If there was a city in which folks would be excited to escape to for a work conference, it would be Las Vegas, the home of the HIMSS21 healthcare conference, hosted this past August. It’s no secret people are tired of the endless zoom calls and virtual summits, and are ready to meet face to face again with their colleagues and customers. With many people still under travel restrictions for work, envisioning what the attendance would look like at the first major tradeshow since the pandemic began was almost impossible. However, we planned and prepared for it as if it were any normal year, hoping for the best.
HIMSS typically hosts over 40,000 attendees, making it one of the largest health care shows in the country. This year with the continued rise of COVID-19 cases, the Delta variant, and vaccine numbers at a standstill, the number of in person attendees was averaged at about 17,000. HIMSS had one major health and safety requirement which was for all attendees to be fully vaccinated. It wasn’t until last minute a local county mask mandate was put into place for all employees, hotel/casino guests, and tradeshow attendees. Although it was challenging in certain moments to initiate conversation with attendees while smiling underneath a mask, we found new ways to approach our customers while keeping their safety the highest priority.
To say HIMSS had a different look and feel this year would be an accurate statement. Even with a supposed 17,000 in-person attendees, it still felt very vacant. However with the floor traffic being so slow, this did allow vendors more ample time to spend with those customers who did stop by, one on one. SCC had many clients pay us a visit at the booth and we were allowed more time to engage in conversation surrounding successful go-lives, task clean ups, and customer feedback. Overall our interactions were positive.
It’s not surprising COVID-19 continues to present many challenges in the event industry with no real way to predict the future of unknowns. What’s certain is HIMSS and other tradeshows have been coordinated with the attendee’s health and safety as their number one priority. AACC, being held in Atlanta at the end of September, has gone the extra mile to require in addition to mandatory vaccinations for all attendees, to also provide a negative COVID-19 test, 72 hours prior to the show. This extra precaution is being taken to ensure those in attendance feel safe and allow them the opportunity to participate in person. This is a great step forward. We remain hopeful the future of events will slowly make its way back to some normalcy, so until then all we can do is show up with a (masked) smile and welcome back our customers we have missed for so long.