Getting the Most Out of Vendor Interactions at Healthcare Conferences

Major healthcare conferences like the upcoming 2018 HIMSS Conference & Exhibition and more specialized forums like the AHIP Consumer Experience & Digital Health Forum held a couple weeks ago in Nashville are great opportunities to learn a lot in a short period of time.

Being able to easily meet and interact with exhibitors, engaging with a variety of 3rd parties about the opportunities, challenges and issues your company is facing, and the ability to quickly obtain key information to help you assess whether a specific vendor’s offerings and company culture align with your needs are three main reasons why people attend healthcare conferences.


Easily Meeting and Interacting with Others

Historically, conferences are where people go to meet others to learn about the industry and discover new ways of doing business. Nowadays, there are an ever-increasing number of opportunities to identify, establish and consummate potentially valuable interactions, not only during the event but also before and after. To get the most out of your conference attendance, consider these potential opportunities:

Pre- & Post-Conference Events

In the last 3 to 4 years, more and more forums and short events having a niche focus are being offered immediately before or right after the primary conference event. These events, targeted at specific subsets of conference attendees, can offer a lot of value to attendees – particularly given their focus on high-value, specialty topics. Attending these pre- and post-conference gatherings helps to amortize your travel, lodging and opportunity costs.

Meetups, Breakfast & After-Hours Events

Similar to the pre-and post-event opportunities just mentioned, participating in the various breakfast, lunch and dinner events offered by conference organizers, media organizations, vendor exhibitors, national and regional associations, and the myriad of other groups involved with large healthcare conferences should not be ignored. Like the pre- & post conference events, taking an hour or so at the start and/or end of each conference day to attend an informal event can be a wise use of your time.

Social Media & Digital Media at Healthcare Conferences

Identifying, establishing, planning, actually meeting with and then generating necessary value from your conference attendance can be greatly enhanced by leveraging your digital connections before, during and after the conference. Most healthcare conferences have social media accounts and employ a hashtag to help identify conference-related content. For instance, #HIMSS18 is used for the 2018 HIMSS Conference in Las Vegas.

One good way to locate these social accounts and hashtags is to use the free service provided by Symplur.

You’ve got tremendous power in the palm of your hand

That smartphone you’re always staring at has some great information recording capabilities:

  • Snap a pic of interesting things you see, business cards, and specialized information a vendor or other conference attendee may share but not give to you.
  • Capture some video or audio to review afterwards and/or share with others at your company. 
  • Share interesting observations, commentary and opinion via Twitter, LinkedIn and other social channels. 
  • Send a text, email or tweet to let your associates know where you are and what you think about the event.

You can make the most of your conference event by capturing and sharing as much of the event as possible. The more we all share, the more we all know.

Learning About Opportunities, Challenges & Issues

It’s fair to say that one of the primary benefits of attending healthcare conference events is meeting and interacting with a diverse group of individuals and companies all facing similar opportunities, challenges & issues that your organization is addressing or needs to address.

Being able to meet with a dozen or more vendors in a short period of time is perhaps one of the best opportunities conference events have to offer.  Interacting with vendor management and representatives within the semi-structured to informal confines of a healthcare conference can help you better understand a particular vendor’s products and services; perhaps otherwise unattainable via other channels.

Leveraging opportunities to meet and interact with others can be further leveraged by having a focused, rapid fire process for obtaining the most information from the widest range of sources in the shortest amount of time. For companies trying to gather the most information about a defined set of requirements and questions, a ‘Speed Dating’ approach might be worthwhile.

‘Speed Dating’ Healthcare Product and Services Vendors

Presenting a well-planned, concise list of discussion topics and questions to a fairly large number of vendors in a consistent fashion and a short period of time offers a lot of benefits. One of these benefits is being able to revisit certain topics with vendors, speakers and other attendees as more information is gleaned from conference sessions, discussion with others and as you complete additional vendor interactions. Another benefit is obtaining insight and information from different vendor staff working the same exhibit.

In a future blog post, some ideas, tips and caveats on ‘Speed Dating’ healthcare product and services vendors will be provided:

  • Identifying which vendors and solutions can best address the opportunities, challenges and issues you are facing.
  • Considerations and questions to help elicit information from exhibitors and attendees.
  • Techniques for recognizing and capturing important vendor-supplied information

Move Quickly from the General to the Specific

You’ll likely start your conference at the 50,000-foot level. As you interact with other attendees, attend conference sessions and circle the exhibit hall a few times, you’ll zero in on the solutions, products and services needed to transform your healthcare organization during these uncertain times in healthcare.  With some careful preparation and a plan, your healthcare conference attendance can go a long way in ensuring smooth travel for your company in the years to come.


 Steve Sisko
Guest Blogger
Servant Leader
Healthcare Data, Technology & Services Group