To HIMSS or Not To HIMSS? Find the Answer With 5 Questions

What’s reality vs perception?

The decision to exhibit at HIMSS or any other large trade show is usually made a year in advance. Do companies really know how to work a large show to get the most ROI? Is it really just about deep pockets? Are there other less expensive ways to have a competitive edge? This blog outlines the 5 questions to answer to HIMSS or not to HIMSS.

What is so magical about HIMSS? Does it really produce results? What’s reality vs perception?

With an estimated 40,000 attendees, the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Meeting is among the largest trade shows focused on healthcare information technology.  This year HIMSS will take over the Orlando Convention Center from February 19-23.

In many ways, HIMSS is no different than any other massive trade show. But, is HIMSS really the mecca for making HIT deals happen? Let’s look at the numbers.

There are over 1,200 exhibitors scheduled for this year’s exhibit floor. But, …

  • only 50% of the exhibitors are returning from 2016
  • only 25% of the exhibitors exhibited in 2015 and 2016
  • only 80 of the exhibitors go back to 2014
Based on the Lodescore Analytics database, HIMSS has churned through 3,000 exhibitors on its exhibit floor in the past three years.

Is HIMSS a bad trade show?

Why do companies decide not to exhibit at HIMSS? What does the churn really represent?

Not enough return on investment
Companies invest millions of dollars on concrete floor space, booths, and entertainment for 4 days of HIMSS exhibit time. It would be very difficult to justify this kind of expense without measurable return on investment from new partnerships and measurable new revenue.
Companies are flaming out
Healthcare is slow to evolve and change. It’s a $7 Trillion market. Huge opportunities for innovation and technology. Many start-ups run for the prize, but flame out before they get beyond the Valley of Death.
Not the right trade show or do not do the pre-work
HIMSS might not be the right event for a company. Even with 40k attendees, they may not fit the customer profile or have the decision authority to buy. Also, the exhibit floor is massive and many first timers are not prepared, don’t pre-seed or pull traffic to their booths, and drown in the sea of logos on the exhibit floor.

So, do you HIMSS or not? Here are the 5 questions to inform your HIMSS decision:

1. Are you a true start-up that is looking for its first customers?
You will get lost at HIMSS. You could get a badge and go guerrilla, but it probably would be best to find other smaller, more targeted HIT events that will cost less time and money.
2. Are you a start-up with tech partners?
See if your partner will allow you to hang and use their booth for demos and potential client meetings. If not, go guerrilla at HIMSS and focus on other smaller, more targeted HIT events. NOTE – Not all pavilions are the same. The Intelligent Health Pavilion does a phenomenal job showcasing tangible use cases and qualified HIT solutions. It doesn’t matter where it is on the show floor – just go. Then, there are pavilions filled with kiosks and are the lowest level entry for start-ups. I have never seen them get good foot traffic and  they usually turn into ghost towns by end of Day 2.
3. Are you a start-up with customers?
Go guerilla. Pack your schedule with customer meetings/dinners. Analyze the education program. Identify speakers that match your customer profile and then plant yourself in the front row during their presentation. Be prepared to recognize something specific about their interests when you introduce yourself following their presentation.
4. Are you a company between $1M-$15M?
DO NOT EXHIBIT. I know that it is so tempting and your marketing company will be chomping at the bit. But, you will be a small fish. You will be located on the side walls and will not get the traffic that you hoped for. Save up until you can get into the middle and/or the aisles to run with the big companies. Invest your money towards guerrilla tactics – send more employees and work the show beyond the exhibit floor. Work the educational programs, plan customer meetings and dinners, entertain like a King. You’ll probably spend as much, but if your tactics are focused and customer-centric, it will deliver the ROI that you need to grow revenue.
5. Are you a company >$15M?
Do a 20×20 foot booth (or bigger) and hand out Jelly Belly’s, Starbuck’s, or branded bottled water (my favorite!). Location matters; use the McDonald’s vs Burger King strategy and try to get near a cluster of your competitors. Their traffic becomes your traffic. Just think of that qualified lead visiting the booth next door and you lure them as they are leaving. Pre-plan meetings and find ways to show off your C-Suite executives through off-site events and dinners. Finally, make sure that you actually do something with all of your badge scan data. It’s unbelievable statistic but a reputable badge company shared with me that 80% of badge data is never touched post event. How’s that for effective pull-through tactics?

The reality is that HIMSS is what you make of it. Your success and decisions will depend on many factors. Ultimately, businesses need to be smarter about where, when, and how much they invest. They need to critically assess customer and competitor activities and tie them to quantifiable ROI. Lodestone Logic is the only company that provides a suite of productivity tools, data tools, and consulting services to simplify these processes and help you to have a competitive edge.

If you are heading to HIMSS and want to learn more about our Conference Optimization Services, let’s meet up in person. Send me an email at

Here’s to happy HIMSS-ing!