The countdown to HIMSS18 is reaching its end and I’m in my final stages of preparation. I’ve developed some strategies over the years for making the meeting productive without being too exhausting. I was talking with a colleague who is attending his first HIMSS this year and he made the comment that what I was suggesting sounded a lot like the strategy he used when taking his small children to Disney World. I have a fondness for the chocolate-covered Mickey-shaped ice cream bar, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing any of those on the floor of the convention center. I guess I’ll (hopefully) have to settle for some fresh-baked scones.
My first general rule for HIMSS is to plan travel to arrive a day early if possible. This allows me to get settled in and possibly squeeze in a couple of social-style meetings on arrival day, such as a lunch or coffee, drinks, or dinner. It’s nice to be able to connect without all the hustle and bustle of the exhibit hall and sessions. It also makes it easier to meet with people that might have booth assignments during the show and who would otherwise be working the floor or too tired to get together.
I’m breaking my own rule this year for a couple of reasons. First, because we’re in Las Vegas, where the shift in the start/end times that happens when the meeting is there always throws a wrench in things. We also recently opened several new locations in my clinical world, so we’re a little thin on physician coverage and I have to see patients Sunday. I’ll be heading out before the sun arrives on Monday, though, so I should have time to meet with a couple of people and get settled.
My second general rule is to choose a hotel that doesn’t involve a significant commute, or if it does, that I’m OK with it. In the past, I’ve stayed at places that are a bit of a hike from the expo center, mostly due to cost, with varying degrees of shabbiness. I learned from experience in Orlando that you have to book early to get the hotel you want for the dates you want, so I book as soon as the room blocks open up.
The last time HIMSS was in Las Vegas, I stayed at TI due to closeness and cheapness, but I wasn’t thrilled with having to walk through the smoke to get to the elevator tower. This year I’m splurging and staying at the Venetian. I’m sure there will be smoke I’ll have to walk through, but the proximity to the meeting should be a bonus. I know Mr. H is a fan of staying off strip and you certainly can get more value for your money that way, but I don’t want to hassle with figuring out transportation. It’s kind of like staying on property at Disney – it’s more expensive, but it might just be worth it.
Planning what to wear always requires some thought, although this year I’m eerily relaxed because I don’t have to figure out what to wear for HIStalkapalooza or feel the pressure to find the perfect dancing shoes. The black cocktail dresses are staying at home, which also makes packing easier. I generally dress for exhibits and sessions in layers since the climate control at most convention centers ranges from arctic to subtropical. Since I’m not representing anyone other than myself (and HIStalk anonymously), I skip the suits and go for comfort. I’m not going to surf the hall in jeans, but I don’t think suits are mandatory. Unless you’re job interviewing, which a lot of people do at HIMSS.
Planning shoes is always a big deal and becomes more important as my feet get older. My favorite trade show shoes gave up the ghost last year, and despite having been comfortable for years, they became a liability because they were a little stretched out, resulting in blisters. This year is all about comfort, with some dressy clogs and cozy loafers. Usually I worry about being able to go day-to-night with whatever I’m wearing and throw an extra pair of shoes in my bag, but I’m hoping that being closer to the action will reduce the need to haul around a spare pair of shoes. If I get too tired, I’ll wear running shoes to the exhibits on Thursday, because by that point no one cares what you’re wearing.
Also like Disney, it’s important to plan what attractions (or booths in this case) are must-see, want-to-see, or just possibilities if there’s time remaining. As I hear about different vendors and products throughout the year, I keep a list of them and use it to create my HIMSS to-do list. I make appointments for the most critical things I want to see, but the rest are just drive-bys, partly to see how the booth team interacts with a random CMIO that walks in. I do also take a peek at all the mailings that arrive, to see if something catches my eye.
This year was slim on the mailings, with fewer than a dozen pieces arriving at the house. The Imprivata goodie box that I mentioned a few posts ago was an attention-grabber, but the rest of the mailings have been largely post cards, with only two of the “bring this to our booth and see if you’ve won” or “first 50 people to the booth get a prize” type of offerings. That’s way down from the past. Usually there is at least one vendor that sends a playing card or poker chip promotion when we’re in Las Vegas. Of course, that’s not to say that those mailings won’t arrive after I leave, which also happens. I typically find at least a handful of vendor marketing pieces in my held mail when I return.
Speaking of marketing pieces, the one mailing I received that really caught my attention is from a vendor that won’t be at HIMSS but didn’t acknowledge that in their mailing. Vendor advice: if you’re doing a mailing to launch a new product in February, you might want to mention “although you won’t see us at HIMSS this year, we’d love to hear from you, here’s how” or something similar. To not even acknowledge it makes you seem like you don’t know what’s going on in the industry. Even if you’re not a fan of HIMSS, it does exist and sucks up a lot of people’s attention.
My last piece of Disney advice is to be flexible. Sometimes you arrive to something you want to see and find a long line that you don’t want to deal with, There is no Fastpass available at HIMSS. Sometimes your attention is grabbed by an attraction you didn’t know existed and you rearrange to accommodate it. You never know what you’re going to see at HIMSS or who you’re going to run into, but there is always plenty to look at and learn.
I’m putting together my final lists today. I’ll see you in Las Vegas!
Email Dr. Jayne.