Taking the Animal House Approach to HIMSS20

Mar 12, 2020

When news came down the Thursday before HIMSS20 was set to begin that the conference had been cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns, it was tough to tell whether that loud sigh that rippled across America was relief or exasperation.

On the one hand, everyone who was on pins and needles waiting to see if their projects and presentations would be done on time were likely relieved to dodge a deadline bullet. Managers who weren’t sure whether it was prudent to send key staff to a potential covid-19 incubator (including me, quite frankly) were happy to have that responsibility taken off their shoulders.

Still, a lot of time, money and effort went into preparing for HIMSS20, and many health IT companies were counting on it to help them boost sales. They had to feel like Bluto Blutarsky (the late, great John Belushi) in Animal House after discovering Delta House had been expelled from campus, who famously said “Seven years of college down the drain.”

(I was going to share a video clip of that statement, but the only one I could find is definitely not safe for work. So you’ll just have to see it in your mind.)

Yet now that the initial shock has passed, it’s time to remember an even more famous Bluto quote: “Nothing is over until we decide it is!”

Yes, HIMSS is putting together virtual conference, which may be helpful. (I say “may be” because they’ve never tried it before so it will be a learning experience for all.) Regardless, however, there’s no need to wait for or count on the virtual conference to fulfill your HIT marketing needs. Because there is plenty you can do on your own to turn those frowns upside down. Here are a few examples:

  • Turn announcements and presentations into your own virtual events. Even if you’ve never done them before there is plenty of technology that makes creating webinars, podcasts and virtual roundtables even than ever. Especially if you have a great HIT-focused agency like Amendola to help.
  • Reschedule in-person demos and meetings as phone calls/online meet-ups. That time was set aside anyway. See if you can keep the appointment virtually.
  • Convert your HIMSS messaging into content pieces such as data sheets, infographics, white papers, case studies, videos, etc. Don’t forget customer presentations too. They can easily be converted into case studies, byline articles and sometimes even journal articles.
  • Take the effort you would have put into follow-up calls and emails after the conference and do them now.
  • Share everything you’ve created on social media. It’s probably the ideal time, because with more people working from home, or staying in rather than going out, social media is getting more attention than ever. Use all the channels available to you LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and wherever else you think your customers and prospects will be.

Yes, the cancelling of the live, in-person HIMSS20 conference may have seemed like a disaster. But it doesn’t have to be.

With a little creativity, and perhaps a little help from your friendly neighborhood PR and marketing agency, your final take will echo Delta House’s Flounder:


Jodi Amendola

Jodi is an accomplished leader with 25 years of experience developing, implementing and executing high-impact, integrated business-to-business public relations and marketing campaigns. Since 2004, she has served as CEO and co-founder of Amendola, where she has led campaigns for countless industry giants and start-up companies.