Going to HIMSS without a booth doesn’t mean you can’t generate business or achieve your marketing goals. In fact, not being tethered to a booth can be a freeing and rewarding experience. We offer five simple suggestions on how to get value from just attending a conference as a vendor.
The annual HIMSS conference is one of the few must-attend events on the calendar. No other event attracts as many healthcare IT professionals or gathers as many Health IT vendors in one place. It is a fantastic event to forge new relationships with potential partners, build trust with prospective buyers and scout for IT talent.
However, not everyone can afford to have a booth in the HIMSS exhibit hall. For many start-ups and early-stage companies a HIMSS booth is a wish-list item. As well, some larger vendors have opted to send only senior executives or account managers to the annual event rather than have a booth.
So without a booth, what can you do at the big event to generate leads and make the event worthwhile? The answer is: A LOT. Here are five suggestions.
Leverage Your Attendee Badge
Your “Attendee” badge is a ticket to engaging conversations with fellow attendees.
Having a badge with “Exhibitor” on it is a natural deterrent to meaningful dialog with anyone other than a fellow exhibitor. People put their guard up when they see an exhibitor approach them – even outside the exhibit hall. As a person with an “Attendee” badge, however, you’ll find that people will be more open to having a conversation with you. Leverage this!
Use every opportunity to engage people in meaningful conversation – while in line for coffee, walking in and out of sessions, waiting for shuttle buses, etc. Just remember the golden rule: be curious about the person you are talking to.
One of my favorite conversation starters is: “Hello, my name is Colin. I’m trying to make the most of the HIMSS event…is there anything you saw or heard that I should add to my must-see list?” Whatever answer the person gives, dive deeper and ask them why they thought so highly of it, then let the conversation take off from there.
Take the opportunity as a Health IT vendor without a booth, to explore all the other companies in the exhibit hall that are in your niche. In particular, use this opportunity to determine if there are companies that you could partner with.
Since you have an Attendee badge, people manning booths will be more than willing to talk to you. Use the time to ask how that company works with other technology players. Ask how they handle situations where they don’t have a solution to a client’s problem (ie: do they bring in other parties to round out the overall solution)?
You’ll be surprised at how many partner-friendly companies are at HIMSS. Consulting companies in particular are receptive to the idea of partnering on opportunities.
SPECIAL NOTE: Do not try to get a demo from a competitor. That’s just bad form and people have long memories when it comes to that sort of thing. If you realize that you are talking with a competitor, just look at your phone, say you have to meet someone and exit.
Attend Sessions Where Prospects Are Speaking
Spend time studying the HIMSS agenda – specifically the names, titles and organizations of the speakers. I’m going to bet there are at least a dozen that are potential buyers of your product/solution or are influencers in the buying process.
Attend those sessions and PAY ATTENTION to the presentation. Jot down notes, or better yet, live-tweet the session (think of it as sharing your notes with the world). After the session, go up and talk to the speaker. Be sure to mention the parts of their presentation you found interesting and ask a question that will open the door to more conversation.
When I was still in sales this was one of my best forms of lead generation. Just remember this is your first meeting with the speaker so don’t try and pitch your solution right away. Use this opportunity to start a relationship and be sure to follow up after the conference is over.
Scout Future Booth Locations
If your future marketing plans call for a HIMSS booth, then scouting potential locations as an attendee is a golden opportunity.
Study the HIMSS exhibit layout and look for large booths that belong to companies that play in the same niche as you. These companies may not be direct competitors (in fact it’s better if they aren’t), but rather complementary spaces. For example, if you are a data analytics company, look for companies with large booths in the cybersecurity (protect data) or AI (use data) space.
Spend time observing the traffic patterns of those larger booths. Is there one that is attracting significantly more traffic than another? Who is holding a customer event at their booth? For now, ignore the booth attraction (ie: the Back-to-the-Future Delorean parked in the booth or the magician doing card tricks). What you are looking for is whether the larger booth is driving traffic naturally.
When it comes time for you to choose your HIMSS booth location, try to get one near one of these larger booths in a complementary space that has higher traffic. That way you’ll benefit from proximity.
With an attendee badge, no one will think twice about you standing in the same spot for a few minutes as you make these observations.
Observe Different Booth Attractions
In addition to looking for large booths that have lots of natural traffic, look for booth attractions that people are drawn to. Is the magician really a draw? What about the giant plinko game? Are custom t-shirts still hot? Are warm cookies drawing a crowd?
Knowing what works and what doesn’t work in terms of booth attractions will be important as you consider your own booth setup at a future HIMSS. I have heard a few horror stories of new exhibitors that paid a lot of money for booth attractions that completely flopped the year before…and surprise…it had the same result a year later.
Don’t fall into that trap. Use your time as an attendee without a booth to observe as many booth attractions as possible so that you can make the best decision for your company the next year.
PS: Magicians rarely work when the conference is not in Las Vegas.
For more tips check out these two previous articles: