The HIMSS conference can be a little intimidating, especially for first time attendees. Last year there were around 35,000 attendees and 1100 companies on the exhibit floor. If history is any guide, this year there will be even more. When you add in hundreds of education sessions, pre-conference workshops, keynote speeches and social events it can definitely be overwhelming. I learned long ago that in order to the maximize value from HIMSS you need to prepare a game plan.
The first step in developing a game plan is deciding your primary objective for the HIMSS conference. This could include evaluating specific products, attending education sessions to learn more about a specific subject or using the conference as a forum to connect with specific people. You may have more than one objective which is certainly fine but these need to be prioritized to ensure you get everything done. In any event you need to develop an approach prior to arriving at HIMSS to ensure you meet your objectives. Below are several examples of how I’ve gone about this planning process:
- For product evaluation, do your homework first and narrow down the vendor products you would like to review. Then contact vendor representatives in advance to schedule personal or small group demos, if possible, where you can get more attention and questions answered than may be available just by showing up at the booth. Finally look at a diagram of the exhibit floor, write down the booth numbers for the vendors you plan to see and plan the easiest way to get between the various booths.
- To build upon existing vendor relationships, work through your vendor sales rep to schedule time to meet any executives that may be at HIMSS. In my experience, building a relationship with vendor executives is critical to long term success. You should also make sure you get a product roadmap overview and time to discussion any questions or concerns you may have. Finally, make sure and get invites to any social events the vendor is sponsoring since that is a great way to interact with other customers.
- For education sessions, you should review the HIMSS catalog and identify the sessions you would like to attend. Then schedule them around any other activities you may have planned. Reference a map of the convention center to ensure you know where the rooms are located and that you didn’t schedule back to back sessions at opposite ends of the convention center. Finally, you should review the pre-conference workshops to determine if any of these enhance your education plans, assuming you are able to come in a day or two early.
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In addition to planned activities, I think everyone should schedule at least one morning or afternoon to wander around the exhibit floor and just take in all the vendor exhibits. There are always new products and services that you haven’t expected and this process provides you a chance to review them without being under a tight timeframe. Finally, you definitely should schedule some social events to interact with others in the healthcare community and catch up with friends that may be attending.
So what are my objectives this year? In addition to work with Perficient, I plan to attend a number of education sessions with a focus on analytics, ACOs and health information exchanges. I’m very interested in hearing what leading healthcare providers are doing in these areas. In addition, I plan to touch base with many people I’ve worked with over the course of my career and have already reached out to them to coordinate schedules and ensure we will have some time together.
In summary, HIMSS can be overwhelming but with a little planning to ensure you meet your primary objectives it is also a valuable opportunity to either obtain information or have access to people you otherwise wouldn’t see. Use your time wisely and make the most of this opportunity.