I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).
I wrote this piece in February 2007.
Despite Your Resolutions, I Know What You’ll Be Doing at HIMSS
By Mr. HIStalk
Punxsutawney Phil aside, you know spring is at hand when it’s time for HIMSS (already?) For those of us who go, it seems like the entire healthcare IT industry is there, most of them angrily checking their watches in the Starbuck’s line or barking self-important cell phone commands to their holding-down-the-fort underlings back home.
If you’re not going, don’t feel bad. It’s a great time to get work done without being interrupted, much like the dead week between Christmas and New Year’s. Or, if your boss will be there and you’re so inclined, to screw off with little fear of detection.
Everyone heads for HIMSS with a firm agenda, pledging this year to get serious work done instead of wasting time like at the previous ten conferences. Demos will be dutifully studied, job-related networking will be pursued, and vendor relationships will be cultivated for the benefit of the employer picking up the tab. You’re here to work. Or, so the rationalizing goes.
All those worthy goals evaporate once the first heady breath of conference air is inhaled deeply, that energizing tang of carpet cleaner, coffee, collateral, and cologne that puts you in conference mode. Like a recovering alcoholic vowing to take just one sip of beer, you’re off the wagon. Before you know it, your agenda looks more like this:
- Plan shopping, golf, or spa time from the tourist literature left in your hotel room.
- Find someone before or during the opening reception who might give you a drink ticket they don’t need.
- Walk the halls trolling for people you know, encouraging a hearty greeting and keen interest about what you’ve been up to, then silently cursing the arrogant jerks when they pass by with a vacant stare.
- Look soulfully into the eyes of vendor booth people and speak profoundly and positively about whatever they’re selling, hoping they’ll dig deep under the counter to furtively slip you an invitation to a really cool party that’s not open to the masses.
- Expect profuse chumminess from booth people who pretend to remember you and harbor no ill will from that time you cut their product from the shortlist.
- Decide just how much honesty everyone else applies when completing their CE forms, figuring that walking outside an auditorium door and catching a couple of words should be worth the full CE credit.
- Blame the speaker’s boring delivery when you decide to bag their talk 15 minutes in, climbing fearlessly over the entire row of knees, in front of the projector, and against the tide of incomers and door-standers, figuring no one knows you anyway.
- Check the agenda and decide to sleep in, leave the afternoon sessions early, and maybe sit out in the sun at lunch.
- Thrust your chest out proudly, knowing that booth people will pretend to be impressed with your title, your employer, and your town, even though they are silently sniggering at all three and looking over your shoulder for a better prospect or an incognito competitor who might hire them.
- Cruise the perimeter of the larger booths, trying to catch the eye of someone who looks like a doctor, executive, or hot rep, steering a wide berth around low-ranking losers who earned a HIMSS trip for some geeky company accomplishment like programming.
- Gather lots of vendor material for take-home study, then chuck it all in your room’s trash can before you leave for the airport.
- Having already planned to skip the Thursday sessions since everyone else does, call the airline on Wednesday afternoon to see if you can get out earlier.
- Wear your Mardi Gras beads home, bring your kids crappy booth junk, and impress the spouse with fake doubloons and a box of Café Du Monde beignet mix purchased at the airport.
Have a safe trip to New Orleans.