I have a confession to make. I have never actually managed to follow any of the popular advice that encourages people to prepare for HIMSS weeks in advance.
As I think back across the 12 HIMSS conferences I have attended, I can’t remember a single time when I started earlier than the week before (the only exception being booth logistics). I never reached out to people to pre-arrange meetings. I never looked at the session schedule more than 5 days before the conference. Even when I was in a sales and business development role, I always found myself scrambling with a week to go.
As I moved into Marketing roles, I did do a little more planning, but it was mostly to make sure the booth had power, carpet, etc. Inevitably I would start my personal HIMSS planning the week before the big event.
So if you find yourself in the same situation for #HIMSS18 (which starts next week) take heart. There is still time to maximize your HIMSS time. Here is my Procrastinator’s Guide to HIMSS18 (and other conferences as well). Enjoy.
Attend as many meetups as you can
Meetups are hands-down the most productive networking events at HIMSS. It doesn’t matter if it’s an official HIMSS meetup (usually held at HIMSS Spot or in the HIMSS Booth) or one that is hosted by a company. Meetups attract thought-leaders and key industry influencers. This is a double-bonus. Not only will you get the chance to connect with the experts leading the discussion, but they will draw in a big crowd of people which provides the opportunity for rich networking.
Do a quick search on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or even Google for “HIMSS18 meetup”. Find a meetup that matches your interests or is aligned with the product/service you offer and put it in your calendar. Another great starting point is this list of meetups that John Lynn put together for #HIMSS18.
Arrive to the meetup 10min before it starts, smile and meet as many people as you can. When you hear an interesting idea, turn to the person next to you and comment on it. Don’t worry, audience participation is encouraged at meetups (it’s not a panel presentation after all). Even better, ask a good question or offer up an interesting fact.
At each meetup it is possible to connect with 5-10 people. Who says you need to pre-arrange all your HIMSS meetings?
Search for sessions where your target audience will be
If you are in a Sales or Marketing role one of the best ways to meet people who might be interested in the products/services you offer is to attend related sessions. Use the HIMSS Session Search feature on the conference website or in the HIMSS app and look for educational sessions on topics that align. For example: “remote patient monitoring” or “care coordination” or “physician communication”.
Attend the session and get to know as many of your fellow audience members as you can. In Marketing-speak, anyone in the audience has just self-identified themselves as an early stage buyer. Mine for the gold!
Pro Tip I: Arrive early. Preferably as the prior session is ending so that you can get in and secure a good seat.
Pro Tip II: If you are interested in connecting with someone from a specific organization. Use the session search on the HIMSS website and type in the name of the organization. Anybody speaking from that organization will appear in the results. Hang out after the presentation for your chance to connect.
Download interesting presentations ahead of time
One of the toughest challenges when building slide decks and blog posts is finding relevant statistics. Luckily HIMSS presentations are full of useful facts and figures. Search for sessions on topics that interest you or that you sell into and download the presentation. Voila your research is done.
Plan on visiting with industry media
If you are a small or medium-sized company, it is almost impossible to get the attention of editors, reporters and writers at healthcare publications at HIMSS. This is my first year attending HIMSS as a member of the press and I can tell you first-hand that there is literally no way I can fit another meeting into my calendar and it was filled a couple of weeks ago. As a result I have dozens of unread media-request emails that I simply cannot get to.
If connecting with media is on your HIMSS to-do list, then use the HIMSS Exhibitor Search feature to see if the particular publication has a booth in the exhibit hall. Be friendly to the business development folks in the booth and they will help get you in touch with the writer/editor that you are trying to connect with.
Pro Tip III: If you REALLY want to connect with a particular person at a publication, you can try heading to the HIMSS Press Room and asking for them. The Press Room is the place that HIMSS sets aside for people to write their articles and conduct interviews. It’s also the unofficial place where media folks hang out when they have a lull in their schedule.
Pro Tip IV: Check out the New Media Meetup which Healthcare Scene organizes every year. The event attracts bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers and traditional media. It is a fantastic place to connect. This year’s event is sponsored by CareCognitics.
Team up with one of your clients and become their party agent
There is no shortage of evening events at HIMSS, especially when it is in Las Vegas. If you didn’t get a pre-HIMSS invitation, don’t worry (for years I never got a single invite and I still only get a handful). Many companies recruit attendees to their evening soirees during the conference itself. If you are a fellow vendor, however, it can sometimes be awkward to try and get into someone else’s event.
In the past I have teamed up with one of my clients (usually one I enjoy hanging out with) and I become their party “agent”. I grab a few of my client’s business card at the start of HIMSS and I carry them with me. When I see an interesting party I walk up and ask for an invitation for myself and my client. I drop their card to show that I am legitimately asking on their behalf. It won’t be long before your evening is full. Just don’t be that person that uses this tip and then doesn’t bring the client.
Buy coffee for a stranger
Many salespeople and marketers attending HIMSS are measured on the number of “new contacts” garnered from the event. This type of measure encourages booth denizens to aggressively flag down people walking past their booths to try and scan their badge. I admit I used to do this, but it always made me feel slimy. Then one day I stumbled onto a better method when I decided to do a good deed at HIMSS09. I bought a coffee for a total stranger. Seriously.
One morning I decided that I wanted to brighten someone else’s day. I was in line at Starbucks and I just decided to pay for the order of the person who had also just ordered at the register next to me. The gentlemen, who had been in a #HIMSSHaze perked up and smiled. It turned out he was the CIO of mid-sized hospital. We spoke for 15min at the Starbucks and we exchanged cards. I tried it five more times that day and each time I had a great conversation and ended up with a strong connection.
Try it. You’ll be surprised at how effective this is…and you’ll feel amazing having done a good deed.
So there you have it. With just a few days before #HIMSS18 there is still time to do all the things above. Play your cards right at #HIMSS18 (sorry couldn’t resist the Vegas cliché) and you’ll come home with new friends and valuable connections.
See you in Vegas!