Take Thought Leadership to a New Level: Host a Community Event

I’m a big proponent of community involvement—regardless of professional occupation—but I think it’s especially important for physical therapists. After all, we’re making up for lost time. Historically, we haven’t done the best job of marketing ourselves and demonstrating our value to the general public—not compared to chiropractors, for example. They’ve branded themselves in such a way as to make chiropractic care almost synonymous with back pain relief. And as we all know, the evidence substantiates the fact that physical therapy is just as—if not more—effective for long-term pain relief and mobility improvement. But knowing this amongst ourselves will not change public opinion—unless we get out there and start sharing our message, connecting with our communities, and differentiating our services from the rest. We are neuromuscular experts. It’s about time they hear us roar. (And considering the nature of reimbursements and regulations today, there’s no better time to roar than right now.)

So where do we start? We start by providing more than just exceptional care. We also must become thought leaders, educators, and role models. And to do so, we must get involved. We must make our presence known as an integral and pivotal part of a healthy, happy, mobile community. We must write, network, and speak. But the perfect opportunity to get involved may not always present itself—and that’s where a little creativity goes a long way. One of the best ways I’ve found to demonstrate my expertise and connect with the people in my community is to host my own events. This opens the channels of communication and keeps them that way. And best of all, I get to control the message.

But don’t worry. You don’t have to host alone. The best part of being part of an amazing community of other thought leaders is that you can make it a group thing. When we hold our quarterly Evolve events, I make sure the schedule is loaded with other professionals who bring value to my audience. Not only does this benefit the attendees and provide the other presenters with an opportunity to share their individual messages, but it also takes the pressure off of me to carry an entire event by myself.

So what’s your specialty? What’s your niche? What can you teach? For example, if you live in a sports-centric community, you could host a workshop on increasing performance or preventing injuries on the soccer field. You could even bring in high school coaches and trainers to share their point of view. Or if you live in a community with an older demographic, you may want to host a seminar on maintaining mobility as one ages or caring for someone with functional limitations. There are countless options—and you’ll find the right one for you. The key is to identify your strengths and create an opportunity to share them with your community. And keep doing it—again, and again, and again, as long as there’s a need. This will put your thought leadership in a whole new stratosphere—and that’s a huge plus for you as an individual and for us as an industry.

What do you think about hosting therapy-centric events? Have you done it? What’s worked well and what hasn’t? I’d love to hear your stories.

About the Author

Heidi Jannenga is the co-founder of WebPT, the leading electronic medical records (EMR) solution for physical, occupational, and speech therapists. As Chief Operating Officer, Heidi leads the product strategy and oversees the WebPT brand vision. She brings with her more than 15 years of experience as a physical therapist and clinic director as well as a passion for healthcare innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

Since launching WebPT with her husband Brad Jannenga in 2008, Heidi has helped guide the company through a period of explosive growth, culminating in WebPT being named to the 2013 Inc. 500, an elite list of the nation’s fastest growing companies. In addition to speaking as a subject matter expert at numerous rehab therapy events and conferences, Heidi participates as a speaker and panelist at local and national technology, entrepreneurship, and women-in-leadership events.

Heidi was a collegiate basketball player at the University of California, Davis, and remains a life-long fan of the Aggies. When she’s not playing, snuggling, and enjoying time with her daughter Ava or helping her husband Brad train for his next triathlon, you can find Heidi at the gym, doing yoga, hiking, reading, baking, or watching Shark Tank or the Food Network.