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What I Wish I’d Known Before … Going to my First HIMSS Conference as an Exhibitor

February 17, 2018 News, What I Wish I'd Known Before No Comments

I knew HIMSS was a big conference, but I didn’t realize that the impact would be that it is just hard to move around and accomplish a lot. You never really get to see the whole exhibit floor or do a lot of things because it just take so long to get there. Food lines are long, there’s no place to sit. It’s a complete workout. The startup pavilion has some of the more interesting companies and the big vendor booths are very impersonal. Then, when it is all over, you wonder what you really accomplished or learned and if it was worth all the trouble.


Wear really, truly comfortable shoes.


That my exhibitor badge gets me into educational sessions as well. Someone more experienced at these events helped guide me in finding helpful sessions for my area of expertise.


Very long hours on your feet. I have a pair of super supportive shoes I call “my HIMSS shoes” and I am never without them.


HIMSS is all about making and strengthening business relationships. But on the floor, you literally have about 30 seconds to get someone’s attention and earn the right to have a meaningful conversation.


As an exhibitor, it can devolve into a party atmosphere, quickly. Pace yourself.


Wear comfortable, not necessarily stylish, shoes.


Wear comfortable shoes!


The exhibit hall is like the Caribbean, full of ports (booths) and buyers are like cruise ship passengers. The enthusiasm doesn’t always stick once they get home and visitors will confuse ports/vendors. Give them something memorable (in good way) and be prepared to present again after HIMSS if you want them to truly remember anything you showed them.


Be careful about scheduling meetings first thing in the morning after the first day. Last day first or last are the worst times for any real business to happen.


Stop at two drinks. Period. It’s possible, even likely, that key people in the industry are around you at all times, even 1 a.m. in the hotel bar. Remember that this is your career and you’re making an impression even after exhibit hours are done.

Make reservations for every anticipated meal, even if for two people, as everything will be packed. And, if invited to a meal by a vendor, verify that that vendor has a reservation inclusive of all invited attendees. I attended a breakfast at a previous HIMSS with a vendor where the rep from the vendor did not make reservations for an intolerably crowded joint and eight executives huddled around a bar-height bistro table for two in the hallway of the casino discussing the strategic direction of our partnership.


How your message gets lost in the noise and the value proposition is questionable, unless you are one of the larger vendors.


The amount of time you will be on your feet. I have HIMSS shoes, comfortable, dressy shoes half a size too big with the most cushioning insoles I could find and hiking socks.


Establish scheduled meetings before or during HIMSS if you are looking to sell (vs. touch current customers, develop business development relationships, or perpetuate your brand). It is not worth pulling anyone off the floor to learn about your product anymore since, unlike in the early days, most of the folks walking the floor are fellow vendors.


HIMSS is in a conference that companies in the healthcare information technology industry must attend even, if the value for doing so is minimal. Pulling out is a public red flag that there is a problem or at least a big change in the company. So we go and represent with minimal expectation of value, but it can be fun for the team selected to the representing.


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