The annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Global Health Conference is right around the corner. Tens of thousands of health information and technology professionals and experts from around the world will gather in Orlando, FL from March 9th - 13th, 2020. HIMSS20 is an incredible opportunity to hear from industry leaders about trends and technology that shouldn’t be missed. But it’s also a massive, massive conference. Without some practical planning, it would be easy for an amateur attendee to leave feeling exhausted and questioning the value (But don’t fear: 40% of HIMSS conference attendees are first-timers). We’re going to share some simple tips for navigating HIMSS20 so that you can focus on what matters and not get tripped up on logistics...or lines.
#1: Wear Comfortable Shoes to HIMSS
It may seem flippant to lead with fashion advice. But realistically, you’re going to be covering a lot of figurative and literal ground while traversing the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Choosing impractical footwear is ill advised, but we also realize you’ll be interacting with many new, valuable contacts. So while tennis shoes may be a little too practical, opting for comfortable flats (or even adding some quality insoles to your go-to dress shoes) will make a world of difference in your physical experience.
#2: The Early Bird Skips the Line
We have to level with you: you’re never really going to skip a line. Once the conference is in full swing, expect some element of wait for shuttles, food, restrooms, etc. However, if you target the earlier side of things, you may have better luck on wait times. In our experience, heading out of your respective hotel during “normal” business hours will mean a different version of gridlock, but traffic nevertheless.
Pay attention to the HIMSS shuttle schedule if you plan to use that for transportation. (Taxis and Ubers are difficult to come by during an event of this size, so it’s not a bad idea to embrace the free transportation.) Planning to arrive to the West Building early to enjoy a cup of coffee, read your emails, or take a meeting will reduce your hassle and make the most of your days on site. Not to mention, if you plan to peruse the Exhibit Hall, most booths will get heavy on the foot traffic late morning and early afternoon. So if you want some quality face time from an exhibitor at HIMSS20, target your arrival when the hall opens for the day for minimal friction (or even reach out to vendors ahead of time and they can arrange for a meeting before the hall opens to general traffic).
#3: Bring Some Snacks for Long Days
Not to sound too much like your mom, but making sure you stay hydrated and have healthy food available will stave off hunger and help you adjust well to the travel (and abundance of indoor air). While there are generally snacks and food vendors available, the selection may be limited (especially if you have food allergies or preferences to consider), and getting offsite for other options may not even be worth it. Here are a few of our favorite healthy snacks for attending HIMSS:
- Fruit and veggies that don’t require refrigeration (apples, oranges, carrots, dried fruit)
- Nut butter packets
- Pre-packaged nuts or trail mix
- Protein bars
A variety of grab-and-go items will set you up nicely for whatever the days hold (or whatever meetings you get pulled into).
#4: Don’t Leave Your Business Cards at Home
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s remarkably easy in the packing process to leave your business card at home. So snag a hefty stack now (you will likely need more than you anticipate given the sheer volume of attendees and great vendors present) and put them in your luggage or carry-on. Many vendors will have scanners to capture the information on your badge, but that leaves you in a passive position to receive their outreach, usually amongst hundreds of new-to-them contacts. So have your business cards on hand, and don’t hesitate to collect cards for key contacts you want to follow up with sooner than later.
Your Conference Badge Is Key At HIMSS
Speaking of your HIMSS badge, it’s vital that you hang on to this resource throughout the conference. There are a few things to know when it comes to your badge:
- Put your badge on the when you board the HIMSS shuttle, but take it off as soon as you leave the conference center for safety (as your information is prominently displayed)
- Don’t lend or borrow badges for any reason
- Throw a handful business cards in the back of your badge holder (it usually has a slot behind the card with the QR code and your information, which you should leave visible)
- Pick up your badge early, either at the airport HIMSS booth, in the lobby of select hotels, or even at the venue on Sunday or Monday (crowds tend to swell Tuesday morning through Wednesday)
#5: Tackle HIMSS20 With A Strategy In Mind
Given the sheer size and number of activities occurring during the week of HIMSS20, going without a plan could leave your head spinning. Ask yourself...
- Why am I going to this conference?
- What do I hope to accomplish?
- Who do I want to meet with?
Creating a list of a few key things you have to accomplish to make the trip worthwhile (for you or your organization) will help you target your attendance and plan your time. Review the HIMSS events schedule well before you catch your flight to Orlando, and create a schedule of “Must Do” events. Everything else should be considered a “Nice To Do” opportunity, but leave flexibility for those serendipitous meetings and dinners that can often make the trip well worth your time and steps.