As we reported previously, the HIMSS 2021 conference is officially being moved to August. It will still be held in Las Vegas at the Sands EXPO Center, but now shifted to the summer – August 9-13, 2021. In a press briefing today, Hal Wolf, CEO of HIMSS mentioned that they have secured additional space to accommodate social distancing or other changes that may be needed.
The obvious concern for August in Las Vegas is the heat. According to Vegas.com, the average high in August is a balmy 102F. This can make walking from place to place during HIMSS21 rather uncomfortable. Luckily several of the hotels are already connected via air conditioned walkways and more are being built.
The HIMSS21 conference website now lists the event location as: Venetian-Sands Expo Center – Caesars Forum – Wynn. Wolf mentioned in the press conference that by August next year Las Vegas is working on a bridge with A/C that connects casinos. I believe the bridge mentioned is between the Wynn and the Venetian-Sands Expo Center, which is a fair distance to walk. However, the walk to the Caesars Forum convention space from the Venetian-Sands is far. Even if you’re staying at Caesar’s it’s a long walk from the hotel towers to their convention space, let alone coming all the way from Venetian. Hopefully they plan for a shuttle to Caesars if they’re holding many events there.
As we reported previously, we were hearing a lot of angst from HIMSS20 sponsors about the HIMSS20 cancellation with little in the way of refunds. A number of sponsors have been saying that they expected HIMSS to do more or it was unlikely they would be returning to HIMSS21 as a sponsor. At the press conference, Wolf reiterated the remedies that were previously announced. He said that their contractual environment limited them in how they could respond and that they had already absorbed a tremendous amount of cost having to cancel HIMSS20 just a week before it was to be held. In fact, he said that the remedies they already announced for exhibitors amounted to $7+ million that HIMSS was literally taking out of their pocket and it was what they could afford.
Wolf did say that they’re working on other remedies for exhibitors, but that it’s contingent on the settlement of the insurance claim they’ve made for HIMSS20. He shared they had insurance, but that they are still in the middle of the claims process and waiting for it to resolve so that they can provide additional remedies to HIMSS20 exhibitors. When that settlement will happen is unknown because it’s still in negotiation and as Wolf said, it is very complex and large.
When asked about the changes to exhibitor contracts for HIMSS21 and the force majeure clause, he acknowledged that the new contact offered a 50 percent reimbursement if HIMSS21 is cancelled vs the zero refund for force majeure that was included in the HIMSS20 contract. Wolf said that a potential HIMSS21 cancellation was going to be different than the HIMSS20 cancellation because HIMSS21 will be a blend of the physical and virtual events.
On that note, Wolf said that HIMSS was in the process of building a brand new virtual platform that they’ll keep improving throughout 2021. He called this new platform HIMSS365 which will create a year round program that’s not just for the CIOs that are the bedrock of the HIMSS community, but also for the ecosystem that’s around them. Wolf explained that between the HIMSS20 Virtual and COVID-19 content, over 30,000 people had engaged with them virtually.
Looking forward to what to expect at HIMSS 2021, they said they weren’t going to be releasing any specific numbers on exhibitors or attendees until they got closer to the event, but Wolf said that exhibitor signups for HIMSS21 are “meeting and exceeding expectations.”
The new dates for the HIMSS21 Call for Speakers have also been set. HIMSS will be accepting speaking proposals for HIMSS21 from October 5 – November 2, 2020. Details will be posted soon. If you’d like to be one of the HIMSS session reviewers, the Call for Reviewers for HIMSS21 is open from September 14-28, 2020. You can find more details about being a reviewer and what’s required here.
There was some discussion of health and safety at HIMSS21. Needless to say, a year out it’s hard to make specific comments. However, it sounds like this is at least part of why they added the extra space at Wynn and Caesars. Wolf did say that they’ve been looking at various exhibit floor layouts to see how it could be adjusted if there was a need for more distancing at the event. He said that the health and safety of the HIMSS community is their number 1 priority and they would do what was necessary to create a safe environment at HIMSS21.
Not fully addressed in the call with Wolf was the heat in Las Vegas in August. As a current Las Vegas resident, I can say the heat is real. However, I still think it won’t be as big of an issue as some will make it out to be since most of the conference you’re in an air conditioned environment. That said the perception could keep some away unless one of the venues is poolside.
No doubt there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to HIMSS 2021. A lot is going to change between now and then. Plus, there are lots of outstanding questions about whether those at hospitals, health systems, and medical practices will be able to attend given budget issues and possible travel restrictions. I think it will take some real work for HIMSS to convince exhibitors and attendees that the virtual option will provide them the same value as in person, but we’ll see how that evolves between now and the event.
We’re still a year away from the event and it will have been around 29 months since the HIMSS community last got together. That’s a lot of time for things to evolve with COVID-19 and there will certainly be some pent up demand for the opportunity to meet together. As our health IT conference tracking has indicated, in person events are out for 2020 and now leaking into 2021. Will we all be ready to get out and connect in person by August 2021 or will the virtual events have filled that need?