The Spring season is upon us and with that comes two of the largest healthcare conventions of the year, back to back. Last year I wrote about these two conventions to explain the differences and how ViVE became to be as a result of Covid confusion and HIMSS mismanagement of the 2020 canceled convention. I thought this year I would keep it lighter and just share who I think did a better job in terms of location and venue as well as a look at the shows offerings and benefits of participating. I’ll share some opinions on things that didn’t work so well, but really highlight those that did.
Nashville, TN was the host city this year for ViVE, held March 26th through March 29th at the Music City Center. This was my first time attending a conference at the Music Center. It was also my first time staying in the convention area of downtown Nashville.
From a location and venue perspective Nashville is the real winner here. A fun city with plenty of hotels within walking distance and tons of restaurants and entertainment to meet and network. Hotel costs were great and the convention center itself impressive. The convention center opened in 2013 and offers 2.1 million square feet of meeting and showroom space. The meeting spaces used for CHIME both at the convention center and at the Embassy Suites across the street were easy to get to vs the miles of distance at other conventions. It seemed to be very modern and open. I especially enjoyed the decision to have live music in various areas of the convention space.
HIMSS choose to once again visit the windy city of Chicago April 17th – 20th at the McCormick Convention Center. The last time to convention was hosted here in 2019 the city had a blizzard, and to no surprise to me, it snowed as most of us arrived again this year. A big change from the regular locations of either Orlando or Vegas for sure.
Unfortunately, Chicago’s convention center is in an isolated area of the city and provides challenges for a daily commute if you didn’t get a reservation at the two or three local hotels. If you wanted to meet someone or just grab something to eat, there were very few venues within walking distance that were not already sold out for private parties, and the hotels were completely packed. There was several take out type food establishments, much better than Orlando has, but lines were still crazy long and the quality of the food was worse than most airports. The costs with Chicago also are a big difference to attendees in comparison to usual locations in Orlando or Vegas. Hotel rates were almost 3 times that paid last year.
As a vendor attending a trade show we all know that the focus is on sales, marketing, and customer interaction. I have to admit I also like to use these gatherings for education purposes. It’s also nice to see old colleagues and friends. Networking is a big driver for many. I will say most of these shows are more vendors then not, but that’s not always a bad thing as many attendees are also looking for opportunities to identify partnerships and/or do competitive comparisons. In either case, both shows offer all of the above.
CHIME is typically an isolated event from the rest of the show, either held in a different part of the convention center or held entirely in a separate location. This year ViVE choice to provide a space in the general showroom for CHIME to give its keynote and other presentations. While the convention center was really impressive in its size, we were all cramped without enough seats and so much foot traffic and competing presentation happening, it was hard to hear or stay focused. It looked great in the morning though when no one was there yet. CHIME should have had a ballroom space, away from the show floor…it just didn’t work.
ViVE did a great job with providing a ton of networking offerings, including an option to buy client meetings in a type of speed dating scenario. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with current and potential clients to hear about their upcoming projects and initiatives. There was plenty of seating areas and coffee areas where you could meet with a client. CHIME offered an area with tables and comfortable sofas to catch up with a friend or host a meeting. Even the lobby area had live great places to grab a coffee and enjoy soft live music in the background (check out band in the background in the pic below).
Another thing that ViVe offers is breakfast, lunch and snacks. There is literally an endless array for food and beverages from opening to closing. My favorite was on the last day they offered fresh biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast, I was in heaven! There is a debate regarding bottled water. ViVE stated they spent almost a half a million dollars on water bottles. I brought my own water, but I know its another benefit many enjoyed.
ViVE offered a ton of educational sessions, over 60 over the three days. In addition to that, CHIME offered their breakouts as well. While most were offered on the main floor, it was nice that CHIME held sessions over at the Embassy Suites, right across the street. While most of the general sessions were packed, those offered later in the day had plenty of seats and allowed for more interactions with the speakers.
I probably should have said this right from the start, a comparison of ViVE to HIMSS isn’t really apples to apples and might not be a fair comparison. HIMSS expected just over 40,000 attendees (compared to the 7500 for ViVE) this year. I’ve attended this event for years and it really is all about the vendors and the show floor. I overheard someone the other day comparing it to a boat show. I loved that analogy. Walking through the floor the day before opening was an impressive gathering of workers opening giant crates, laying down carpeting, and wiring each booth to be ready for Tuesday’s big opening.
With over 1,100 vendor booths, you can find most any kind of healthcare related business from infrastructure, to equipment, IT, and every kind of service offering you can imagine on the floor. The big players, and largest booths, come from familiar names like Google, Amazon, Epic, and Oracle. Most offered give-a-ways ranging from stuffed animals to popcorn. All to lure you in to perhaps watch a demo or talk about your organization. Its an impressive display of sales at its core. Fund, but exhausting. I averaged 14,000 steps a day for 4 days.
I am always impressed with Epic’s booth. OK, I know I am biased, but while the same theme and design is the same year over year, the opportunity to meet with their team and participate in demos is just awesome. They go over the top with marketing signage, but I love the stats just the same. I also was impressed with SalesForce this year. They had an awesome forest themed booth and impressive team of subject matter experts providing demos all day long.
My company opted to have a meeting space instead of a booth this year. The space was basically the inside of a pods storage space. It actually worked great. Located right on the show floor, tucked in the back was dozens and dozens of pods all set up to welcome clients in a formal meeting setting. Our room was simple with table and demo set up and was booked everyday. From a cost perspective, a booth at HIMSS start at $20,000 and companies like Oracle spend over a $1M. Having an option like this was perfect, and I highly advise using something like this.
Another positive aspect of HIMSS is the ability to attend regional events and gatherings. Most chapters host a vendor sponsored event towards the end of the day as a happy hour or an offsite dinner or party. I was fortunate to attend an excellent function hosted by the Gulf Coast Chapters of MS, AL, and LA at Lou Malnati’s…the best deep dish in Chicago. I also attended two other happy hour events that were a bit more educational focused, but nice as well. The benefit here is to meet you customers and network while being wined and dined by your host. I find this to be a real differentiator between ViVE and HIMSS.
I’ll wrap up with sharing a selfish part of why I enjoy these shows, seeing old friends and networking with clients and coworkers. We are all busy at work and home that sometimes keeping in touch with friends and colleagues can be hard. Events like these provide an opportunity to reconnect with folks that you don’t usually get to see often, have great food and conversation with clients, or even have drink or two with coworkers that you haven’t had time to get to know.
What did you think of the shows? Leave your comments below.