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A Q&A with mHealthintelligence Editor Eric Wicklund

HIMSS 2016 is right around the corner! InkHouse VP Lauren Arnold recently chatted with the society’s VP of Meeting and Sales Karen Malone and VP of Professional Development JoAnn Klinedinst on how conference attendees can make the most of their experience. To gain further insight from the media side, I also caught up with mHealthintelligence Editor (and veteran HIMSS attendee) Eric Wicklund to get the scoop on what he’s excited to see at this year’s conference, his advice for first-time attendees and what keeps people coming back to one of the biggest healthcare technology shows in the country.

Q: HIMSS has been a reoccurring event for more than 50 years now. What do you think keeps people coming back to the show each year?

A: I think it’s the industry. Healthcare and healthcare IT are huge, and always will be huge because it affects everybody. HIMSS is the biggest conferences of the year, in fact, some may even think it is too big. Still, it is definitely a must see for anyone in the industry.

Q: How do you think the HIMSS 2016 show will differentiate from previous years?

A: From my perspective, I’m hoping to see more of an emphasis on telehealth and mobile health. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the newer technologies and some of the more groundbreaking efforts to bring healthcare into the 21st century. Healthcare is typically seen as being behind the times, and you’re seeing that in the slow pace of mobile health adoption. The industry isn’t getting the push from federal efforts that it needs, so conferences like HIMSS are the perfect venue for demonstrating these new ideas.

Q: In recent years, the show has been attracting some major players that can inadvertently take up a lot of the show’s attention. Do you think HIMSS still has a place for startups?

A: Yes, but they can get lost very easily. Having a small booth on the exhibit floor is unfortunately very easy to miss. Smaller vendors should also have a very specific idea of what they want to see; what are the “gems” at the show that your company wants to make a priority? There’s still a lot of value at the show for smaller organizations and ways to get noticed amongst the crowd. They need to look at HIMSS as one huge circus and figure out how to get in front of the people that you want to see. I personally don’t even do booth visits anymore simply because it hasn’t proven to be really beneficial for either party. Rather than see a canned presentation that has just been repeated throughout the entirety of the show, I prefer to catch vendors off-guard without any preparation. I’m not necessarily speaking with them for a specific story either, I’m just there taking all of the information in. I will meet for coffee in the morning or plan to have a phone conversation post-conference, but the smaller companies shouldn’t really expect a face-to-face at the show anymore.

Q: How can PR people best work with you and reporters in general at the show?

A: I used to work for HIMSS media. Now I work with Xtelligent Media, which is very focused on the provider rather than the vendor. From a vendor perspective, that means finding the people who are using your product and getting them in front of me. That will give me a better idea of how I want to write my story about your organization. For me, the challenge is that HIMSS is too big for a provider presence; providers are busy and they don’t want to take a few days out of their schedule to see technologies that they may or may not use. From a vendor’s standpoint, most of my conversations at the show end with a post-show discussion. That’s how the best stories come out, and vendors need to realize that.

Q: We have a lot of clients attending HIMSS this year, meeting with prospects and customers and connecting with journalists. Any advice for companies to make the most out of their experience at the show?

A: Don’t fill your entire schedule with meetings for the same reason that reporters won’t just be going from one meeting to another. It gets tiring and can wear you down. I would recommend doing a couple of get-togethers, attending a couple of educational sessions that interest you, look around at who is in the audience at those sessions and who is walking around the show floor. Don’t head into HIMSS with a set schedule; it’s important to take the time to explore that is going on and not to overdo it. The keynotes and bigger presentations are also generally for advertising purposes and an opportunity for the big vendors to get in front of the right people. Otherwise, you don’t typically get a lot out of them. Any big news you would have heard about beforehand and the key notes are all very high level with very broad information and won’t really hold any specific value to your company.

Read more from Brittany Boyer
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