10 Tips for First-Timers Attending HIMSS 2015

himss15By this time next week, more than 38,000 healthcare IT professionals, clinicians, executives and vendors from around the world will have descended on Chicago for the 2015 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition, to discover the newest technologies, trends, and solutions in health IT.

Held April 12-16 at the McCormick Center, HIMSS 2015 will focus on health IT education, exhibition and networking, and first-time attendees may be overwhelmed at the amount of options around those three pillars. If you're a first-timer attending HIMSS 2015, don't miss our tips below on how to make the most of your experience, compiled from feedback from our staff, who attend every year, and a few other sources we researched.

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. When we asked around internally for the biggest piece of advice veteran HIMSS conference attendees had, it was this: "Wear comfortable shoes," a sentiment echoed by Carla Smith, MA, CNM, FIMSS and Executive Vice President of HIMSS North America. "You are really going to thank yourself." HIMSS 2015 is a huge conference at the four-building McCormick Center in Chicago, and to get where you need to go, you'll need footwear that won't hold you back.
  2. Attend the First-Time Attendee Orientation. Whether you choose one of the two pre-conference online orientation options or the two on-site orientation sessions, these meetings are designed to answer your questions on everything HIMSS 2015 has to offer.
  3. Pack lots of business cards. You'll hand them out to vendors, sponsors and peers, so pack more than you think you'll need.
  4. Design your own experience. View the agenda on the HIMSS15 site and download the HIMSS15 app (available on iTunes) to make the most out of your time at HIMSS. If you have a team, divide who will attend what to maximize your exposure to what the conference offers.
  5. Find your local HIMSS chapter. Wendy Scheckel of Olmstead Medical Center advises to use the HIMSS conference as an opportunity to network, and to start with meeting with your local HIMSS chapter, which undoubtedly will be in attendance. Check your local chapter's website or reach out to them through their contact form online to find out when and where they're meeting, and if you can attend.
  6. Bring snacks. All that running around really burns the calories, so you'll need something to nosh on between sessions. Our Director of National Accounts Kathy Pilkey prefers Powerbars, though any wrapped, nutrient-dense snack or meal bar will work. Also bring a bottle or two of water for each day.
  7. Know where the caffeine is. Past HIMSS attendees like J.B. Lloyd at Ricoh Healthcare say that the main showroom floor coffee lines are often crowded, but there's a secret Starbucks located one floor below that hardly ever has a line.
  8. Plan multiple meetings while you're there, advised our Senior Vice President Bruce Wideberg. That means if you need to meet with an individual or a business, make contacts before you go and network privately with key individuals during your four days at the conference.
  9. Don't stay out too late, advised Wideberg. The next day, you'll need to get up and do it all over again, and though there are major keynote speakers, lots of sessions and big parties during the four days, pace yourself so you don't run out of steam.
  10. Have fun! It's okay if you can't see and do it all while you're at the conference. Schedule as much as you can, but leave yourself a little free time for impromptu meetings or just reflecting on all you've learned.