An invitation to an incredible event or convention arrives in your inbox, and you start to feel those little fizzy bubbles of excitement washing over you as you read through the details. They’ve promised to bring that business guru you’ve always admired to a panel, the location looks like a dream, and you’re already trying to guess what’s inside of the mysterious goodie bags they’ve sufficiently bribed you with. Visions of life-changing conversations with fellow conference-goers and bump-ins with big-name guests are already swirling around in your head, and at this point you’ve justified the hefty price tag that’ll ensure all the above is yours for the taking.
And then you arrive.
The food is lackluster, the panels offer the same old tripe you’ve heard a million times over, and you’re surround by attendees feigning smiles while the crushing regret of spending time and money to be there overwhelms every fiber of their being. But hey, at least that goodie bag sitting on your hotel bed includes some delicious caramel corn you can devour once you get through this next speaker. There’s even chocolate drizzle on it!
The $$$ Event Industry
According to the Convention Industry Council’s “Economic Significance Study of Meetings in the U.S. Economy,” roughly 225 million people spent over $550 million on corporate, not-for-profit, and association-sponsored events, conventions and trade shows in 2012. It’s important to note that this data comes from a time when the economy was still on unstable ground, and when budgets weren’t exactly robust. The study also marked a 10% increase in event attendances from 2009, and it’s safe to assume the participation number keeps rising.
Of course, a percentage of these events leave attendees feeling at least sated, if not invigorated. But there’s no denying that many fail to deliver on overinflated promises and rob you of precious time and money.
Mary Thorne, based in the pacific northwest, recently attended a ~$500 marketing conference that was paid for on behalf of her employer. Though she didn’t feel the sting associated with paying for the event herself, she was still underwhelmed and lost precious time that could have been spent on something more productive.
“They had pretty high brow speakers, and there were more than a couple that were bummers because they were almost out of touch with reality,” she explains. For example, “marketing execs from Microsoft talking about how great bots are,” or big-name company panelists discussing topics and ideas that “were either above my head or were rooted in affluence.”
Thorne says that even though there were positive aspects of the event, she still left feeling frustrated. And she’s not alone.
Travel writer Karon Warren attended one of the industry’s biggest conventions a couple years ago – covering admission, lodging and food on her own dime – and was appalled at how poorly planned and unprofessional it was from start to end.
“It was disorganized, the sessions I attended did not reflect the session description in the program, and the speed dating was a mess,” she explains.
She added that the overall vibe of the event felt more like a “party scene” than a professional conference, which further added to her frustration. She even took the time to discuss the above issues with the organizer, but with no success.
Event Planners – You Can Do Better
“With the occasional exception, my mood in conferences usually swings between boredom, despair and rage,” writes Duncan Green in a rant posted to his blog, and then later at The Guardian. As the primary conference offenders, he cites “self-aggrandizing keynotes and coma-inducing panels, followed by people (usually men) asking ‘questions’ that are really comments, and usually not on topic” and “the chairs who abdicate responsibility and let all the speakers over-run, so that the only genuinely productive bit of the day (networking at coffee breaks and lunch) gets squeezed.”
Bottom line: If people are laying out tons of cash and forfeiting their time, make their investment worth it.
For starters, go beyond the clichés – “we should empower women!” “Bots are great!” – and feature a diverse range of keynotes and panelists who offer groundbreaking, genuinely compelling information in their field of expertise. Will it be easy to find these people and pull the good stuff out of them? No. Will your efforts be worthwhile for participants? Absolutely.
Also, don’t lock attendees in a stuffy conference room and subject them to a nauseating festival of dry Powerpoints. Mix up the format with well-planned speed pitching and interactive events, and carve out plenty of time for collaborating and networking.
On that same note, long doesn’t equal better. The average attention span of humans in 2015 was 8.25 seconds, and while you’re not going to accomplish anything of significance in that period of time, you can at least be mindful of the fact that people don’t do well sitting and listening for extended periods of time. Keep the panels interesting and informative, but also make sure they’re not unnecessarily longwinded.
The moral of the story here is not that events, conventions and conferences are bad. Contrarily, it’s that they have the potential to be outstanding. So event planners, if you’re going to bait attendees, at least vow to put something really delicious on the end of that hook.
With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.
For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.
Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."
There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."
“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"
Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.
How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.
So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."
To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."
These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.
A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.
To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."
How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.
Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."