The health IT event of the year is almost here. Yes, just a few more days until HIMSS15 and time for education, networking and vendor exploration. Whenever HIMSS is in Chicago, some people worry about the weather. But it looks like we’ll have high temps in the 60’s so you southern and west coast folks can leave behind your boots and gloves! I am sure the Boston attendees will not bring snow.
I’ve attended HIMSS many times and have learned how to make the most of my time there. So, whether it’s your first HIMSS or you are a veteran, here are some useful tips:
Education sessions – The best ones will be standing room only. If you really want to hear a particular presentation, get there early. Room locations may be very far apart, so map out your next session. Pay attention to the session designation in the listing — basic, advanced, or intermediate. The last thing you want to do is walk half a mile to get to a session that is targeted at a different level audience.
Networking – Networking is one of the greatest values of this annual event. HIMSS provides many ways to find people with similar interests as yours. Plan ahead: what networking events do you want to attend and who do you want to schedule time with? But be open to adding more ad hoc meetings to your schedule as you make new contacts.
Exhibit hall – There is no question that it can be overwhelming. It seems bigger, louder, and more gimmicky every year. You’ve probably already received a large volume of invitations to visit different booths. Definitely make your game plan before you head into the exhibit hall. I try to spread out my visits over different sessions each day. Have your map with you and mark it up — head for the vendors you want to talk to or check out. For some, you will want to schedule a time to go deep on their products and services and possibly see demos. Others you will just want to do a cursory review for future reference. Remember, you don’t need to talk to every vendor that tries to reel you into their booth.
Special exhibits – There are designated areas for new innovations, interoperability, and new emerging vendors. Plan time to visit these areas. They may not have the same prime location or splash that the big vendor booths do, but be sure to seek them out.
Divide and conquer – If you’re going to HIMSS with others from your team, determine your focus areas in advance to make sure that all the key sessions and vendors are covered. Plan time to share and debrief one another while there or when you get back to the office. If each of you has several key takeaways, consider it a success. Remember to determine your focus areas in advance — HIMSS is all things to all people compared to a vendor user group meeting or a more topical conference.
Social media – Stay close to it. It’s a great way to get the highlights. During every keynote talk you can count on a Twitter feed covering the main points. There is already a steady stream of tweets using hashtag #HIMSS15. Check it out for tips and recommendations on vendors to visit. And follow me on twitter at @sgschade, I’ll be using the #HIMSS15 hashtag. Another option is to join and collaborate with other HIT professionals on Next Wave Connect.
Enjoy the city – Plan some downtime in Chicago before, after or during the conference. There are many great museums and restaurants to check out. The lakefront area is thriving — there is a lot more to see and do since I lived there 20 years ago.
Oh, and one last thing. When people recommend comfy shoes, don’t laugh! They speak from experience. I’ve seen people literally hobbling by the second day. You will cover many miles each day so take heed — it’s all about the right shoes!
And don’t forget your FitBit or whatever tracker you use — you can even enter the HIMSS15 Wellness Challenge at Booth 8127 at the Connected Patient Learning Gallery on Monday, April 13.