We’ve walked the halls of HIMSS, and so too have our clients, and there’s insight to be gained from that experience. We polled our clients about the event and synthesized the learnings into six tips, all of which should be useful to exhibitors and attendees alike. Please review the tips below and share your experiences too. If you’d like to learn more or have a question about preparing for an event such as HIMSS, please provide your e-mail address below and we’ll reach out to you directly.
#1 Get your story straight
It’s never too early to develop your storylines for HIMSS. Nor is it too early to start conversations with media (you don’t need this year’s media list to get started). We’re already speaking with healthcare media about their plans for Orlando so that we can better align our clients’ stories with industry trends and journalists’ interests.
Don’t have news to break through the clutter? Why not do some research or bring a client’s customer with you to offer onsite perspectives. Either or both of these tactics could help you break through the din of HIMSS. But you’ll need to know where to start and how to build an integrated plan that complements your media strategy, your booth presence and your digital strategy pre- and post-event.
#2 Don’t forget sponsorship opportunities – of all levels
Slots fill fast, but if you’ve been to HIMSS you know which promotional opportunities are diamonds in the rough. Last year, everyone loved the convenient recharging stations. Don’t just spend money to spend it, but if the right opportunity presents itself – and it fits nicely with your brand story – get ready to pounce.
Extra hint: sponsors’ plans change, so opportunities may still be available if you (we) ask.
#3 Attendees should dare to compare
Our clients include HIT buyers too, the people actually walking the floors and attending the sessions. For them, we recommend taking a disciplined approach to the event. Pick the right sessions, but don’t just listen to the presenters; instead turn to fellow session attendees and ask them why they’re there. Presumably, they have challenges, and these could be yours too. Create a checklist for vendors that addresses these challenges – whose story is strongest, which meets your needs best (don’t just fixate on the best booth or biggest name), what do others think? This is your chance to meet real people behind a brand, not just read marketing copy online!
During the Event
#4 Walk the show floor until your feet hurt
Or, even better, have your agency walk it. Have a plan, however. What are your competitors saying? Don’t just grab a sell-sheet, really talk to them and absorb their pitch. Last year, one of our team members spent nearly an hour in a competitor’s booth, getting a clear and highly revealing glimpse into their strategy.
Extra hint: make sure your booth staff is aware that others may be doing the same thing!
#5 Think post-event even (especially) during the event
Media will only write about a few things and a few brands in the weeks surrounding the event. That’s why we also have a goal to set up stories for the upcoming year too. A briefing that leads to three future stories can be better than just getting a quote in a round-up story. Likewise, what connections can you make onsite that can drive marketing in subsequent quarters? Can you identify potential partners, if only for co-marketing; industry organizations; paid media opportunities with publishers of trade magazines; or new ideas sparked by other vendors at the show? Make a plan to leave HIMSS with ideas!
#6 Talk WITH prospective customers not TO them
Too often we see well-choreographed booth tours and demos, but very poorly executed listening. Why is this a problem? Because for the rest of the year we lament the fact that we wish we could better understand customers’ real-world challenges, yet we exit an event such as HIMSS with business cards instead of real learnings. Yes, booth staff bring that back into their sales pursuits post-event, but do you have a formalized process for capturing customer challenges? Do you use events to help map your customers’ journey, including how they learn and whom they trust? Imagine the value of that information throughout the year – would you trade a few business cards for that?