What I learned at my first HIMSS

Apr 18, 2018

First and foremost, this is a BIG show. Okay, obviously this is a big show. But it’s important to understand this isn’t the type of trade show where the cool startup with hopes and dreams of changing the world can make a huge splash. At least, not without a plan.

As a first-time attendee, there were some confirmations and surprises that led to a few insights. Here are some tips to help kick-start your strategy for your first HIMSS.

Stop singing the same old song

Reporters are booked solid well before the conference begins and they are hearing “stories” all day. If it’s your first HIMSS, you may be surprised by the amount of similar ideas, products and solutions across the board. Let me tell you, the editors are not.

Whether it’s your first HIMSS or your 30th, make sure you have something to say. Passion plus results are rewarded in almost any industry and the same rings true in Healthcare IT. Don’t offer one without the other.

No one wants to hear about a product and all the technical aspects you have painstakingly perfected. They want to hear about what your solution is going to do for them (or their readers) now.

Don’t get it twisted. We are all very thankful for all the hard work, but the fact of the matter is there is too much going on to appreciate all of that hard work. Have something to say with weight.

Do your research before you go

Don’t waste time deciding what you’re going to do once you get to HIMSS. Everything moves too fast, and it takes too long to get from one place to the other. The conference may be several days long, but it goes by in a blink. Have a plan as an attendee or as an exhibitor.

Most of all, don’t make meetings with people that don’t make sense. Time, space and (good) coffee are precious luxuries at HIMSS. Don’t waste them.

Talk to people, and ask questions

Not just any questions – ask the one that you are hesitant about.

As a millennial, I think that we undervalue face-to-face interactions. There is something about being in front of people where you can get answers to questions you might not ask in a formal meeting setting or email. For one, they can’t just ignore your question.

Before all of my telehealth peeps give me a hard time – don’t worry, I still have no interest in physically stepping into my doctor’s office on a regular basis. Telemedicine rules!

A lot of flash doesn’t mean a lot of cash…flow

It was sad to see the booths with a premier spot just watch all the attendees walk by without giving their super cool mini golf game a try. Booth traffic success comes in layers, and although this conference was in Las Vegas, you can’t just take a shallow approach to entice the shrewd people of this trade show.

Take a note from the brilliant Lisa Chernikoff, “As savvy marketing professionals know, the best trade show marketing strategies start early and establish a regular cadence of communication.” Emphasis on start early. Your booth traffic strategy should not rely solely on a game of putt-putt. Meetings with a purpose, strategies that give attendees something they can use to fix their problems and well thought-out strategies for making conversation are what seem to be the keys to success at mega trade shows such as HIMSS.

The thought of tackling this type of huge trade show without a specialized agency and expecting results brings to mind a few analogies

  • Scuba diving without a tank
  • Planning a wedding for tomorrow
  • Teaching a fish to ride a bicycle
  • Baking a cake with cardboard appliances

And of course, the rumors are true – you will always be lost, hungry, searching for an outlet and totally amazed at what we are doing as an industry to improve healthcare. Now, I need to go buy some AirPods and avoid ever using or hearing the word leverage again.

Jenna Warner

Jenna brings a wide range of experience in business and marketing paired with a fresh perspective on the health IT industry. She launched her professional career in the non-profit space with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. While there she became well-versed in a broad range of healthcare topics, participating in patient interactions as well as organizing fundraising campaigns. She provides Amendola clients with creative social media planning and research, content management and media relations. In her collegiate career, Jenna was an award-winning mentor for business students sharing her passion for marketing and success. She honed her skills with several agency internships and a semester-long consulting project. She led her team in creating the market research and entrance proposal that was presented to the company in Italy. Her "can do attitude" got her to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in August 2016 and she has the same drive at work. She graduated from Millikin University with a B.S. in Marketing.