HIMSS12: Observations from the exhibit hall

HIMSS12: Observations from the exhibit hall

By Brad Dodge on March 2nd, 2012

The Dodge Communications team sent a team of 12 to HIMSS this year, and we enjoyed visiting with all our clients, with the media, and with the 60 year old chain smokers that occupied the slot machines at 6 am. Had they been there all night or did they ask for a wake-up call so they could get up early and beat the rush? That’s an amazing thing about Vegas. You see it all because you have to go through the casino to get anywhere. Period. It was a bit tricky to navigate in and around the exhibit hall, for sure. Large crowds, small halls. The upstairs/downstairs phenomenon in the Sands Expo Center. Booths scattered everywhere. Slow connections. Unusually tight aisles. Not our favorite venue, but that’s water over the damn bridge. Is that how the metaphor goes? So, our team worked extra hard to notice booth trends and rank our favorites.

Here we go. 

First up: HIMSS. We thought the tagline “Linking people, potential and progress” could have been a little stronger and more targeted, so we took it upon ourselves to develop some new ones.

Here are our finalists:

“HIMSS12: Where am I?”

“HIMSS12: There’s a downstairs?”

“HIMSS12: This way to Hall G!”

“HIMSS12: Business at the speed of dialup.”

“HIMSS12: More traffic. Less bandwidth.”

“HIMSS12: People. People. Everywhere.”

“HIMSS12: Crowded. Confusing. Cluttered.”

As we got going on this new tagline initiative, we started getting used to the trendy, three one-word sentences style. It’s the hottest trend in taglines and strives to combine edgy with descriptive, an objective that has eluded companies for years. Companies are typically faced with a choice—either an edgy, non-descriptive tagline like “Just do it” or “We bring good things to life,” or a more mundane descriptive tagline, like “Revenue cycle management solutions for healthcare.” But once we compiled a handful of these taglines at HIMSS, we’re not sure whether they demonstrated any descriptiveness (descriptivity?) after all.

Here are some we found:

MedeAnalytics: Measure. Manage. Lead.  

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OnlineTech: Secure. Private. Available.  

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IBM: Build. Collaborate. Engage.

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Oracle: Connect. Collaborate. Care.  

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InnerWireless:  Everything. Everywhere. Everytime.  

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SpaceLabs: Trendy. Enlightened. Informative.  

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We like them. (most of them, anyway.) But we definitely label them as edgy, not descriptive.

Thoughts? Comments? Feedback?

Oh, there we go again.

Stop. Now. Please.

We also noticed that exhibitors had erected lots of walls this year that kept visitors out of booths unless they approached from the “open” side. We suppose that limiting entrance points gives an exhibitor better control over crowd management, but we couldn’t help but wonder how many attendees never entered a booth because they were on the “walled” side when they approached? Here are some walls that kept us out:

Quippe

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Siemens

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Epic

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OnBase

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Cumberland Consulting

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Intel

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We believe that “open all around” is the best way to maximize traffic, and even if it’s more challenging to manage, the effort translates to more traffic. Traffic. Conversations. Business. We also enjoy finding our favorite “huh?” and “really?” moments at HIMSS.

And the winners are:

CREEPIEST USE OF TECHNOLOGY: The electronic person that stared at you and reacted to your movement on a flat piece of video wall. We don’t even know how to describe this technology, but it sure was creepy. We bet it cost a lot, too! Did you see it—er, her? After watching for a minute, we all ran away fast and never noticed what booth it was in. Hey, that can’t be too good for traffic, right? We wonder what she’s—it’s—doing today. We remembered seeing this person—thing—at HIMSS last year, too, and noticed something interesting. Her back is the same as her front. In other words, no back. Two fronts. Kinda weird? We suppose you never have worry about someone sneaking up on you. Or whether your jeans make you look fat. 

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MOST QUESTIONABLE IMAGERY: Digital Persona, Pain in the Password. It doesn’t really translate too well unless you see the graphic. The Dodge team all agreed that we wouldn’t want to work in a booth with an image of a person screaming at a computer, along with a distasteful headline. It goes to the theory that “we need to startle people to make them notice us!” which is a distant cousin to the PR opinion that “any press is good press!” We’re not on board with those positions. We get the idea: Buy our stuff and you won’t have to scream at your computer because you forgot your password. But is this the best way to do it? Really?  

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BEST PLANET: 3M. In fact, it’s the only replica of a planet that we saw. Some designer must have said “hey, you can make it look like a planet on the outside and make it your presentation area on the inside!” And that’s after they had a meeting to identify the core messaging for HIMSS, where someone must have said, “Hey, nobody on the planet can do what we can do…” and the rest is history. We categorize it as a message that didn’t resonate. It didn’t really look like a planet, and it had tons of random copy all over it. And we don’t know any attendee that would say, “when we learned that you were the only company on the planet that could…”  

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WEAKEST IMAGERY: MisysOSS. Building Bridges to Meaningful Use. With a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Get it? Building bridges? Now, we know it’s tough to find relevant imagery in this business. And we see lots of free stock photography depicting smiling, multi-racial healthcare workers reveling in their use of the exhibitors’ technology. Definitely not easy. But pictures of bridges (“Bridges to meaningful use!”), stethoscopes (“We’re in healthcare!”), puzzle pieces (“Putting all the pieces together!”), and chain links (“We’re the missing link!”)  are not cool! C’mon people, be more creative! The most effective way to see if your imagery resonates is to test it with the market. It’s easy to test, and it doesn’t take long to realize that your audience doesn’t think it’s cool either.  

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BEST IN SHOW: GE Healthcare. Now, we evaluated all the mega booths, and many of them were outstanding. Excellent use of color. Strong visuals. Creative execution. And despite the fact that many of these booths seemed to be on top of one another given the small aisles, it was nevertheless a very impressive display. So how did we pick a winner? We think it came down to two factors: approachability and messaging. The GE Healthcare booth gave us a wide-open-come-on-in kind of feeling. (At least on the side from which we approached!) And the 2 foot high curved hanging Moss header that played the messages was clean, simple and effective. 3 key message played across the board: the first was a graphic illustrating connectivity. Next a descriptive tag line: “Helping deliver great care with true knowledge.” And last, an edgy tag line: “Knowledge. Naturally.” We all know it’s tough to effectively describe a full suite of products and services so briefly. At the end it comes down to emotion. And this made us feel good. (BTW, that’s not a full moon in the booth. It’s the simple, round lit up sign with the classic GE logo on it. Overexposed. Do we need a better camera?)  

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Well, that’s it for our HIMSS12 report. For any company that wants to talk more about using integrated communications strategies to build your business, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at info@dodgecommunications.com, tweet us @dodgecomm, or call 770-998-0500. Signing. Off. Now.