The 2021 WHPRMS conference in Milwaukee looked a little different than we imagined during the giddy post-vaccination planning months of late spring and early summer. But with masks and physical distancing, we were able to pull off a fabulous slate of speakers and educational sessions with some absolutely amazing idea-sharing and content. I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to offer conference attendees the chance to view recordings of all of the breakout sessions in the coming week, as well as offer the option to register to view these sessions on-demand, for those who couldn’t join us in Milwaukee.
While I wrote pages of notes and to-do lists from this year’s sessions, there are a couple of nontraditional insights from the conference that I’m sharing in the hope that you can relate and reflect, too.
I need to stop compulsive multi-tasking on Zoom calls.
After 18 months of online-learning and professional development as the rule, the in-person presentations had me completely mesmerized. Don’t get me wrong, the proliferation of virtual conferences and uptick in webinars since the beginning of the pandemic have afforded me networking and learning opportunities beyond what my time (or travel budget) have ever supported in the past. On the flip side, nearly two years of video meetings has turned me into a hopeless multitasker. The pull of the inbox is too strong … the siren song of three screens on my desk is too powerful. The temptation to side-task is too great. The result? I’m half-paying attention to everything while feeling 100 percent focused on nothing. Science says this is no surprise: according to the Cleveland Clinic, multitasking can actually hinder your performance. “Studies show that when our brain is constantly switching gears to bounce back and forth between tasks – especially when those tasks are complex and require our active attention – we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake,” according to the article.So, what did a few days of an interruption-free forum teach me? Being bound to a solo screen every once in a while might not be such a bad thing. I need to be more vigilant about focusing on the meeting at hand and unplugging from other channels in order to re-gain the rich experiences of in-person meetings in the virtual and hybrid world we’re living in. In fairness to those I’m meeting with and also in fairness to myself.
Personal connections help fill the gaps.
As a marketer wearing many, many hats, do you ever feel like a jack of all trades, master of none? What I’ve learned … and was reminded of by seeing WHPRMS contacts I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for many years and meeting new people for the very first time … is that it’s the connections we keep that help get us through. Struggling to navigate the latest google algorithm change? Been told to conduct a series of focus groups with a 60-day turnaround? Need to order 900 mini lightsabers for an employee giveaway? These “how the heck” moments we all experience are the times in our jobs that we rely on the people we’ve met along the way to share ideas, suggest solutions and get the darn thing done. I’m so fortunate to have met so many smart, innovative and truly kind people through WHPRMS that I’ve collaborated with many times—and look forward to seeing year after year.
It’s been a tough run since the start of the COVID pandemic, but we’re resilient and hold on to hope.
During the annual meeting presentation at the conference, I conducted a real-time check-in, asking WHPRMS members what words they would use to describe their job since the pandemic began. Members scanned a QR code that enabled them to type in words that instantly popped up on the screen. The larger the word, the more times people used it to describe their experience. While it’s clear that some themes like “change,” “challenges,” and “stress” rose to the top, there were also some really inspiring answers like “character-building,” “teamwork,” and “innovation.” I especially loved the answer “essential,” because healthcare marketing and public relations aren’t typically thought of as “essential workers,” but no one can dispute that the work we do matters. Every once in a while, or perhaps every fall, we just need to take a few days, reconnect with our peers, and remind ourselves of that.
2021 WHPRMS President
Director of marketing & communications at Agrace