“Can I get a Blue Moon please?” I asked the server, while searching my bag for something to keep the kids occupied. It was Friday night, and we had decided to venture out to a restaurant — something I’m not always willing to do at nighttime.
“We have a special where it comes with a shot of Tito’s!”
“I’m sorry, what?” I said, while trying to coerce Austin to sit in a “big kid chair” (they were out of booster seats).
“A shot of Tito’s vodka! It goes really well with Blue Moon…”
“Um, no thanks. Just the beer.”
As the young server walked away, my husband shook his head, laughing. “Really? A shot? C’mon lady, know your audience.”
Now, I understand that restaurant employees are trained to up-sell, but when it’s 6 p.m. on a Friday night and a couple is having dinner with their 3-year-old twins, they probably aren’t looking to “party.”
As the meal progressed, it became pretty clear that we weren’t the server’s target audience. She brought waters for the kids in large glass cups, and had to be asked a few times for more napkins. I tried not to judge — she’s probably more accustomed to the bar crowd, or at least people who dine after 6 p.m. But because her income is based largely on tips, wouldn’t the smart move be to tailor your approach based on the audience?
It’s a lesson that can certainly be applied to countess situations, like the conversations we’ll have at next week’s HIMSS conference. With the show approaching, most of us are thinking about how we can best make use of our time, which is certainly a wise thing to do. But what often happens is that in our haste to check things off the list and make sure we talk to all of our targeted people, we rush through conversations, all but ignoring the person we’re speaking with as we plan our next move. By doing this, we’re not only doing a disservice to that person, but also to ourselves, because we could be missing out on a valuable discussion.
And believe me, I haven’t been immune to this. I’m not proud to say that there have been times when I’ve been so determined to pin down the CIO I’m dying to interview that I resorted to nametag-surfing and searching the room while attempting to hold a conversation. I don’t think I realized how disrespectful this was until I noticed people doing the same thing to me — glancing at my name tag, then quickly scanning the room for someone more important to engage, and surfing right on over to him or her.
Never again, I thought, determined to improve my listening skills and get back to the basics: introduce yourself, give a firm handshake (or fist pump, as some of my germophobe friends prefer) while looking the person in the eye, and have a real conversation. It’s my HIMSS resolution.
And while I’m at it, here are a few more suggestions for how to get the most out of HIMSS — or any event, for that matter:
- When attending an educational session, listen. Take notes. Ask questions. Those emails in your inbox can wait.
- After meeting with someone, follow up. It doesn’t have to be right away, but at some point, send the person a note thanking them for their time — it’s how great relationships start.
- If you can’t make it to a meeting, cancel properly. Things come up all the time at events like HIMSS, but it’s no excuse to leave someone hanging, especially when they can use the time to schedule another meeting, make a call, or grab a coffee.
- And finally, whether you’re speaking with an individual or a group, know your audience. Skip the canned speech or joke (unless it’s really good), and tailor the conversation to fit the people who are in front of you. Trust me, it will be appreciated.
For a sneak peek of some of the best educational sessions at HIMSS and advice from experts on how to navigate the show, please check out our HIMSS16 Preview.