How to Plan Your Attack of HIMSS Exhibit Hall and Sessions

HIMSS MAP 2

With just over 1,400 exhibitors and an attendance of 42,000 healthcare professionals, you really have to be ready with a plan of attack. Whether you are attending as an exhibitor, speaker, member, or first time newbie…we are all facing challenges with how best to tackle this huge event. This is my 10th year in a row attending, and I think I finally have a process that works pretty well. I thought I would share some thoughts and give a couple tips learned.

You’ll need to start by answering the question, what do I want to get out of the show? Education is typically the primary walk away including exposure to new technologies, vendor demos, attending educational sessions, and participating in various events. As an exhibitor, I have a clear structure and purpose which is to educate current and potential clients with services and technologies offered by my firm. Secondary opportunities for me are to capture competitor details, take advantage of partnership and networking gatherings, and catch up with colleagues and friends in the industry.

Your plan of attack should be narrowed down to 3 or 4 areas of focus and outline time expected to achieve each of those focus areas. Create an actual schedule of what and when you are attending sessions, demos, and events. Most importantly, have a map of where these are…the convention center is 7 million square feet. My Fitbit averages 12 miles a day, and I spend half my time on booth duty!

Here is the main exhibit hall. But don’t forget there is the West Hall level 1, Rosen level 3, and the Hyatt across the street.

HIMSS 3
First thing to tackle is education events. If this is your first time attending I highly recommend you go to the “First Timer’s Conference Orientation.” I’ve gone several times, as the Las Vegas venue is more spread out and very confusing. I also suggest you review the agenda on the HIMSS2020 website and take a look at all the options to help build up your schedule. No doubt you’ve already identified top sessions and/or events, but you may find dozens more here. Keynote speaker events are always full to capacity.

Networking and social events are always fun and free. Plan to attend the opening Reception Monday evening. It’s a fantastic way to kick off the show with opportunity to meet and greet fellow colleagues as well as meet new people, it’s a huge ballroom and very conducive for the event. The Exhibit Halls Social Hour on Wednesday will have free food, beverages and various organized regional HIMSS gatherings. As a HIMSS member, you are invited to your regional hosted event. Be sure to go online to your regional specific HIMSS website for these invites, they are not on the HIMSS2020 site.

My suggestion for another area of planning is meals and social gatherings. The convention center offers dozens and dozens of food carts both inside and outside the exhibit hall area. There are food court on level two. There is a restaurant upstairs on level four and three restaurants at the Hyatt across the street. It’s not enough. Lines for coffee alone in the morning are crazy. The food court will be packed from 10:30 am – 2pm non-stop. Restaurants have lines out the door prior to even opening. My suggestion, bring snacks and bottles of water.

Want to get together for a drink with friends or your team? There are three bars at the Hyatt, and unless you plan on cutting out mid-afternoon, you’ll have to fight to get in to any of them. Plan on dinner and social gatherings away from the convention center. Restaurants within walking distance are usually closed for private events, so the further away you get from the conference the better. Make reservations now. Use OpenTable now to look for places that still have availability. This is the one reason I prefer the event in Vegas, food and beverage options are far greater and easier. Guess we can look at that in 2021.

Let’s wrap up with the last, and biggest challenge, the exhibit hall. No doubt this is the #1 driving force behind the entire event. As mentioned, there are over 1400 booths ranging from small first time sponsors with 6 foot tables to major vendors having 12,000 – 14,000 square foot giant offices. IBM usually takes the top spot with Epic right behind costing over $200K just for the space, not including shipping, furnishing, or services. You could fill a dozen suitcases with tchotchkes from pens, socks, binders, stuffed animals, and sweets….to just name a few. There is a reason they give you a backpack when you register, you’ll need it!

Epic

The real value is not the freebies, it is the opportunity to obtain market trending information, training, and materials relevant to your business. My suggestion is to review the attendee list and determine their location. Use the interactive floor plan to search for those companies you want to visit and lay out a path that shows their locations by booth number and Hall area.

HIMSS4

After you’ve determined who you want to visit, go to their website to see if they are offering demos and/or meetings. Most vendors will have an option to proactively set up a meeting so you don’t have to stand in line waiting. Many vendors offer ongoing demos that start every 30 minutes or so. Additionally, you could benefit from gathering materials and taking pictures of booths signage to bring back to your staff. I take dozens of pictures of the various EHR booth signage to share with my consultants and team members.

Epic2

There are probably 50 articles out there on the subject. This will be my 10th year in a row attending. Hopefully my lessons learned help you a bit with your planning a method of attack. If you are attending, please come by and say hello.  I’ll be at both CHIME and HIMSS all week.

Have other ideas and suggestions to share? Please leave your comments below.

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