Now, don’t get me wrong: I love big trade shows. So you can be certain that I enjoy the heck out of HIMSS, which I’ve attended off and on since it took place in Phoenix in the early 90s. In fact (and yes, this does reveal what a geek I am) it’s one of the highlights of my year.
But just because something’s fun doesn’t mean it’s on target, and I think it’s worth asking whether all of this blood, sweat and tears would be better invested elsewhere. Is HIMSS really worth our time and energy anymore?
Just consider what goes into a HIMSS event. After all, you could power a small city with the wattage used to keep the exhibitor hall lit up. Forests of trees are killed to make sales slicks. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a booth babe, a magicians or a professional actor/hawker (oh, and don’t forget the Elvises).
And don’t forget the attendees. I can’t imagine how you’d calculate the human energy involved, but it’s gigantic — 35,000 attendees, 300+ education sessions, a quadrillion exhibitors and a maybe a few mimes in clown costumes for good measure. HIMSS12 will out-Vegas Vegas.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on big events per se. Every industry with enough money to invest has its own monster annual trade show. The thing is, that annual shindig has to meet a few criteria to be useful:
* Right size: It has to be just large enough to connect attendees with plenty of new ideas, contacts and potential vendors without giving everyone a headache.
* Right mix of people: Attendees have to have enough in common that they speak a similar language, but different enough that they’re stimulated by the folks they sit next to at award dinners and such.
* Right focus: It has to be broad enough to take both the traditional and the quirky/new participants in the business, but focused enough to be relevant to most attendees. And by the way, it can’t be attended by redundant, undifferentiated vendors that potential buyers yawn and leave early.
This column is already getting long, so I’ll try to keep my conclusion simple. In short, I think HIMSS meets the first goal decently, does a great job with the second, but fails miserably when it comes to the third.
I’m not blaming HIMSS or the redoubtable MedTech Media (a publisher part-owned by HIMSS which works on the show); I just think someone needs to shrink, rebrand and refocus HIMSS13 into something we can all swallow. Hey, HIMSS beings, if you want a volunteer for your focus group, I’m available.