This year’s HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition (aka HIMSS19) in Orlando will be my eleventh—seven as a HIMSS staffer and four as a public relations liaison for vendor clients. The HIMSS Annual Conference has become the NFL of health IT—there is no real offseason and it gets bigger every year.
For the past several years, HIMSS has regularly attracted more than 45,000 attendees and 1,500 health IT vendors from around the globe.
If it sounds massive and daunting—that’s because it is. If you were to visit every booth in the cavernous exhibit hall for only 10 minutes, it would take you 168 hours non-stop—seven full days—to complete your mission. Some attendees have complained that the show has suffered from the sprawl, while others view it as a cornucopia of selections that can be personalized to suit specific needs.
For vendor exhibitors, HIMSS represents one of the year’s most significant challenges for event planners, marketers and public relations professionals. Exhibiting companies invest an insane amount of money (and it’s a lot of money) and time (lots of that, too) in making the show a success.
There is certainly a lot of low-hanging fruit to increase your visibility at HIMSS19: Thoughtfully incorporate HIMSS19-branded social tags into your social strategy; develop a content calendar specifically for the show; and promote HIMSS19 tools—like the mobile app HIMSS Circles—that attendees can leverage to find your booth and education sessions.
That’s all great. However, the focus of this post is on a rather under-reported challenge most exhibitors will face—separating the “tourists” from quality business leads.
Tourists are those herds of non-decision makers, culled from the unending flow of foot traffic, who visit your booth largely to acquire food, drinks and/or a free keychain. They also absorb an inordinate amount of your sales staff’s time—the same sales staff who ate up a huge chunk of your budget in travel, lodging and registration fees to rope in new business prospects.
You are never going to completely eliminate tourists, but there are some useful strategies that can both slow the flow of the uninterested and attract the demographic population that is more seriously interested in your solutions.
Identify Your Targets Early. Generating quality business leads requires outreach well in advance of the show. One of the recommendations we pound into first-time attendees is the importance of creating and keeping a schedule to avoid mission creep. With all the exhibits, education and networking events—to say nothing of all the stop-in-chats with peers in the hallway, HIMSS can be very distracting. Schedules fill up quick, so it’s important to connect with your leads as soon as possible. Consider investing in the HIMSS attendee list (not cheap) or utilizing a native or other third-party list to get leads scheduled to visit your booth. This also allows your staff to prioritize interested parties over passers-by.
Schedule Education and Demos. Are you noticing a scheduling theme here? I’ve noticed a number of vendors running little demos on an endless loop. They don’t seem to ever attract much attention. Instead, consider hosting scheduled education sessions and demos at your booth. Why? Scheduled demos can be easily promoted both before and during the show, making it easy for attendees to schedule time for a full presentation. Incorporate show-time signage into your booth. Speakers should be equipped with an A/V system, so a large group of attendees can see and hear everything you say. You should also film your presentation for distribution in press releases and social channels after the show, to reach an even bigger audience.
Hire a Tourist Wrangler. Reserve your most knowledgeable staff to handle serious prospects. Use lower level staff to handle visitors who may only be interested in asking a few perfunctory questions in order to obtain your swag. If a tourist turns out to be a legitimate lead, escalate them to the sales staff.
You are never going to completely eliminate tourists, but these strategies that can both slow the flow of the uninterested and attract the demographic population that is more seriously invested in exploring your solutions.