Welcome to Veterinary Events and CE in 2021 and Beyond - Episode 3, Featuring Viticus CEO Andrea Davis
Welcome back to another episode of Webinar Wednesdays. I'm your host David Hall, one of the co-founders here at GeniusVets, And this season we are talking about a great topic, the return to veterinary events, veterinary events in 2021, and beyond. Over the past year as everyone knows, the event industry has been hit as hard as any industry on the planet with the shutdown, the lockdowns, and so much pivoting, going to virtual and introducing an entirely new type of event to the veterinary industry.
But with vaccinations, moving forward, and us looking like a return to in-person events is on the horizon, we're really excited to be speaking this season with the CEOs of the biggest event companies in the veterinary industry. Today we have joining us our guest Andrea Davis, the chief executive officer of Viticus Group. Andrea holds a bachelor of science degree in Healthcare Administration from Oregon State, a master's in public administration from UNLB, and she received her Lean Six Sigma Green and Black Belts in 2016.
Andrea graduated from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Advanced Leadership Program in December 2019. She also is active with the American College of Healthcare Executives and has a strong interest in mentoring future leaders. Before becoming the CEO at Viticus Group, Andrea worked in the Southern Nevada healthcare community for the past 20 years. She spent more than 10 years working within hospital business development and executive-level roles. During her time in hospital leadership, Andrea held positions that include COO at Desert Springs Hospital, CEO at Healthsouth Desert Canyon Rehab Hospital, and SVP of Operations and Ethics and compliance officer at Southern Hills Hospital.
Andrea also spent several years in pharmaceutical biotech sales and managed care before stepping into your role as CEO of Viticus Group. I mean, wow. An incredible assent to the very top of the most influential organizations in the veterinarian industry, and I know you're incredibly busy. So thank you so much, Andrea, for taking some time out of your busy schedule to meet with us today.
And thank goodness because we've had a year of it not looking so bright. So I know we're all really, really looking forward to getting back to it. And speaking of this past year with the lockdowns, the social distancing, just so many challenges that most people alive today have never dealt with before, I know I certainly haven't, I'd be really interested to know, as you had probably most people had more time to spend with themselves than they typically had pre-pandemic. What's something interesting that you've learned about yourself over the past year?
I think I've learned a lot, but I think the thing that's probably the most important and really helped from an organizational perspective is just having a great deal of resiliency. There were a lot of challenging times, a lot of unknowns. We all face the same thing, but keeping things positive and staying resilient, I guess I knew I had it in me, but not as much as I did. So I would say that.
That is, I mean, it's certainly something that's been tested, and you learn a ton about yourself when getting tested like this. One thing I love to ask CEOs in particular, CEOs are just known as being people that are constantly self-improving, personal and professional development, diving in, and really striving for the next thing. There's a certain responsibility looking on behalf of your whole organization, everyone that you employ, but also everybody in the industry that counts on your organization for so many things. In light of that, what are some ways that you improved yourself over the past year?
I think that one thing really comes to mind is improving communication. So when the whole pandemic started and there were so many unknowns, we decided as a leadership group, and this was something that I really put out there, is that we're going to focus on being as transparent and honest about everything we know to the entire team from day one. So everyone was in the loop, and we were all on the same page. From that, I started doing these regular weekly updates of, this is what's happening in the CDC, the health district, whatnot.
It kind of turned into a permanent thing where every single week I give updates, and now it's not as much on what's happening in that type of setting. But it's more about what's happening in our organization, all the good things, all the changes, all the updates. So I think really improving communication is something that came from this that has been very helpful, not just for myself, but for the team so they're in the know.
Why don't we start with a broad overview of all the different offerings just to make sure our audience has the full picture?
Sure. So Viticus Group, we are... It's so exciting to talk about it, and this is where I get very passionate. So in a nutshell, when people say, "What is Viticus Group?" So we are the largest animal and human hands-on training and continuing education organization in the world. One of our facets is WVC, our annual conference, which I am super excited to talk about. But I'll wait. That's one facet, and that's what people very much recognize us as is WVC.
We also have the year-round academy where we are constantly providing hands-on training to the veterinary industry. Almost daily, we have groups and really ever since the end of the summer that are learning different skills, different education. So that's our year-round academy. We also have, I mentioned human health. We have an entire human health division, and we have two campuses. We have a total of 140,000 square feet of medical meeting and hands-on, wet lab surgical space training for people to come in and get those skills during the year-round academy.
When you were a guest on the show in our first season...it was fascinating to learn about all that you had been doing pre-COVID to lean into your in-person facilities. Then, but all of a sudden with COVID, obviously massive pivot as everybody's gone through, I mean, businesses in every industry. So many people that maybe had wanted to work from home, but their companies wouldn't let them because, "How do you even manage people if they're working from home? We don't know, and it's too much change. Now everybody was forced into it, forced to adapt to it, and as the event companies forced to pivot to this new virtual model, and being the largest provider of CE, I know that you had to do a lot of pivoting to online CE. So over the past year, how has your organization leaned into online CE?
Sure. I'll start off by just mentioning what our organization looks like in terms of where people are working from. So we have about half the organization... Because I mentioned the two campuses where people have continued to come in to receive that hands-on training. So about half of our organization, still come in every day. They always have, and we have every safety precaution you can imagine in place to keep them safe and our participants.
The other half of the organization immediately went virtual, as did I, or remote. So definitely a learning piece there. As everything started to progress, some of the big changes we made, number one, very early on we recognized that our annual conference, which is normally done in that first quarter, was not going to work this year in 2021, We had a stellar one in 2020, right on the cusp of everything.
We really lucked out with the timing on that, but we knew that February wasn't going to work out. We recognized that several months ago. So we moved that to September of 2021, which, again, I'm excited to talk about. But we wanted to make sure that our brand awareness was still out there, people still recognize the WVC and Viticus Group names. So we came up with our first-ever virtual summit, the Viticus virtual summit that took place in February.
So it certainly wasn't as many CE hours as a normal in-person conference, but it was a three-day, 12-our-a-day-plus event. It ended up being just absolutely awesome. It was the first time we ever did it. My team will tell you that it was far more work than the in-person event. There was a lot that went on, but it ended up going off. It was just a fantastic representation of our high-quality CE that people have learned to expect from us.
The logistics that go into the physical events are just mind-boggling for anyone who's not really familiar with that, and the online space, which at GeniusVets, I mean, we're very digital native, would seem to me that it'd be less. So it's interesting to hear you say that it was actually more work for the team. I wonder if it was maybe because it was so new, there's so much learning to do and all of that. But we participated in that event, and I had to say, it was fantastic. We've been involved in several events put on by some large companies. I love the platform that you chose. You ran it extremely well. We had incredible engagement at our booth and throughout the event. It really was. It was a great event. To anybody who didn't participate, you really should next time you get a chance.
Thank you. Thank you. And honestly, it was because it was new. It was new to everyone. No one within our organization had experience putting on that type of event. They can run the in-person with their eyes closed at this point. They've been doing it for so long, and they're such experts. So this forced everyone to learn a brand new skill, and they really did amazing. But it was a lot of work.
I'd love to ask though, in light of that event, what differences have you noticed in the online model versus the live model for CE? In terms of the numbers of people who start and complete courses, engagement, feedback, sentiment from attendees, what have you learned or noticed between the two?
Sure. I think the sentiment I keep hearing is, "While there are some people that are really excited about the virtual space, they're ready to get back to in person." That keeps coming back, so certainly hasn't replaced that. But we had really great engagement. I think the platform Swapcard was very user-friendly. As you mentioned, people could sit there and listen to what was going on, and they could definitely multitask, which I know you're not really supposed to do. But you could do it in this platform.
So people really took the opportunity to get in, visit the different booths, as you mentioned. So the feedback we've received, I think the sponsors and the people that had exhibits, they were overall very pleased. They were generating a lot more leads than they expected and maybe have seen in other virtual events, so very positive. We heard a lot of good feedback from the participants. There were a couple of snafus here and there, especially with the parts that were live, which is a little bit to be expected. But we certainly learned from that and figured out what we can do differently for the future.
Our goal for that event was 1,000, and we ended up with 3,000. So from our perspective, it was a huge success. It blew our goal away, and our number one goal really was just to keep our brand front of mind. I think we did a good job with that, with the number of people and how well it turned out.
If you could pull out one thing, what did you find to be the most intriguing benefit or some benefits if you want to talk about a couple of the virtual CE model?
I think the number one benefit is just the convenience of it. Our particular event, if you sat there the whole time... I think I said 12 hours, but it was really, probably more like 16 hours a day for a three-hour period. So of course, as a team, we were sitting there. That's all we did all day, but it seemed very convenient for people. We know that some people were working at the time. They were in and out, they were picking and choosing what parts they wanted to listen to. So I think the number one thing is there's a huge convenience factor that probably will not go away.
So what I would have to ask here is with the growth, everybody now has done some online CE, virtual CE stuff. It's easy to access for a variety of options. What can you say to the audience that really sets Viticus Group and your offerings apart from other CE providers?
Sure. So I think it's fair to say the space is now very saturated. It probably wasn't so much so in the past, but it is now. So I think the thing that certainly people can expect when they attend any of our events, including virtual, is that it's going to be extremely high-quality content, and it's going to be a very good quality program. So I think that no matter what we do, that's what always sets us apart.
What is your favorite thing that happens at live events?
Well, I think my answer probably has changed since maybe in the past, but now it's just to be around people and to feel normal again. I mean, truly we had an event last night here at our eastern campus, and people were just so excited to be around each other. They're all wearing their mask, and they're still following social distancing. But just being together in an environment, that's what I'm so excited about.
As we transition back to the live events, how will your organization be blending the live and virtual models and platforms?
I think I mentioned that we have actually been doing our year-round, hands-on events since about... Let's see. We shut down for about three months. But since June of 2020, so in the middle of the pandemic, we were still hosting those hands-on events the whole time. So they were certainly smaller in size. They looked much different because of the social distancing. We've been very, very cautious. But that's a part of who we are this entire time with the hands-on training.
What we're starting to see now is the group size is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and in Nevada, the governor who has been incredibly conservative, he just announced two days ago that we are going to go back to 100% June 1st. So things are really going to start to pick up even more after that becomes official. Looking at the different programs that we have in addition to the hands-on, our annual conference. I mentioned we moved our annual conference it's in September, September 6th through the 9th, 2021. It will be a hybrid event, and it's honestly going to look a lot like it has in the past.
We are trying to bring back all the fun things that we were doing and just make sure that we're doing it in a really safe and compliant way. We will have a very small hybrid component. We want to make sure that we appease all of our audience, but the big focus is going to be around having a normal, exciting back-to-being-in-person events in September. We truly believe now that vaccines are becoming made so readily available and the numbers, thankfully, are still going... They're going down, even though they're still absolutely there. We think that the timing is just right. People are going to be ready to come out and be a part of in-person again.
Can you elaborate a little bit on how much a part and in what ways? How is it small? It seems to indicate that not all of the sessions will be available or not all of the content. What do you mean by that?
So we're still working through the details. I'm going to hesitate to give exact details, but it will just be a small piece of what's going on within the large conference. It will be happening at the exact same time, and there will be bits and pieces of what's happening in conference from a speaker perspective. But it's going to be very, very modified. The big focus is on the in-person.
Let’s say I’m sitting here and I can't make it into a session. I'm really interested in that session. I'd love to be able to stream that and see what's going on so I don't feel like I'm missing out. Maybe I just wanted to go to the pool, whatever. But I want to see a session. I couldn't make it in. Maybe the room is full. Are you going to be streaming live sessions like that?
It will be very pre-planned what we plan to live stream versus what has to be done in person. They will be very different, but at the same time, modified, there's no question, the virtual component.
What do you anticipate to be the difference in attendance between pre-COVID year events and what you're really expecting in September?
This is a scary place to be. This is where not having that crystal ball, but it seems like it could go one of two ways. It could go one way where there's still a lot of people that are just hesitant to come back in person, and so we have just an overall reduced amount of people at the event. Honestly, that's what we're kind of... We're definitely taking all that into consideration.
So we anticipate there's not going to be as many international visitors. We know that there may be some companies, although we're very positive most of the companies we've talked to, it sounds like the travel bans are looking like they may be through the end of the summer. But there may still be some other companies that it lingers and depending on what's happening with the numbers. So there definitely could be a situation where we have fewer people and fewer exhibitor sponsors.
However, it seems like by the week we're getting more and more companies saying, "Okay, we're ready to commit. We want to sponsor this, and we want to have this event and this event." We've heard a lot of people within the industry say that we are going to be the very first veterinary industry-based conference that they go to in-person in 2021. So there may be a little bit of that pent up, can't wait to get back and we see people that maybe we normally don't see, but they're just so excited to go somewhere in person.
We do anticipate we'll still have masks in place, and we will still make sure that... Our organization from day one has been conservative with our entire process and protocol. It's still going to look a little different there, but I think it could go one of two ways. But either way, I think there's enough excitement across the entire industry that it's going to look really solid.
What's going to stop people from going, and what's going to really cause people to come back so that we can address those concerns that they have and we can really build up those things that are going to lure them back? In your thought process going through there and in your planning for these events, what do you anticipate would be those things that would hold people back, and how are you addressing those?
Unfortunately, some of what will hold people back, I think, is really out of our control. I think it's going to come down to vaccine availability, travel restrictions within different organizations, peoples that still have a fear of just going beyond where they're at. So I think a little of that is out of our control. What's in our control is making sure that we put on an incredibly great event that sounds exciting and fun, that we make sure the reach goes very far, further than it's ever been.
Maybe, people that haven't been to WVC or maybe live somewhere that there are other places they normally go, may decide to come in and check out WVC this year. Also, having it in September is a really good time in Las Vegas. Actually, right after labor day, the rates are super inexpensive at the hotels. It's very easy to get into all the restaurants. The weather is warm enough for the pool, for the people that skip out and go to the pool during the day. At nighttime, it's absolutely beautiful. So there are some different components that we're really going to hone in on that we think may attract people that may never have come in the past and they're ready to be in-person.
Besides the move to the date a little bit... Which by the way, is that permanent, or is that just this year. Next year in 2022 are you going to go back to February?
So this year it was temporary. It's September 6th through 9th, and then we go back to that first quarter. So we actually have our 2022 event in March.
It's a pretty tight turnaround. The good thing there is it's still bathing suit weather, so people will be able to enjoy the pool in March. It's just on the cusp of when it's nice enough to be out in the sun. They're going to have two back-to-back seasons where they can enjoy the nice weather here.
You're in the desert, it gets pretty cold in midwinter similar to here, what it does in Austin. But are you planning anything else? Other than the weather and the change of timing, anything else that you think is maybe worth announcing and letting people know that, Hey, you don't want to miss out on this? What special things are you doing to bring us back?
We are still in the process of hardwiring some of these things, but I will tell you there are some cool after-hour things that we are going to be doing this year that we haven't done in the past. But that's all I can say at this point because we haven't even signed the contracts yet.
As soon as that information becomes available, that's very much going to be a part of what we're projecting out so people can see how much fun and exciting things are going to be going on. It's definitely worth coming back to Vegas to check things out.
Before we go, is there anything that you want to encourage people to do? What should people be doing right now in terms of engaging the organization? What are you doing between now and that event that you want to let people know about and they can go sign up for?
Sure. So I would definitely encourage people to get on our website. We have a very, very good website that's very detailed. Check out everything that we have to offer. Certainly, a registration just opened up for WVC, so it's great to be an early bird and get those lower prices for registration. So check out WVC.
And then we also, as I mentioned, are constantly doing different hands-on training throughout the year. So check out that on the website. The new thing that we're rolling out this year we're really excited about, we're doing a practice management symposium at the same time as our vet tech symposium. Now, this is in October. It's after WVC, but this is going to be really, really exciting. We've started getting some speakers that I think the audience is going to be really excited to hear, and it's new and hot off the press. The vet tech symposium we've been doing for a while but now adding the practice management component.
It is just great to hear about all the innovation that you have going on, and of course, Viticus Group has all this innovation going on because they have you at the helm. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to come talk with us here today, and I know that everybody who is sitting here, come on. Click the links. Go sign up for the events. Get your practice managers signed up for the October event. Get your vet techs going there as well. World-class facilities. You absolutely can't beat it.
All right, everybody. Well, that concludes another fantastic interview. Thanks so much for joining us. Make sure and, and register for another interview next week. We are going to be doing this for the next few weeks, talking about the live events and the veterinary industry. Also, if you're a practice owner or a practice manager, something I really want you to know about is here at GeniusVets, you may not realize, but you actually have a full-page profile for your veterinary practice at geniusvets.com. It's live right now. You should go check it out. You can claim it absolutely free. It's a beautiful profile. It ranks highly in Google search results and something that we just introduced. We have heard across the nation veterinarians and the increase in business that you've experienced during COVID. Your business has grown, and now you need more staff. You need more high-quality doctors and more vet techs. Everyone is looking for new staff, and we have been very, very effective over the years at helping our clients attract new doctors, techs, and staff.
So we have just released a veterinary job board at geniusvets.com. You can post your available jobs, open jobs, for free. You start by claiming your profile, and then you can post your jobs for free. We've also introduced a veterinary HR toolkit, an absolutely cutting-edge fantastic toolkit that will walk you through everything that you need to know that you want to take into consideration about hiring today.
It's incredibly proven best practices. We have so many testimonials from clients who have been utilizing these recommendations very successfully. So go to geniusvets.com. Really appreciate your time. Thanks so much, everybody. David Hall, the co-founder of GeniusVets, signing off. We'll see you next time.