HIMSS18: Expert tips to ensure an exhilarating, educational and enduring event

This year’s HIMSS conference will be my 12th in 12 years, so I consider myself something of a HIMSS expert. HIMSS is much like a 30-ring circus when you consider the massive exhibit hall, the all-star line-up of keynote speakers, the hundreds of sessions, and the non-stop networking opportunities.

While HIMSS can definitely be exhilarating, educational and enduring, it can also be exhausting and frustratingly fruitless if you fail to make a conscious effort to learn, connect, and be open to exploring the unfamiliar and unknown. Whether this is your first HIMSS or your 20th, here are a few tips for making HIMSS a valuable experience.

Identify your goals before you pack your suitcase. Between the 1,300+ exhibitors, the 300+ educational sessions and the nightly parties, there’s no way to experience every aspect of HIMSS. Regardless of what you hope to get out of the conference, you’re more likely to achieve your goals if you take the time to make a tentative agenda before you even leave home. Be sure to jot down room and booth numbers for all activities because once you get to the massive Sands Convention Center, you’ll soon figure out that you may need to walk a mile to get from one end of the hall to the other. Save your feet and come up with a daily plan that is achievable – both physically and mentally.

Expert tip: Load the HIMSS mobile app on your smartphone. You can set up a personalized schedule and look up just about anything you need to know to navigate the HIMSSanity.

Bring snacks. One year a friend of mine and I were hoping to catch up over a quick bite of lunch. Unfortunately, even when there are dozens of food options, it’s nearly impossible to get served when 45,000 other people are also trying to catch a quick bite. I must confess that my friend and I ended up getting a glass of wine for “lunch” because the bar was the only place we could sit down and get in and out within 30 minutes.

Expert tip: In a pinch, you can always find fresh cookies or hot popcorn as you walk the exhibit hall.

Network, network, network. Where else can you go and find 45,000 other people who work in your same industry – and likely share your passion for technology and healthcare? Don’t be shy when standing in the Starbucks line! Everyone has a story and opinion, so ask the guy behind you if he’s been to any good sessions, or what his company does, or if he has been hitting any of the late-night parties. You never know who might turn out to be your best new prospect, employer, or employee – so don’t forget your business cards.

Expert tip: Look for the folks wearing the #pinksocks with black mustaches. I promise you that members of the Pink Socks Tribe want to connect – and they may even gift you with a pair of your own pink socks.

Venture off the beaten path. Even though you created your handy daily agenda, consider venturing into parts unknown! Much like going on vacation to a new city, HIMSS offers opportunities to experience new things you’ve never seen or heard about before. Thus, go check out that session on blockchain – that technology you keep hearing about but don’t quite grasp. Purposively visit the 10×10 booths (that are often conveniently located next to the restrooms!) because often this is where you will find some of the most bleeding-edge technologies that could be the next “big thing.” Tour the Interoperability Showcase or visit the Cybersecurity Command Center and absorb information on topics you think you understand but could know better. Grow!

Expert tip: Follow the crowds. If you find a rush of people heading to a certain session or crowded around a particular booth, check it out. They may know something you need to know.

Finally, if you are an exhibitor here are some essential points to keep in mind:

  • HIMSS is not cheap, especially if you consider the cost of the booth space, travel for staff, and the hours and hours of time prepping for the event. If your company spends a total of $50,000 to exhibit and send 10 people, that equates to over $200 per person per hour for each of the 24.5 hours the exhibit hall is open. Keep that figure in mind as you pull out your iPhone to check Facebook.
  • Know your company’s elevator pitch! Even if you are not at HIMSS as a “salesperson,” you still need to be able to concisely explain what your company does. You never know if the person you are talking to is a real prospect or an anonymous blogger who may share your inarticulate response with the whole health IT world.
  • Wear comfy shoes. You’ll thank me.

Safe travels and see you in Vegas!

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