I’ll never forget it. It was one of my first meetings at my first HIMSS conference, and it was with not one, but five people at a well-known company. As if that wasn’t intimidating enough, the discussion started with one of them asking me, “What would you like to talk about?” I remember thinking, “You requested this meeting — why on earth are you asking me what I want to talk about?” After a few awkward seconds, I mumbled a generic question along the lines of, “Do you have any new product releases coming out?” as I mentally waved goodbye to my credibility.
Eventually I was able to shake off the nerves and remember that my goal was clear: to acclimate myself to the world of health IT. I wanted to learn who the big players are, including the top EMR vendors and the most influential CIOs; introduce myself to the people I would be working with; familiarize myself with key issues facing the industry; and basically, get my name out there.
Still, that initial HIMSS was intimidating. It was, as the editor on the first newspaper I worked for used to say, a “baptism by fire”. But I survived once I figured out what I wanted to accomplish.
And that holds true in so many different instances. In order to get something out of an encounter, event, or meeting, you need clear objectives going in. At that first HIMSS, my nerves had the best of me and I didn’t have a plan. Now I do. What I learned is that it’s important to have clear objectives for all of the events you have booked at the show in order to maximize the use of your time. Whether you’re meeting with a vendor or speaking as a customer, have your own agenda. Know what you want to get out of it.
This year, having returned full-time to health IT after a hiatus (during which I kept one foot in the door), my focus is on reintroducing myself to the contacts I made in the past; establishing new relationships; learning about what all of the key players are up to; and basically, getting my name back out there. Those are my goals, and I’ll make sure to accomplish them by having a clear plan for each meeting.
I’m sure I’ll experience some of the old butterflies, but I know what I’m looking to get out of it, and that can make all the difference.
Now, when I’m preparing for meetings with vendors, I know that I need to be the one leading the conversation. And that may not mean walking in with a 10-question script. Although there are definitely times when you want to outline exactly what you’re going to say (for example, when planning for a job interview or even, in my case, a podcast interview), there are other times when you want to let the conversation take its own course. But you always have to have an idea going in.
Now, I know that if it’s a meeting with a vendor at HIMSS, I’m looking to develop a relationship and learn more about what the company is doing.
It’s about having goals in mind, and to me, that means knowing that although there isn’t an exact script to adhere to, there is still a structure I plan on following. And it starts with knowing what I want to talk about — no matter who requested the meeting.