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10 Tips to Make SABCS a Profitable Conference

by TODD HARTLEY, on Nov 17, 2014 9:30:00 PM


Each year 7,500 physicians and researchers from over 90 countries converge on San Antonio, Texas for the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

It’s fitting that experts in the fight against breast cancer meet here in such a colorful and resilient community that for centuries has overcome battle after battle.

So that’s where I’ll be December 9 – 13, 2014 to learn, listen and report on the newest developments in medical research, improved treatments and reasons to hope that we will one day conquer the disease.

If you’re attending as well, here are a few tips I’ve learned about how to get the most out of the experience while making it a profitable investment for your organization.

Tip #1: Best Networking Happy Hour Spot

SABCS takes place alongside the San Antonio Riverwalk and inside the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Just steps from the entrance is Bar Rojo in the Grand Hyatt San Antonio. This casually upscale lounge is the closest place to grab a cocktail, so it can get pretty raucous during Happy Hour. But, without a doubt, the “who’s who” from SABCS will be here, unwinding over a few Rojo specialty cocktails and pretty decent appetizers.

With camaraderie this thick, you can make great, new contacts by just being friendly and outgoing. Take plenty of business cards and go introduce yourself to some fascinating people who share your commitment to the cause.

This favorite of conventioneers jams until 8:30pm everyday but stays open until 1am, so if you’re missing someone in your party, check Bar Rojo before calling the San Antonio Police Department (210) 207-6000.


Tip #2: Best Quiet Place At The Conference

It’s not always easy to find a quiet place during the conference to hold a quick meeting or bang-out some work the office is waiting on.

The first floor of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center houses the exhibit hall. Just above the exhibit hall, on the second floor there are a series of quiet, low-traffic areas where you can easily grab tables and chairs.

The fastest way to access this area is to walk to the back of the exhibit hall and ask an attendant where the press room is. (Conference attendants are easy to find. If history is a guide, they will be wearing black sport coats with pink breast cancer scarves around their necks.)

They will send you up the escalator to the second level. The chairs here are very comfortable, located near lots of power outlets and most even have a college-like table top that swings up into a desk.

I’m usually in this area filming video interviews. If you see me sprinting by like Usain Bolt (the fastest man in the world), help me out and hand me a Gatorade.

Tip #3: Best Way to Amplify Positive New Research/Trial Data

If your company has new data coming out at SABCS, here’s the best way to educate your target groups:

Create a Powerpoint presentation that explains what the new data means. If understanding the information would also be valuable to the public (patients and support groups), create a simplified version of your presentation. Then, schedule a video recording session with one of your opinion leaders talking through the slides.

The video(s) will be very valuable for educating your target audiences because people process information on video 60,000x faster than text and we’ve all become far too lazy to read a full study.

In post-production, have the expert’s video paired up with their slides. When the video(s) is finished, post it on your website and email it to your target groups.

Generally, our clients send the medical version to their sales reps around the world, people who visited their booth, the investor relations team and office staff. The “patient” version can be emailed to your friends at the patient support groups and nurse navigators to share with their communities.

Also, bear in mind that for the patient version, the lighter the branding, the higher the chances are that it will actually be shared with patients.

If the authors of the study are connected with large institutions, send their PR and marketing teams the videos, so they can also promote the study within their circles.

On a personal note, I run a patient awareness website called BreastCancerAnswers.com. If your patient video would be valuable to our 700,000+ social followers, send an email to our program manager, Christina Romero (christina@wirebuzz.com). She’ll make sure our Medical Director has an opportunity to vet it for future posting consideration.

Tip #4: Best Place To Wine & Dine Clients

Each night from 7-10pm the conference seems to wind down, but what’s really happening is attendees wining and dining all around the Riverwalk. And there’s something for every taste and budget.

mi-tierra-cafe-bakery-300x225 An old favorite located in the historic Market Square, Mi Tierra Cafe is a 24-hour eatery as well known for its sabroso Mexican cuisine as their strolling Mariachi musicians.

Established in 1941, it’s been dishing up family favorites to hometown regulars and curious tourists everyday (literally, they never close!) for over 60 years.

Have a hankering for menudo, chilaquiles or barbacoa? This is the place to go.

And go hungry. Very hungry.

You’ll find Mi Tierra at 218 Produce Row, San Antonio, (210) 225-1262


On the other end of the restaurant spectrum is Biga on the Banks, San Antonio’s premiere contemporary/regional fine dining restaurant.  This chic establishment is run by James Beard Award Nominee Chef Bruce Auden and it’s my favorite place to impress guests, especially if they’re foodies.

The menu is absolutely memorable. To that point, I’ve had their Tempura shrimp with chili lime glass noodles, the Mustard Crusted Texas Lamb Rack, onion rings the size of Krispy Kreme donuts and some damn-good Sticky Toffee Pudding.

If Biga’s your choice, make your reservation in advance. And, even though Biga is walking distance from the convention center, plan on meeting your clients in their hotel lobby, then cab it. Your client’s feet will thank you later (and so will their stomach).

Location: Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s Street, San Antonio, (210) 225-0722



Tip #5: Best Way To Own The SABCS Social Media Conversation

Attendees at conferences still aren’t using online resources effectively, which means you have a golden opportunity to own the social media conversation. It’s really not that hard.

Even better, you can extend that conversation outside the halls of the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center walls, reaching out to anyone following the conference discussions online!

A few smart moves will ensure that your social posts get lots of views:

  • Set up your accounts before the conference so you’re ready to post immediately, grabbing the social voice by being first to report on the event
  • Add a social media savvy member to your conference marketing team
  • Add someone skilled at cranking out really good videos, which will triple your social shares and improve the comprehension of your content

Always keep in mind that helpful is the new viral, and design your content to be informative rather than marketing hype-driven.

Throughout each day, share your new videos on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+. Send out a daily email blast to your database. And, don’t forget to use the hashtag #SABCS, so your posts can easily be found by other attendees.

Big Picture: The window of opportunity for dominating the SABCS social media conversation won’t be open forever. In a couple of years, everyone at SABCS will be posting on social channels. But today, it’s still the domain of early innovators who are savvy enough to influence the conversation on social media.

Carpe Diem Y’all! That’s Cowboy Latin for “seize the day.”

Tip #6: Best Place To Grab A Power-Breakfast or Lunch

The main entrance to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center is at street level, one level below the Riverwalk level. Here is where you’ll find Ruth’s Chris Steak House (just inside the Grand Hyatt San Antonio, just one floor below Bar Rojo).

Besides Perk’s Coffee in the Hyatt lobby, this is the only place in the Hyatt that serves breakfast.

Ruth’s Chris caters to the brisk conference crowds by being fast, close and open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Last year, I had four meals over three days there. I’m stuck on their Eggs Fertel (named after founder Ruth Fertel) with Happy Jack’s Crawfish Sausage. I’m not sure who Happy Jack is, but he’s a positive influence on the meal.

With SABCS drawing such a large crowd, plan on eating lunch before 11:30am or after 1:30pm to avoid the rush.If there’s a wait, just walk past the bar to a long seat-yourself community table, which is perfect for a fast refuel meeting.

If you need a quick snack while waiting for your food, crush a basket of their free homemade cajun potato chips.

There are two Ruth’s Chris in San Antonio. The one closest to the conference is Ruth’s Chris Steak House River Walk, 600 E. Market Street, San Antonio, (210) 224-1234.

Tip #7: Best Post-Conference Client Follow-Up Strategy

Most marketers spend 95% of their effort on pre-conference strategies, even though 100% of their return on investment will come from post-conference follow-up.  Just as in golf, consistent follow-through has a huge impact on your final score.

Here’s what I do to maximize my time at SABCS:

  • Start building your SABCS contact database right away. Whether using a badge scanner or collecting business cards, make sure to grab email addresses
  • Organize and categorize your contact list daily. You think you’ll remember some important detail later, but trust me, you won’t. Make note of any product interests or commitments you make, like scheduling a phone call or sending them your latest research
  • By using video, you can expect more people to open your emails and share them with colleagues. That’s a game changer!

Great videos from the event can enhance your post-conference marketing credibility, increase your client’s understanding of your product’s benefits, and maximize your marketing efficiency.

Tip #8: Best Way To Get The Media To Write About Your News Story

I’ve been a member of the media for a long time, and know a thing or two about how this game is successfully played.

If you have important, newsworthy data that you want the media to cover at SABCS, start engaging members of the media before you leave for San Antonio. Media relationships are very helpful.

To find out which media representatives will be attending, contact the SABCS Media Relations Team at (215) 446-7155. They might email you a list, which is a huge help. Either way, it can’t hurt to ask.

If you can’t get a list, do a Google search on which reporters attended last year, then send them a quick “Are you coming to SABCS?” email without any marketing materials or hype. For those who are attending, ask for a quick in-person introduction in San Antonio.

Create a solid press release that highlights the importance of your announcement. Including a human interest angle will improve its chances of getting picked up, because while the medical community talks about science, the media writes about people. Humanizing your announcement makes it easier for the reporter and improves your story’s chances of going “to print.”

Make sure to bring 100 paper copies of your press release to the conference. Also include a black Sharpie, highlighter, and a sheet of heavy stock white paper. Use these to make a tent-style sign that says  “Experts On Location Available For Interviews.” Include your cell phone number and use a highlighter to make your number easy to find.

On the second floor of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, right above the exhibit hall, is the Press Room. First thing each morning, bring 25 fresh press releases to the Press Room and place them on the table with your “Experts Available” sign.

Surprisingly, there are usually only 3-4 press releases on that table each day. The easier you make it for the reporters to do their job, the more stories you’ll get written.

Be sure to prepare talking points in advance. This helps keep your experts on-message. Then, make yourself available to quickly and easily connect with reporters.

When news about your company gets published, promote it on social media, email it to your key stakeholders and don’t forget to thank the reporters. They may be back next year!

Tip #9: Best Private Dining Room For Closing Deals!

If you’re planning to host a private business meal, once again Ruth’s Chris Steak House on the Riverwalk is the place to go. Their private dining rooms are ideal for meetings or special events, and they’re available for breakfast, lunch or dinner for groups of 10-200 guests.

For small groups of 12 or less, request either the Duke Room or the Fertel Room. Both are classy, with large square dining tables that draw everyone into the discussion.

If I had a choice between the two, I’d pick the Duke Room, simply for the view.

Two notes, from experience:

First, when dining at Ruth’s Chris, don’t touch the plates. Even though the waiter will tell you the plates just came out of a 500’ oven, everybody ignores the warning and pulls their plate closer. Don’t do that.

Second, lift up your napkin over your shirt and tie, so the sizzling butter on the plate doesn’t splatter across your shirt.

Make sure your guest knows there are two Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses in town.  The one at the conference is Ruth’s Chris Steak House Riverwalk, 600 E. Market Street, San Antonio (210) 224-1234

Tip #10: Best Last-Minute SABCS Marketing Tactic

At this year’s ASCO – Chicago conference, Genentech did something brilliant. They created a video about their role in treating breast cancer and, using YouTube’s TrueView ad service, successfully targeted every YouTube viewer in the vicinity of the conference who was watching breast cancer-related videos. This method is a very targeted way to influence your ideal customers.


The best part is that Genentech was only charged when people watched at least 30 seconds!

So, if someone only watched 5 or 28 seconds, the ad was 100% free! For roughly 11-15 cents per 30-second view, Genentech got their video message strategically placed in front of ASCO attendees for a very inexpensive price.

You could easily do the same thing at SABCS.

BONUS TIP: Best Way to Build Thought Leadership In Your Industry

To establish thought leadership in your industry, blog.

Yes, I said “blog.”

First, strategically select the sessions you plan to attend based on your area of expertise. During each presentation, jot down the most relevant information. Then, write an introduction at the top and a quick summary paragraph at the end.

Finally, Post the “live blog article” about that session on your website.

To amplify your results, you can also create a quick summary video for each article and embed it in the post.

The reason for that is people retain 68% of the information from a video they watch, but only 11% of what they read. So using video ensures that people understand and remember your important points.

And because articles with video get more engagement and links, using video increases the likelihood that your article will appear on the first page of Google.

Simple steps such as these can result in your posts being recognized as a source of emerging, important information.


I’ve had the privilege of attending SABCS for several years and each conference is more rewarding than the last. It’s not because of the business WireBuzz does there, but the relationships that have been built on a common cause: curing breast cancer.

Attend ready to meet remarkable people, to contribute your skills to the community of cancer care and to be humbled by the tremendous work going on around the globe.



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