I thought I would share my experience at HIMSS13 with you all. But then I was thinking about conferences in general and thought I wanted to write about that instead. Having just spent 5 days in New Orleans attending this year’s HIMSS conference, I have a new found respect for booth work and networking.
I’ll start with my comments around booth work. I probably spent about 12 hours actually working the booth over the last several days. The vast majority of visitors were other vendors eager to partner. I found only one interesting enough to be a potential. However, I collected some 20+ business cards myself from CIOs, Project Directors, and other implementation leads from various hospitals. All eager to hear more about our service offerings, that was obviously invaluable. Then I collected another 8 business cards and a resume from folks looking to get into consulting. Given that the networking and exchange of information I was able to do in 12 hours, I can only assume the others working the booth (there were 5 others) also had the same experiences. If so, we are talking about a potential of 100 or more possible client contacts and 30 or so possible candidates. How can you put a value on that?
Epic had the biggest booth by far. There theme was a warm log cabin with a theatre and digital life size fireplace and all. They sent almost 200 employees to the event. Interestingly, this past year Epic felt they no longer needed to invite consultant firms to offer booths are UGM. A fear of heavy recruiting, voiced by CIOs, no doubt was the primary reasoning. However, I did find the fact that they dominated the floor of a mile long show room a bit hypocritical. Surely they also see the value in offering a booth at such large Healthcare IT conferences. We all have signed the non-recruit agreements in the past, so one can only hope to see this change in the future.
Networking with potential and current clients is another true value to attending these types of shows. I met so many people my head is still spinning. It’s amazing to see how small our world is as I talk with CIOs and other leaders from hospitals I have worked at or with in the past. One of my favorite gatherings was with a CIO from the Seattle area. Our sales guy from that area had just met her. She agreed to join us for drinks and then later joined us at the official Mardi Gras party. Even if we don’t get future business from this specific client, creating relationships will certainly carry through word of mouth.
I also was fortunate enough to network and talk with several folks from my previous employer, including my former boss. It was great to just see the support from so many people, even though I now work for a competitor (all be it, an insect in comparison). I was even able to coordinate a dinner with some old colleagues, which I found extremely beneficial.
The event this year had several key note speakers. Bill Clinton was by far the most attended event of any HIMSS in history. Although I found his speech to be less then organized (a collection of random statements), just his very presence in the same room was enough for me. I attended several CHIME events, including an awesome CIO forum meeting. Getting to hear their thoughts on marketing, sales, and creating new business was worth the trip alone.
So if you are invited to attend a conference to work a booth, and hesitate…I hope you’ll reconsider. I will eagerly participate in events were the “value” can so easily be identified. Are there events with no opportunity on return on investment? Obviously the answer is yes. But HIMSS, UGM, CHIME, and several others are well worth the price of travel and admission.