The HIMSS Networking Advice I Wish I Would Have Had Two Decades Ago

The HIMSS Networking Advice I Wish I Would Have Had Two Decades Ago

With HIMSS19 right around the corner, my team and I are excited about networking with current and prospective clients, reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, and facilitating meetings with the best healthcare and health IT media and analysts in the business.

Even though HIMSS is a few days long, sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough hours in each day to accomplish everything you need and want to get done. With about 20 HIMSS annual meetings under my belt, I’ve learned a few networking strategies along the way to get the most marketing ROI possible from the time we all invest.

Whether you’re taking part in HIMSS19 as a vendor/exhibitor or individual attendee, here are some tips to make the most of your HIMSS networking opportunities:

Face time

Even if you’re tired after a long day of meetings, be sure to take advantage of the many face-to-face networking events at HIMSS. Meeting with other health IT execs in a more informal setting is a great way to make personal connections—which in turn can become strong business relationships.

Pro tip: Find common ground and talk about something interesting or fun related to the show.

Pitch perfect

Whether you’re meeting contacts on the exhibit hall floor, in your company’s booth, or at a networking event, remember that there’s a fine line between promoting yourself and being overly self-promotional.

One way to talk about your organization is to come prepared with a well-honed elevator pitch. This is a two- to three-sentence description of your company that’s simple, easy to understand, and memorable. Don’t get bogged down in jargon and technical specs. Explain your product or service in laymen’s terms.

At our agency, every elevator pitch must pass the “Connie’s mother’s test.” In other words, if you explained your story to your friend’s mother or neighbor would they understand it? If not, you probably need to modify it.

If you’re an executive who’s meeting with media and analysts, that’s good advice for those situations, too. Talk to them just as you would anyone else you meet at the show. Be friendly, be yourself, and don’t be overly self-promotional. You want to position yourself as an industry thought leader, which means that sometimes the conversation will turn toward wider industry trends rather than specific solutions.

Pro tip: If you serve multiple client bases that use your products and services in different ways, come armed with an elevator pitch for each. They need not be completely different, but should speak to the pain points of the person you’re talking to.

The social network

Although you shouldn’t ignore social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, you’ll likely get the most exposure by engaging with other attendees on Twitter. If you want to establish yourself as a thought leader, I suggest living tweeting from the show. A simple comment on what you learned about a session, or something interesting you saw or heard on the show floor makes for good fodder.

If you want to tweet but you’re on a tight schedule, one tactic is to retweet influencers such as the HIMSS Social Media Ambassadors and trade media with a heavy presence at the show. Also consider engaging with anyone who is effectively using the conference hashtag #HIMSS19, as well as any of the other official HIMSS19 hashtags such as #Aim2Innovate, #ChampionsOfHealth, #Connect2Health, #EmpowerHIT, #Engage4Health, #HITworks, #PopHealthIT and #WomenInHIT. (When you look at the conference hashtag feeds, be sure the list is sorted by “top” rather than “most recent” to filter out some of the noise.)

You should always be authentic, and it’s great to choose tweets that resonate with your own brand. But it’s okay to retweet something interesting or funny even if it isn’t 100 percent “on message.” In fact, many attendees scroll right by posts from vendors that only tweet their sales pitch and booth number. Of course, you should post links to your own blog posts, company announcements, events and promotions. But it’s always better to join a conversation rather than trying to dominate it.

You may want to also consider taking a team approach to your conference tweets. Platforms such as TweetDeck make it easy to post from multiple accounts at once, including your personal account and those of your team members as well as your official company account.  This is a great time to follow new influencers and to engage with them to get likes, retweets and (hopefully) new followers.

Pro tip: If you have a few extra moments, you can personalize a retweet by choosing “quote tweet” and adding a brief comment to make it stand out even more.

Go beyond the big show

Trade shows are a fantastic opportunity to connect with potential clients and business partners as well as analysts and the media, but if you fail to follow up, you’ve missed a key opportunity.

Too often, attendees collect business cards, only to toss them in a drawer once they get home. You can use an app that turns cell phone snaps of business cards into text files or make photocopies of them. Send those to your marketing team so they can add them into your prospect list, and don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn.

Pro tip: Write some details about the person you met on the back of their business cards as soon as you can, so you have context when you follow up.

Remember to have fun

Any large conference can be busy and overwhelming. Planning ahead will help, whether it’s deciding which network events to attend, having the official conference social hashtags at your fingertips, or making plans to meet long-distance contacts for a quick cup of coffee.

I’m looking forward to the show and hope to see many familiar and new faces in Orlando! Here’s to a great HIMSS!

Media Interview Preparation 101

Media Interview Preparation 101

Some executives dedicate ample time and effort to media interview preparation – studying the journalist’s previous coverage, developing carefully considered talking points – while others, not so much.

Guess which ones are typically more pleased with the outcomes of their interviews?

Nonetheless, it’s important to keep the significance of media interviews in perspective. Unlike a new product release gone awry or ethical misconduct by management, a bad interview is unlikely to cripple a company’s future. More likely, an interview gone off-the-rails results in some temporary embarrassment and heartburn for the company’s leadership – obviously something everyone would prefer to avoid. Still, there’s no need for an interview subject to work herself into a nervous state of sweaty palms, butterflies in the stomach or stuttering speech.

While no one would suggest that executives need to prepare for a media interview with the time and diligence that they’d devote to a board meeting, for example, media interviews are indeed an important conduit to introducing a young company to potential investors, partners, employees and the market in general.

Confidence is key, and preparation breeds confidence. With that in mind, here are a few key preparation tips beyond the usual “Do your homework!” to turn any interview into a positive showcase for you company and your thought leadership.

Ask questions before the interview: What type of readers/viewers/listeners comprise the media outlet’s audience? Why is the reporter interested in talking to you? How did he/she find out about your company? What topics will the interview cover? Will the reporter share any questions ahead of time? Will you have the opportunity to review the article before it’s published (probably not), or any direct quotes from you that the reporter plans to use (quite possibly)? Don’t let any excitement or nervousness about the interview prevent you from asking a bunch of questions to the reporter – soon, he/she’ll be asking plenty of you.

Research the reporter and media outlet: Check out the reporter’s bio or LinkedIn page, and look for some clues from his/her background to build pre-interview rapport. Maybe the reporter attended the same college as you or has worked at a company with which you have some familiarity. This is great fodder for small talk before the interview begins, which will help to establish a friendly tone at the interview’s outset.

Aside from the reporter’s personal background, study the past few articles he/she’s written. They’ll provide clues for what interests him/her, what angles the reporter likes to take on stories and what types of questions might be asked.

Hammer key messages: I like to think of media interviews as a Venn diagram, featuring two circles – one representing the reporter’s interests and the other representing those of the interview subject. Rarely if ever will these two circles completely overlap. In fact, only about 10 percent of each may overlap, but that 10 percent is where you’ll live during the interview. That’s the space where you’ll be able to discuss your industry and your company’s accomplishments and capabilities without seeming too sales-y or self-promotional.

After you’ve asked the right questions and done your research, it’s time to prepare talking points that hammer home the key messages you’d like to convey in the interview. Make each of these points brief, conversational and punchy. Provide a little supporting evidence or an anecdote and move on to the next one. Don’t be afraid to re-emphasize points you’ve previously made; repetition helps reporters prioritize the importance of the information you’ve covered during the interview.

After the interview: Once the interview is over, breathe a sigh of relief and revel in a job well done — although the work isn’t done quite yet. Follow up with the reporter to see if any additional information or clarification is needed before the piece is published. Once the piece is published, promote it via all channels available to your company – social media, company blog, website, email campaigns and the like.

Does this seem like a lot of work? Sometimes it can be, but the positive is that a strong PR firm will do all the legwork for you – asking important questions of the reporter, researching the reporter and media outlet’s background and crafting talking points. Then it’s just up to the executive to think about and digest the information and proceed with confidence towards exceling in the interview.