I’ve been needing to write a post about the HIMSS 2020 Conference Cancellation for weeks since they announced that exhibitors would get no refunds from HIMSS (keep reading for the latest update). Between being overwhelmed with COVID-19 Health IT coverage and just the sick feeling I get thinking about HIMSS being cancelled, I’ve avoided writing about it.
As you all know, here at Healthcare IT Today, we’re all health IT all day, every day (and my wife would argue every night). We believe that technology should and will have a transformational effect on healthcare and when implemented in the right way it does. It’s no surprise that going to the HIMSS Annual Conference with all its faults is a great event for us where we get together with 45,000 of our closest friends. We learn from people doing the hard work of health IT. We hear about new innovations. We connect with smart people that inform the content we share with the Healthcare IT Today community.
With that in mind, it was really hard news to hear that HIMSS had chosen to not refund any exhibitor fees that were paid (Full Disclosure: Healthcare IT Today is one of these exhibitors). The only remedy offered was a HIMSS20 Digital event which includes a MapYourShow listing. I haven’t met anyone that believes this will provide any meaningful leads.
To add insult to injury, Freeman who does booth logistics wasn’t refunding the booth expenses for most exhibitors. They’ve later gone back a little on that and said they’re not refunding anything that was already completed. Although, I’m still waiting for proof that they’d done our carpet and put out our table and chairs before the show cancelled. Furthermore, the convention center also offered no refunds for things like power that every booth has to buy. And some hotels have chosen not to refund exhibitors either.
Long story short, the HIMSS20 cancellation was leaving exhibitors with a really bad taste in their mouth. Exhibitors were out thousands and up to hundreds of thousands of dollars (maybe a million?) with what seemed like no compassion from HIMSS for the situation. Most people I talked to in our healthcare marketing community were sick that HIMSS original announcement didn’t offer any real remedy. They understood they probably wouldn’t get most of their money back, but that HIMSS would offer no discount off HIMSS21 and instead would call on their non-profit status was tough to take and that’s putting it lightly.
In better news today, HIMSS has announced a partial remedy for exhibitors as follows:
We are very happy to share that Exhibitors will be able to use 25% of their total spend from HIMSS20 for HIMSS21 and HIMSS22! 15% to be applied to HIMSS21 and 10% to HIMSS22.*
For Startup** and University Row Exhibitors, 100% of your total spend on HIMSS20 can be used for HIMSS21 (50%) and HIMSS22 (50%)!
*To be eligible for the HIMSS22 financial remedy, the Exhibitor must exhibit at HIMSS21. Please speak to your HIMSS sales representative for further information.
**Applies to Startup Exhibitors that were approved through the formal application process with HIMSS.
They also noted their previous “remedies” of applying paid exhibitor staff and client badges to HIMSS21 and the listing on the MayYourShow section of HIMSS20 Digital.
In this announcement they also offered the following about Hotel Refunds that haven’t happened:
Regarding hotel reservations, we have learned that while some hotels have already refunded attendees we understand other hotels have not. For those who have not received a refund, we are sorry the hotel appears to be giving you the run-around. We are puzzled why the hotel would send you back to HIMSS when it holds your deposit and we have informed them, on more than one occasion, that the decision as to whether to issue a refund is theirs, and their decision alone, as it is based upon the hotel’s cancellation policy, not HIMSS. We wish there was more we could do. We will update our website FAQs if updated information becomes available.
It’s unfortunate that this wasn’t the initial response to exhibitors from HIMSS. It’s good that they’re listening to exhibitor complaints, but I fear that this may be too little too late for many vendors.
Just to be complete in our coverage, HIMSS had previously announced that HIMSS20 registrations would be automatically applied to HIMSS21 registrations as per their cancellation policy. Many have complained that the HIMSS20 registration couldn’t be applied to a new person at HIMSS21. The credit had to be applied to the same person which is unfortunate for many organizations who go through turnover of staff.
Needless to say, it’s going to be interesting to see what it’s like at HIMSS21. How many vendors will continue to exhibit? Will vendors shrink the size of their booths because of this? Will not exhibiting at HIMSS20 hurt company pipelines or will it illustrate that companies shouldn’t be spending that much money at HIMSS? Will COVID-19 make it hard for companies to know the answer to this question? No doubt there are still more questions than answers and COVID-19 isn’t helping that situation.
It’s true that HIMSS is more than the conference and does some policy advocacy work as they noted in the remedy email, but that’s not the reason most people exhibit at the HIMSS Annual Conference. They do it for the leads. They do it for the exposure. They do it for the press. They do it for the connections to partners, their own customers, investors, and potential acquirers. Only time will tell if these new offers from HIMSS to exhibitors will be enough to bring exhibitors back in 2021.
Let us know what you think in the comments. Will you be at HIMSS21 in Las Vegas? Will your company be exhibiting? Will you be changing how you exhibit if you are planning to exhibit? Will you be holding off on a HIMSS21 decision until later in the year? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter with @hcittoday.