Crush HIMSS and live to tell about it:
The ultimate guide to succeeding at the largest health IT show

Strategic and tactical tips to succeed before, during, and after HIMSS

Introduction

For many health IT companies, HIMSS is the biggest opportunity of the year to showcase innovations, create buzz, and generate quality leads. It can be a make-or-break event, especially for first-time exhibitors, which puts a lot of pressure on you to get it right.

But for the dedicated and enthusiastic marketer, HIMSS is the perfect opportunity to capitalize on a large, targeted crowd of healthcare leaders and innovators. Whether it’s your first HIMSS or you’ve lost count, we have strategic and tactical tips to help you make the most of your event.

Table of contents

Generating excitement on the show floor

It all starts with a solid theme

Establishing thought leadership at HIMSS

How to submit a speaking abstract

Creating an inviting show space

When and how to design an effective booth

Getting your name top of mind

Prepare for your public relations opportunities

Filling your booth or concierge event

Get the right traffic at the right time

Preparing for anything

Pack your trade show rescue box

Keeping the momentum alive

Ensure post-HIMSS success

Conclusion

Are you ready to rock HIMSS?

Level: Strategic | Time frame: 11 months out

GENERATING EXCITEMENT ON THE SHOW FLOOR
It all starts with a solid theme

Before diving into event tactics, spend some time developing an overarching theme that will tie all of your individual marketing, advertising, and sales efforts together. When walking the HIMSS floor, it’s easy to spot companies that have a well-planned theme and messaging; everything from their booth graphics and team uniforms to handouts and videos are cohesive.

5 reasons to develop a HIMSS theme

  1. It makes it easier to align your entire company on the same talking points. From CEOs doing press briefings to salespeople working the booth, everyone should be on the same page.
  2. It opens the door for buzz before, during, and after the show. Sneak-peeks of your theme will generate excitement and make attendees want to seek out your booth, and a properly promoted theme will ensure prospects and the media focus on the right things.
  3. It creates a foundation to WOW with visuals and experiences. Your theme acts as a foundational messaging platform and style guide for the show, making it easier to come up with exciting giveaways, contests, and booth draw campaigns that reinforce your brand message and attract real prospects, not gawkers.
  4. It creates a lasting memory. HIMSS is a brain-draining event for attendees and media alike. If you want a chance to break through the noise, you need a differentiated message that connects with attendees.
  5. It builds a community of raving fans. An innovative, exciting, or even controversial theme can get your prospects and customers united around a common cause.

What goes into a theme?

  • Consider where your company is today and where you want to be in the next 3–5 years. How will you get there?
  • Are you launching new products or services at HIMSS?
  • Have you recently developed new branding elements?

Choose the top 1–2 things you want to focus on leading up to HIMSS and stick to them. Don’t allow your message to get too fragmented or broad. If you can, come up with a tagline specific to your HIMSS theme. A catchy tagline will draw attention to your message.

Baltimore HIMSS

HIMSS Fact

HIMSS was founded in 1961 and the first national convention was hosted in Baltimore in 1962.

Level: Tactical | Time frame: 10 months out

ESTABLISHING THOUGHT LEADERSHIP AT HIMSS
How to submit a speaking abstract

The best way to show thought leadership at HIMSS is to step out of the sales mentality of your booth space and get in front of an engaged audience. When you’re at the podium, you have the receptive ears of people interested in your topic, many of whom are likely good fits for your products and services.

10 tips for submitting HIMSS speaking abstracts

  1. Keep in mind your two audiences. Conference attendees and proposal review committees will see your content. Choose a topic that will appeal to both.
  2. Use educational information, not a sales pitch. Consider how your speech will help attendees earn new credentials or recertifications.
  3. Speak to a problem that attendees commonly encounter in their work. Explain how to solve that problem.
  4. Pick a track where you have expertise or a unique perspective to offer. Avoid topics that were trendy at the conference the previous two years. Know what’s hot now.
  5. Make sure this is the first show where you will present your session. Offer your HIMSS audience a new session they haven’t heard before at a regional show or on a webinar. Review committees want fresh topics and subject matter to encourage attendance.
  6. Look for the deadline early. Submissions are typically due nine months before the conference date.
  7. Never wait until the day of the deadline to start writing your proposal. Review the template well in advance and aim to submit your entry one week early.
  8. Always send the proposal from a client who can speak about a solved problem. The client should be the primary speaker, and the vendor should be the secondary speaker.
  9. Have other professionals read your content and make sure it’s well thought out. Confirm that your client has reviewed the topic and is on board with the plan.
  10. Conclude your presentation with actionable takeaways. Ask yourself, “If I were starting this project/implementation over again, what would I do differently?” Sharing this advice is more authentic than a sales pitch.
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Did You Know?

Speaking abstracts are typically due 9 months before HIMSS.

Level: Tactical | Time frame: 7 months out

CREATING AN INVITING SHOW SPACE
When and how to design an effective booth environment

Booth design, set up, tear down, shipping, and rental or purchase costs will make up a large amount of your HIMSS expense, so it’s important to be smart with booth design and selection. Whether you have a booth or need to create your first one, these tips will guide you in the right direction.

Is it time for a new booth?

If you can answer “yes” to any of the following, it’s probably time for a booth refresh:

  • Has your company recently rebranded?
  • Has your logo changed?
  • Do you have a new tagline or a drastically new messaging?
  • Are you introducing a major new product or service?
  • Does your current booth often get overcrowded?
  • Do you need more private meeting space, open floor space, table tops, monitors, or other functionality?
  • Is your booth more than five years old?

Booth layout and size

Booth layout determines how easily visitors can enter and flow through the space, how long they stay, and with which elements they interact. Consider these questions to create your ideal visitor flow:

  • How many employees will be in your booth at a given time?
  • Do you want visitors to sit or stand?
  • Do you want visitors to gather into large groups or meet individually with sales reps?
  • Do you need private or semi-private meeting spaces?
  • Will you need monitors for demos or videos?
  • How much and what type of storage do you need?

To get the most bang for your buck, consider an expandable booth that can adapt to accommodate various spaces at different shows.

Rent or buy?

Pros of renting

  • Not responsible for shipping and storage costs
  • Not responsible for booth transportation
  • Flexibility to change design and footprint from show to show

Pros of buying

  • Cost savings if you use the booth for at least three events (your break-even point may vary)
North American icon

HIMSS Fact

HIMSS has been hosted in 24 cities, 12 states, and 2 countries.

Level: Strategic | Time frame: 6 months out

GETTING YOUR NAME TOP OF MIND
Prepare for your public relations opportunities

No matter how innovative your new product is or how flashy your booth looks, it won’t be enough to catch the attention of busy editors at HIMSS. Editors want to hear a customer success story, not a sales pitch. When you and your client tell your success story together, you’ll add credibility to your pitch and authentic evidence of how you’re changing healthcare for the better. Here are some other PR tips from our healthcare public relations experts.

Research your audience
Establish relationships with the media and social influencers well before HIMSS by monitoring conversations online and joining in with useful information or thought-provoking questions. See who’s who in health IT.

Build your list
If you’re a HIMSS exhibitor, you can request the registered press list and reach out to the appropriate editors with a good story opportunity. Tell them your booth number and what they can expect to see, hear, and learn. If you’re not an exhibitor, try to arrange appointments with your media contacts. Be sure to get their mobile numbers so you can find each other on the show floor.

Craft your story
Get your elevator pitch, press release(s), and supporting materials ready early and refine them. You only get one shot with each editor, so make it count. Most editors have 10–15 minutes to spend with you tops, making succinct pitches and diligent follow up even more important.

Find your metrics
Remember HIMSS attendees are DATA people. They understand numbers and want to see them as proof of your claims. Compile your data and know how to back it up. Editors want to tell a great story and data is key.

Train your speakers
Even seasoned C-level and VPs need proper media training. Be sure to prep two or more well-spoken individuals before HIMSS in case one of them is with a customer or prospect when an editor requests a meeting.

Practice your pitch
All good speakers rehearse. Prepare to tell your story from different angles to appeal to editors with different audiences. Your team should pepper your speaker(s) with rapid-fire questions so they get used to responding quickly and eloquently.

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Did You Know?

Every year, HIMSS designates several official Social Media Ambassadors — executives, innovators, and health professionals that carry the conversation before and during the show.

Level: Strategic | Time frame: 6 months out

FILLING YOUR BOOTH OR CONCIERGE EVENT
Get the right traffic at the right time

Your HIMSS success hinges on attracting the right attention to your booth. A “build it and they will come” mentality doesn’t work at HIMSS; there are too many other companies competing for attention from the same prospects, editors, and investors. Generate constant foot traffic with strategic booth draw campaigns.

10 tips for booth draw campaigns

  1. Define a theme and stick to it. Incorporate elements of that theme throughout your booth, videos, advertisements, handouts, and giveaways for a cohesive brand image.
  2. Advertise online where your audience spends time. Find the top online publications your target audience reads and inquire about advertising packages. Editors usually give preferential coverage to their advertisers, so it’s a win-win. Also, consider social media advertising.
  3. Syndicate content to targeted lists. Have a great white paper or executive brief? Pay a publication to promote it on their website and to their mailing lists. The programs usually come with guaranteed leads.
  4. Meet potential booth visitors in their inboxes. If you have a strong email list, utilize it to generate excitement before HIMSS. Be sure to add value and offer unique content in every email rather than simply promote your booth number.
  5. Advertise on the show floor. At-show advertising can remind people to visit your booth. If you’ve done a good job of generating brand awareness before the show, they will recognize your branding and messaging. Familiarize yourself with the venue to select the best opportunities.
  6. Bring customers into your booth. Ask a few of your champion customers to spend an hour in your booth. People are more comfortable asking honest questions to a peer rather than a salesperson and will be more receptive to their answers.
  7. Encourage social media engagement from your booth. Post social media updates live from your booth to help people find you, showcase your giveaway, and encourage visitors to share photos and stories.
  8. Be strategic with your giveaways. Avoid overplayed ideas and grab-and-go tchotchkes. Giving away an experience (trip, event tickets, etc.) is a good way to stand out. Draw people in long enough to start a conversation.
  9. Take notes and pictures. Record the booth designs, ad placements, booth locations, and giveaways that catch your eye so you have ideas and inspiration for next year!
  10. Start planning early. The best way to ensure trade show success is to prepare early. Give your team enough time to brainstorm a creative theme, secure premium ad placements, create engaging content, and run exciting promotional campaigns that will make your booth a must-visit.
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HIMSS Tip

If you don’t have a booth, host a concierge event in a nearby hotel or throw a party after hours. Promote thought leaders and peer interaction to increase attendance.

Level: Strategic | Time frame: 6 months out

PREPARING FOR ANYTHING
Pack your trade show rescue box

Whether it’s your first trade show or your 100th, you will invariably forget to pack something only to realize it at an inopportune time. We’ve all been there. Use this convenient checklist to pack your HIMSS rescue box before you leave. From comfort items to repair tools, you’ll be thankful you stocked up ahead of time.

basic box

The basic box

At a minimum, keep these essential items handy for your team.

  • Office supplies: Colored pens, highlighters, Sharpies™, index cards, Post-it™ Notes, rubber bands, stapler, glue, duct tape, clear packing tape, generic business cards (in case someone runs out)
  • Organization: Ziploc™ bags, trash bags, paper towel
  • Health: Breath mints, gum, dental floss, tissues, cough drops, first aid kit, hand sanitizer, hydration powder packs
  • Electronics: Extension cord, electric plug bar, universal converter charger and wall plug, universal cell phone charging cables
  • Tools: Box cutter, all-in-one tool, scissors

deluxe box

The deluxe box

If you want to be extra prepared, add these items to your rescue box.

  • Office supplies: Mechanical pencils, paper clips, zip-ties, envelopes, stamps, address labels, Wite-Out™
  • Health: Lip balm, tweezers, spare contact case, contact solution, compact mirror, eye drops, hand lotion, reader glasses, hygiene items, energy bars
  • Emergency: Umbrella, small bills and change for vending machines, mini sewing kit, safety pins, USB compatible thumb drive with original collateral PDFs stored, contact information for all booth personnel and booth hardware vendor, flip flops for sore feet
book icon

HIMSS Tip

Book your stay with the HIMSS hotel block for discounted rates and check out other HIMSS deals at himssconference.org.

Level: Tactical | Time frame: Post-HIMSS

KEEPING THE MOMENTUM ALIVE
Ensure post-HIMSS success

You’ve logged tens of thousands of steps, shaken hundreds of hands, and can recite your sales pitch backward in your sleep. But you’re not done yet! Successful trade show marketing doesn’t stop after exhibitors clear out of the hall. Now the real work begins.

Marketers often get so hung-up on pre-show campaigns that they forget about nurturing leads and relationships after the show. 80–90% of the leads you meet won’t be ready to buy yet, but are prospects for future sales.

Follow these seven post-HIMSS marketing tips to ensure your trade show investment yields new leads and powerful business connections.

7 post-HIMSS marketing tips

  1. Take notes on everyone you meet. After you’ve exchanged business cards with a promising contact, take a minute to jot down the highlights of your conversation. This will come in handy for tips 2–7.
  2. Make social connections. Connect with everyone you meet at HIMSS on LinkedIn (or Twitter) soon after your conversation to stay top of mind. Use their profile to learn about their personal information and preferences.
  3. Don’t delay. The weeks after HIMSS can be crazy for your prospects and new connections. Get into their inboxes while HIMSS is still top of mind. Once they’re back to the daily grind, it may be too late.
  4. Stand out. Don’t send a generic blast to everyone you met at HIMSS. There’s nothing more impersonal or off-putting than a “Dear Sir or Madam” email or a “great to met you” if you never actually met them. Address each person by name and include a personal message based on your interaction at HIMSS. Add your headshot to your email signature to help them remember you.
  5. Provide next steps. Use a specific call to action at the end of your outreach emails based on each person’s needs or what they are most likely to do next. Whether you want them to download a white paper, read a case study, view a demo, or set up a call, it’s your job to guide them down the right path.
  6. Share with sales. Share all of your new leads with your sales team so they can add them to the appropriate nurture campaign for best results.
  7. Plan for next year. During and immediately after the show, you’re bound to have ideas for next year. Don’t trust them to memory. Write your ideas down and reference them when planning for next year.
customer icon

Did You Know?

80–90% of the leads you meet at HIMSS won’t be ready to buy immediately, making lead nurture extremely important.

CONCLUSION
Are you ready to rock HIMSS?

Following these tips and strategies will get you well on your way to HIMSS success. For a checklist of tasks to complete leading up to HIMSS, view our month-by-month schedule.

Need HIMSS marketing help? Contact us to get started.