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HIMSS20 Exhibitor Plans for HIMSS21

March 28, 2020 News 3 Comments

I received survey responses from 46 HIMSS20 exhibitors. Of those:

  • 16 won’t exhibit at HIMSS21.
  • 24 haven’t decided yet.
  • Four will exhibit but will spend less.
  • Two will exhibit and spend as much or more as they did for HIMSS20.

Below are excerpted comments from respondents.


After being an exhibitor since 1997, I have been questioning the value for some time. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I got my money back on the hotels not booked through HIMSS, but lost all my money on those booked through them. The money lost, lack of value, and lack of support from HIMSS makes me question why I should attend attend. I would love to see all the companies ban together and say “no more” to HIMSS. They can say all they want about being a not-for-profit, but they are all about the money. It would not be a great loss for the healthcare community.


We are a non-profit. The current stance is ridiculous and I am amazed at their gall to keep 100% of money for a show they cancelled. The brand damage and trust fail here is mindboggling to me. They are keeping funds for costs they didn’t incur on the backs of projects like mine. I’ve asked my project manager to organize with all of our partners to negotiate with HIMSS as a collective bargaining block.


Will we still attend even though we are boycotting as an exhibitor? Doubtful. Bring on HLTH.


How can HIMSS require exhibitors to use OnPeak for housing (to the extent of extreme penalty if we don’t) and require full pre-payment for all nights, then throw up their hands and say “we don’t object to hotels waiving cancelation policies?” Refusing to take responsibility with the specific travel company they require is deplorable. HIMSS also refusing to refund sponsorships, where they didn’t even expend any resources.


We were surprised that HIMSS didn’t offer some sort of incentive for signing up for next year. For example, they could have offered to roll over 10-20% of the booth fee. Even a small concession would have made us feel like they really understood the impact. If we were making the decision today, we would not pay big dollars for a booth in Las Vegas. Our total HIMSS conference expense – planning, marketing, travel, booth – is an eye-popping number, even more reason to rethink our strategy. I am really concerned that HIMSS will lose the small and mid-tier vendors, where much of the innovation is happening and what makes HIMSS conferences actually interesting.


We selected a smaller booth for HIMSS21 and are supposed to have a conference call with our HIMSS account rep at their request, but crickets from Chicago so far. The deposit is small enough to not force us to actually attend in Las Vegas. Depending on how HIMSS handles this situation, we may walk away from HIMSS altogether. There is no shortage of options for how we spend our marketing dollars and the ROI that HIMSS provides has been diminishing each year for the past handful of years.


We are stunned that HIMSS declined to credit monies paid for booth space for HIMSS20 to HIMSS21 as multiple organizations and conferences have done.


We committed a significant portion of our marketing budget to exhibit at HIMSS 2020 and to sponsor an event. We are told that both are non-refundable. We were also effectively threatened that if we did not book our attendees through OnPeak that we could be ejected from the conference and lose our exhibit. Like others, we originally booked independently, but switched to ensure that we did not run afoul of their policies. This means that we are now facing losing money on our prepaid hotel rooms, too. My question — are these policies applied to EVERY exhibitor or are there special deals cut for the biggest spenders? Also, why did HIMSS not have insurance in place to handle this?


We met yesterday and decided that if they don’t credit our fees, we will not be exhibiting next year.


It’s beyond outrageous that HIMSS is so badly managed that they don’t have catastrophic insurance to cover at least a partial refund of booth space. And also didn’t use their substantial negotiating leverage with OnPeak and Freeman to structure a contract that guarantees a partial refund. While HIMSS represented a good 10-15% of our 2019 leads (and 20-25% of our budget), my initial instinct is “never again.” It will be a large lift to convince us to go next year.


The chances for my company to exhibit dropped dramatically. HIMSS is a bizdev exhibition with way too many exhibitors and no proven ROI. Their decision to take our money for the 2020 exhibition that didn’t happen upsets me. We will probably skip the 2021 exhibition.


HIMSS told us the day before build-out that they were still moving forward. But come on, they knew they weren’t going forward – they were having internal discussions about how to cancel the show. It wasn’t until the next day, after our booth was built and we incurred the significant associated expenses, that they cancelled the show. And now, no refunds and no applying booth costs to 2021. I get that it will hurt them financially, but in today’s pandemic world, join the club, HIMSS.


They will not refund the sponsorship fee or move it to another option. They waited until all the booths were built. They could have at least told us prior to Freeman fees. Terrible business decision.


Shared risk, shared pain. HIMSS would do themselves considerable good by making an even modest effort to share the pain by offering some rollover credit for next year. That they have taken such a stark and corporate stance is a demonstration that this is not a member organization, it is a profit vehicle and nothing else. I’ll be in Las Vegas to visit friends and clients, but will not spend a dime with HIMSS.


With HIMSS not being willing to help exhibitors at all and Freeman not giving any refunds, we feel the risk is much higher than the reward for future HIMSS shows. It was our highest budgeted tradeshow and we will use the budget for alternative channels next year.


Taking the exhibit fees without any sort of credit was a horrible decision, valuing themselves over all others. We’ll likely just pull out.


I have already seen budget for HIMSS participation reduced by ~50%. Depending upon sales numbers, I expect to see the perceived value of HIMSS to be dramatically lower going forward. Customer feedback from our Customer Advisory Council regarding their future participation in HIMSS will have more influence.


Ridiculous that there are no refunds, so HIMSS profits from everyone’s misfortune. Inexcusable, unethical, and selfish. They’ll never see a dime of our money again.


We contract for a meeting room, not the exhibit hall. If we attend at all, we will send two or three people, not registered, but to meet clients offsite. We are also notifying Hilton corporate that since they didn’t offer a partial refund or credit that our 175 consultants won’t use any Hilton property when travel resumes. We purchased several thousand nights in 2019 and hope that an appeal to their corporate office might result in some accommodation. We would have felt slightly better if we heard that HIMSS leadership took dramatic pay cuts or are making other sacrifices to serve their members. Further, we will not pay for anyone to renew their HIMSS membership.


It’s a pity that HIMSS chose not to refund any money at all. I am thinking #NoMoreHIMSS.


There is a sense of outrage in the vendor community. We were briefed on the digital platform HIMSS is offering for “premier” vendors. More questions than answers and not clear that it will draw an audience. Will providers really spend time between now and June to visit a vendor landing page? HIMSS has made it clear their bottom line is more important than anyone that supports them. If we treated our customers the way they treated their customers, none of us would be in business. Shameful is the only word you can use to describe this arrogant move.


These are the things that really stuck with me in the aftermath of HIMSS. Poor (almost nonexistent) communication from HIMSS leading up to their decision to cancel. Freeman’s offer to refund any uninitiated services was moot since nearly everyone’s booth had already been installed (thanks for refunding that $500 cleaning fee, though!) The disjointed messages between HIMSS, OnPeak, and the hotels (they each kept pointing me to one of the others for answers). HIMSS is not a moneymaker for any of us, but always a good branding opportunity. However, this may have killed our appetite for the show moving forward.


We were already planning to stop after 15 straight years of exhibiting. The handling of the cancellation by both HIMSS and Freeman puts in the nail in the coffin. It’s probably frustration talking, but it makes me think twice about attending. HLTH may benefit from the fallout.


No refund is disappointing to say the least. We incurred additional setup costs with our exhibit firm due to the late date they decided to cancel. The least HIMSS could do is refund our fees so we can pay for the costs we incurred. This speaks volumes about HIMSS and their primary motivation. Very disappointing.


As a multi-year exhibitor with a with a corporate membership, our space for HIMSS21 was secured before the conference was cancelled. We had already planned to scale back; however, the expenses for a conference that never occurred, particularly for fully paid hotel stays, are hard to swallow. Seemingly oblivious to our losses, yet before news that we would be given no credit for what was spent, I received a contract to renew our corporate membership with the standard message “pay early for extra exhibitor points.”


It is likely we will not exhibit. I get their point, but I’m not sure I like how they worded their statement, as if they would have refunded us if they were only a for-profit. The law doesn’t prevent a not-for-profit to be flexible in contracts. They may have made us think about next year if they had offered at least some credit to next year.


We planned to make a big appearance this year because we were excited to win a KLAS category award for the first time. Instead, we lost a lot of money. Canceling it was the right call, but keeping our sponsorship money is a good reason for us to just attend instead of exhibit next year. Still waiting for our hotel rooms refund.


I get the lost fees for exhibiting. However, HIMSS taking over and controlling the hotels and losing all of those fees is excessive. If we could have made our own reservations instead of HIMSS controlling it all, we would have lost much less.


Every other event has offered to roll fees to a later date or offer a refund. It’s hard to believe the organizers would hide behind a not-for-profit status as an excuse. This is absolutely absurd for scrappy startups, for which HIMSS represents a huge investment.


The value of HIMSS materially and emotionally dropped down significantly. If we do attend, we will have a reduced presence.


Very disappointed in this decision. By not offering to at minimum apply some or all of this year’s cancelled booth investment to HIMSS21, HIMSS missed out in not only doing the right thing, but also in gaining greater likelihood that vendors will return to exhibiting at the show. I guess we can all only hope that next year returns to business as usual.


They should have refunded at least booth cost.


We will not exhibit again. We will make a decision as to whether we should attend based what the overall attendance looks to be. The exhibitor list is likely to drop significantly.


We had moved from a booth (1x) to a meeting space, which we will not be doing moving forward. We will continue to be an Emerald Sponsor, mainly for the badge and branding benefits. The money that we would have spent on a meeting room may go to smaller sponsorship, which provides badges. If we are going to buy badges, it makes sense to do a sponsorship and get some branding out of it.




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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. My team at Intelligent Medical Objects didn’t think we had the luxury to wait until 2021 for HIMSS contingency planning, both for our own business needs and, more importantly, in the service of our healthcare provider clients. We started the morning HIMSS20 was cancelled.

    Here’s what we did now: https://social.eyeforpharma.com/commercial/virtual-trade-show-best-practices-intelligent-medical-objects-and-himss

    Given HIMSS disappointing decision not to credit or refund any exhibitor/sponsor costs for 2020, IMO will be taking a close look at our approach–and with whom we put our marketing dollars to work–in 2021.

  2. Wow!

    If even a small portion of these comments are true and come to fruition – and I agree overall – HIMSS will be greatly diminished.

    I wonder how many people HIMSS have laid off? And whether leaders are taking a haircut? Or will they cut and run?

    Sorta sucks that many of us – myself sort of included but here I am – hesitate to share our true feelings for fear of being blacklisted, lose points, have the powers that be think poorly on our comments, etc.

    HLTH Forum in October WILL BE the canary in the coal mine for healthcare events in 2020. I’d like to say AHIP Institute is that canary but that bird’s already dead (and apparently it’s parents won’t acknowledge that fact)

  3. HIMSS refusal to work with firms and keep my sponsorship, booth, lunch sponsorship, speaking slot dollars speaks to how awful of a firm this is. They could have worked w vendors to take some money forward to a future show. There is no way they would have incurred costs to keep my full funding. It is a total money grab and a true shame on HIMSS.







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