably must be more judicious with their funds (not that later stage companies shouldn’t, but might not need to be).

Given the variation within the early-stage group, it’s not surprising to see that the goals companies had coming in that struggled the most were around finding investors and general learning.

It is important to note though that respondents made different types of investments in HLTH to judge ROI against and it seems like the biggest question mark in value was for those participating as a sponsor and showing up to Vegas without a ticket to the conference.

Obviously, those that participated as a HLTH Sponsor invested more from a dollar perspective...

...but it seems those that landed on the extremes of spend (low and high) were the ones that questioned the value the most. 

When we look specifically at the perceived effectiveness of the HLTH sponsored investments (n of 12 that made these investments), the Hosted Buyer program and HLTH Reception investments had less ambiguity whereas the other programs were more of a mixed bag. 

Again, though, it’s important to recognize that most of that ambiguity came from the earlier stage companies. In general, it seems as though the Pre-Seed to Seed stage companies should be more judicious about how much they are investing in conference sponsorship given the mixed perspectives on effectiveness.

Lastly, when asking companies if they thought their core buyers were in attendance, there was a mix of “yay” and “nay” particularly for Care Delivery and Infrastructure/Enablement companies.  

What really matters with that question, though, is how those companies are defining their buyers. If you are an investor targeting startup founders or selling to digital care delivery companies, you were in luck. Every other buyer group was a flip of a coin or less, which matches what we heard anecdotally. 

Obviously there seems to be some  dissonance between  just over 50% of the respondents thinking their “buyers” were present, yet at the same time nearly 90% believe the investment was worth it and 80% plan to invest the same or more attending next year. It highlights the importance of understanding your organizational goals in attending HLTH (or any conference) and defining success. If your goals are lead gen, general networking, and/or awareness and presuming the idea is to do that with customers – we’d suggest really thinking about who your customers are and the use of funds here. But if you’re networking with peers, looking for complementary partnerships, and/or searching for investors, that may be a different story.

Lastly, we thought the comments below (bucketed around two types of responses) were quite helpful in terms of recommendations people have for others about HLTH, so we thought we’d include them below unedited:

Question: If you were to give one recommendation to others about HLTH, what would it be?

Get a schedule together ahead of time

  • Find a way to get access to the attendee list and have all of your meetings set before you arrive
  • Assume there are people attending beyond those registered - esp senior leadership from partners and prospects. Also, plan logistics in advance. 
  • Prepare before, and plan some breaks
  • As a seed stage founder: don't buy a ticket, just fly over and meet people outside of the conference (eg HH or book meetings)    If it's your first time going to a conference, don't go for a booth and try to get meetings booked without a booth first (and see the impact).
  • While it's annoying, cold outreach works if you do it targeted (aka not a blast to ALL HLTH attendees, that's just stupid but a targeted outreach to companies you want to sell to... 15 well crafted, personalized emails >>> 10,000 emails all the same)
  • Sign up for every event to preserve optionality  Don't go to sessions, walk the floor and set up meeting
  • wear comfortable shoes and go to the happy hours
  • Don't overschedule. 
  • Really spend time before the conference defining goals, going through the attendees, planning out engagement strategies, and doing simple things like assigning stand times for team members, planning outreach to specific target companies, identifying happy hour networking opportunities, etc.
  • Schedule time to meet new folks well-in-advance of the conference. Set aside an entire day or 3-4 hour block to just peruse the conference. If it is your first time, do your best to schedule meetings in advance through the application, but don't worry if you are spending more time introducing yourself the first time around.
  • Plan ahead, there are just too many people and event to enjoy in such a short time.
  • Network as much as possible and reach out to others to book meetings on your calendar.   Even if those customers aren't your customers today, maintaining the relationships by seeing someone from that company at the conference makes a lasting impact.  You can still be scrappy and be effective. Use existing tools or marketing materials (flyers, business cards) as collateral if needed.

What it’s good (and not good) for:

  • It's good for i) partnerships with other digital health companies ii) brand awareness iii) understanding what others are doing in the space. It's not useful if you want to sell to health systems or pharma companies
  • Do not rely on Funding Founders to generate meaningful discussions with investors.  
  • If you’re not going to invest in networking and sitting down with customers/booths for active product discussions, it may not be worth the investment. Many of the talks/panels/content was unsubstantial and “safe”
  • Hosted Buyer meetings = worth it.  Booth = not worth it.
  • Not sure it is worth it for early stage companies. It is a complete zoo so need to be well prepared with meetings set before. Hard to do if you are just getting started with your company. 
  • Lots of glitz and show, not much content, lots of old guard padding themselves on the back.
  • Good conference to network with peers. Didn't see a lot of providers represented at the conference.
  • Don’t sponsor it and don’t expect many customers.
  • This is primarily a VC and vendor conference. Where the hell were the providers/buyers? It's only worth it to network.

Huge thanks to both the folks who helped draft the survey and to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey! As always, let us know if you have any feedback / questions.