It happened a few years ago when I was walking the exhibit floor at HIMSS12 in Las Vegas. While rushing as fast as my pregnant self would take me to my next meeting, I ran into an old friend, Rich Temple.
Literally. I almost took him out.
At the time, I had just started working fulltime for healthsystemCIO.com after a 2-year hiatus from health IT. I hadn’t seen Rich in a few years, and I knew he also had gone through a career change. For those of you who don’t know him — and have never heard his boisterous laugh, Rich is a Jersey guy in the best way. He treats everyone like a lifelong pal, always remembering details of conversations from years past. I always look forward to hearing his stories, whether it’s going to music festivals in Austin or checking out little-known venues in Philadelphia.
It was so nice to see a friendly face. But instead of being able to catch up with him, I had to run (or, more realistically, waddle) to my next vendor briefing. With healthsystemCIO.com just 2 years old at that point, Anthony and I felt it was what we had to do — put ourselves out there by meeting with as many members of the vendor community as possible.
As reporters, it’s just what you do at HIMSS.
But then a few weeks later, Anthony asked me a question: “What do you gain from the briefings?” I knew it wasn’t a trap, because thankfully he isn’t the type of boss who plays mind games (I’ve had a few of those), and so I gave a candid answer.
“Honestly? I don’t think they’re the best use of my time,” I said. Not looking surprised, he asked what I’d rather be doing, and I told him that I get more value out of going to educational sessions, or setting up quick meetings with CIOs and other leaders who might be interested in either doing an interview with us or writing a blog.
And so it was decided that going forward, we would ditch the meetings, swapping out our detailed spreadsheets for flexible schedules. For me, it opened up a new world in which I could use a conference to my advantage, and I was elated.
Now, let me clarify something. Both Anthony and I have enormous respect for vendors, and are flattered to receive so many invitations to meet at HIMSS. Vendors play an absolutely critical role in the industry — one that will only increase as it continues to evolve, and we believe it’s imperative that we know what’s happening. But there are more effective ways to do that than with 15-minute meetings at the circus that is HIMSS.
For me, it’s by doing a whole lot of reading — newsletters, websites, blogs, press releases, and of course, Twitter. I’m constantly earmarking pieces that are of interest and filing them in the appropriate folders. Those pieces that the PR teams work so hard to put together? I’m reading them, and taking notes.
But at HIMSS, the largest IT conference in the US, what I really want to do is learn, and that is best done by observing (the booths), listening (to CIOs and other speakers), meeting new people, catching up with old friends, and simply taking it all in. It’s amazing how different the exhibit hall looks when you can walk with your head up — instead of furiously searching your phone for the details of your next appointment.
And so, while I truly appreciate those who have reached out with requests, I find that the true benefit with a show like HIMSS is in having conversations, not briefings.
Hope to speak with you in Orlando!