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How the HIMSS13 Annual Conference and Exhibition is like the Senior Prom

Created: 07 Jan 2013 • Updated: 07 Jan 2013
David Finn's picture
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It is time for HIMSS' Annual Conference and Exhibition again.  This year in New Orleans, March 3 - 7.  And as that giddy excitement starts to build, it reminds me of nothing more than Senior Prom.

Remember Senior Prom - - maybe you are closer to you children’s prom than your own or like me and all of them way back, out of range of the rear-view mirror.  But some things never change.  I can assure you that proms are not like they were when I went to my own - - in my batik tuxedo (yes, true, and mercifully well before digital photos and Facebook).  Well, the Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference and Exhibit is actually a lot like Senior Prom.  And I mean besides they both happen in Spring.  Don’t rent a tux or buy a gown (unless you are going to the HIMSS Award Banquet and they are optional at the banquet) but here are my top 5 ways HIMSS is like going to prom:

5.  There is always a theme.  Remember prom themes?  They frequently corresponded to a timely pop hit that was popular with the high school crowd.  Mine was “We’ve Only Just Begun” and for the record it was not the year it went number 1 in the US - - it was a year or two after that.  I’m not that old - - but close.

This year at HIMSS13 the theme is:  HEALTH IT:  RIGHT TIME.  RIGHT PLACE.  IT’S ON.  How can you miss with a theme like that?!  It actually makes me want to dance right now, not a slow, close one.  I’m thinking wild abandon here - - Health IT is my favorite thing in the world.  And HIMSS Annual Conference is where all of Health IT comes together.  It is simply the most, the biggest, the best of the entire continuum of HIT - - globally.

4.   Decorations count.  Remember the details and time that went into decorations.  In my day, at least, you didn’t buy decorations, they were all made locally.  As in the school, by students - - hand made, hand painted with relatively small budgets and a lot of creativity.

If you haven’t been to HIMSS Annual Conference, you will soon find out that decorations count but budgets don’t seem to so much.  Prepare yourself for 3-story vendor booths with elevators.  There will no shortage of lights, sound, food and fun on the exhibit floor.  In this sense it is much more like a ~1,000 ring circus (approximate number of vendors who participated last year) than a prom.  But there is much to see, learn and do!

3.  Planning is elaborate.  As you will remember, planning for prom started in the winter for Spring Prom, sometimes in the fall.  There are a lot of logistics, people and things to move, schedule and plan for - - including President Bill Clinton (one of the keynotes) and a “cage match” on March 7 with Karl Rove and James Carville - - and people think Health Policy is boring!

Well, planning for the March event is well under way and yours should be, too, if you are going.  Travel, hotels, coverage back home all that “planning stuff”.  Get with it, people - - it says right in the theme - - IT’S ON!

2.  If you want to go someplace nice you’ll need reservations.  Like prom you may want to do something special before and/or after with some special person or people.  In this case, I’m talking customers, business partners, providers but like prom all the “places to be and be seen” fill up soon.  In fact, if you haven’t done this yet you may be on the “B” list already.  So, if you are planning dinners, events, meetings, happy hours - - get the venues and plans locked in.

1.  Just like prom getting your date and dance cards arranged early is critical.  No one would ever have gone to the prom alone and no one should go to HIMSS13 by themselves.  And based on last year’s attendance of 37,000+ people, no one should have to be alone.  But unless you want to be with a bunch of people like you, who waited too long to ask anyone, and now you’re sitting in the back Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans with all the lonely losers, start calling, emailing, writing, texting.  Do it now!  Start making sure your partners have their dance cards filled in with your name!!  DO IT NOW!

I’ll see you at the prom, er, I mean HIMSS13!!!