Some Frank #HIMSS14 Advice

HIMSS 14 Keynote Area
*The above picture is a preview of the HIMSS 14 stage from @eqrunner. It’s coming together nicely.

As I mentioned previously, I’ll be at HIMSS 2014 in Orlando all next week. It’s a great event for me to get a really good feel for what’s happening in the healthcare IT industry. I’ve gone through hundreds of PR pitches from companies and have my agenda full of meetings where I’m looking to extract the latest trends and happening in the healthcare IT and EHR industry.

However, if you’ve never been to HIMSS before, it can be an overwhelming experience. While this is only my 5th HIMSS, I think I have some insights and suggestions that will help you have a better experience. Plus, for fun you can look back at the HIMSS suggestions I made back in 2011 and see how they differ today.

Keep Meetings Short … or Long
We covered keeping meetings short in my 2011 post as well. Although, I’m considering a more nuanced approach to the idea of short meetings. This year I was really close to shunning short meetings and engaging in all long meetings with both sides of the conversation well prepared for the meeting. I didn’t quite get there, but I think there’s a case to be made for some long and some short meetings. However, you don’t want something in the middle where you avoid really digging in because of time. I’ve personally chosen to schedule mostly 30 minutes meetings with 30 minutes between meetings. That means that if the conversation is really interesting, I can extend to 45+ minutes before I have to run (sometimes literally) off to my next meeting.

Cut Through the Puffery and Buzzwords
There are going to be a lot of people spewing all sorts of puffery and buzzwords. Don’t be afraid to call people out on it. You don’t have to be mean and disrespectful, but be frank and honest with the people you meet. The best way to get to a deeper conversation is to not be afraid to challenge what someone’s saying. Just do it in a way that’s interested as opposed to bombastic. Ask thoughtful questions and listen more than you talk. Don’t be afraid to dig in a little and connect with someone or some company on a deeper level. Sometimes that requires you sharing a little of your insecurities as well. If everyone you talk to says everything is rosey and perfect, than you’ve missed out on really connecting with someone.

Plan Travel Time
Related to the last point, plan on plenty of travel time between meetings. The convention center and exhibit hall are large. It can take you 10-15 minutes of fast walking to just get from one end to the other. It’s always better to be 15 minutes early and have a little time to browse the surrounding booths or grab a drink before the next meeting than it is to be 5-10 minutes late. Late meetings happen at HIMSS, but I try to really avoid it. It’s respectful of the person I’m meeting.

Don’t Follow the #HIMSS14 Hashtag During HIMSS
I use to love the #HIMSSXX hashtag, but now it’s too much during the show. You can’t keep up, there’s too much repetition, and other poor quality tweets. I do suggest you browse #HIMSS14 leading up to HIMSS. Identify 20-40 key people you should follow and add them to a Twitter list. Then, just watch the Twitter list. Start by adding @HIMSS14 to the list and then I’m a little bias to @ehrandhit, @techguy, and @healthcareITJob. I also look forward to tweets from independent thinkers like @fredtrotter, @MandiBPro, @john_chilmark, and @laurencstill to name but a few (Apologies in advance to the hundreds of others that I could have listed).

Skip Most of the Keynotes
I usually get excited for the HIMSS Keynotes. This year they are pretty disappointing to me. I would like to hear Erik Weihenmayer, but will sadly be on a plane. Also, I’ll probably hear what Hillary has to say, but it seems a bit much to have two Clintons in a row. Considering her pending presidency run I don’t expect any fireworks from her. The other keynotes have the government muzzle and if you’ve been to mHealth Summit and/or Health 2.0, then you’ve heard the Aetna pitch before. Needless to say, I’m not going to HIMSS for the keynotes. Plus, anything really interesting that’s said will be tweeted out thousands of times. That’s enough for me.

Carefully Select Sessions
As an extension of the keynote comments above, be really careful which sessions you choose to attend. Avoid ones that look like a sales pitch for a specific company. I know that my colleague Neil Versel loves the HIMSS sessions. I usually lean away from them towards more time on the show floor.

One session I’m torn on is the CCHIT Summit with four of the past ONC heads. I have little doubt it will be standing room only (not fun), but I’m not sure it will be anything special. They have a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who’s been covering Obamacare (Note: not the HITECH Act) that won’t likely be able to dive into the real issues and challenges with meaningful use and healthcare IT. I do love to hear Dr. Brailer talk, but Farzad is probably a couple years from being really interesting. His heart is still very much with his colleagues at ONC and so it should be. I wish HIMSS would focus their sessions on practical sessions only. Leave all the big picture thinking and pontificating for the interactions at the event.

It’s About People
I’ve found my HIMSS experience is always directly related to the quality of people I spend time with at the event. If you can find and surround yourself with really smart people, you’re going to come away from HIMSS with a lot of value. The good part is that with 37k+ people at HIMSS, there are a lot of amazing minds in attendance. The only challenge is finding them. To use a baseball analogy, if you can bat .200 when it comes to meeting with smart, insightful people at HIMSS, you’ll go away happy. Up that to .300 and you’ll never stop going. I’ve found Twitter a great tool for learning about someone before meeting them and then engaging them for a meeting at HIMSS.

Get Power When You Can
While I think that mini battery chargers are a great thing to have, I’ve always found that it’s best to get power when you can get it. It’s always annoying at the end of the day when your cell phone is flashing red as you try to get one more text or tweet out before it dies. This has been less of an issue for me with my latest Samsung S3 and Chromebook(10-12 hours of batter life), but with the long days at HIMSS I still just get power when I can.

Enjoy a Night Out
While many people look at these evening parties as a time for some craziness at HIMSS, I look at them as a way to connect with someone on a more personal level. There’s something that connects people in a new way when you’ve shared an evening with someone with some good food, drinks (I take Sprite), music, and maybe some singing or dancing. It’s all about relationship building and enjoying time together with people you enjoy. In fact, I’ve enjoyed planning out our evening plans on Twitter with many people. Unfortunately, my event on Tuesday evening is at capacity, but here are some of the other events close to the convention center that I’ll likely stop by: Perceptive Software, Kronos, and Qlik (The ICEBAR is a pretty cool venue).

Looks like Orlando is ready for HIMSS 2014. They have the signs up in front of the convention center:
HIMSS14 Orlando Sign

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

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