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Darling Reports: Day One of HIMSS10

March 1, 2010
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Armed with an iPhone, a desire to meet as many people as possible in a very short amount of time, and my laptop, I'm going to attempt to find the time to blog about my personal experiences at HIMSS10. I dedicate this series to those of you who wanted to come but couldn't for one reason or another - especially those of you who are currently unemployed and looking. So, once upon a time. . .

I arrived at HIMSS10 Sunday, shared a cab with a very nice woman named “Melinda” from AT&T, checked into the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center (which is in midtown and offers all the amenities of the larger chains at half the price) and jumped right into the networking game by attending a Women's Executive gathering at McCormick and Schmick’s, which is right across the street from the Georgia World Congress Center, the official site of HIMSS10. The event was held in the bar area (which is a very good place to kick off a conference, IMO), and I was immediately struck with how friendly and welcoming this group was. And attractive! Women in Healthcare IT are hot, if I do say so myself. Although I was familiar with many of the names in the room, I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet them in person, and thanks to adhering to the networking tips I wrote about earlier, I soon felt like I had made some great contacts, with the potential for new business, and new friends. One of those new friends happened to be my fellow HCI blogger, Pam Arlotto! Pam’s bio reads like a Who’s Who of Healthcare IT, but she is extremely gracious and down-to-earth, which is always nice to discover about someone of her stature and reputation.

After a glass of wine and some great conversation, I headed across the street to the Georgia World Congress Center, a monstrosity of a complex in which I am guaranteed to get lost numerous times by the end of the conference (have I mentioned I am directionally challenged?) At any rate, this place is HUGE, but it looks like Sunday evening was the perfect time to check in, because there was absolutely no line at the registration desk. In fact, since I was already registered, I went right to the self-serve check-in, typed in my name, hit “Print,” and out came my badge – unbelievably easy. Checked in, name badge on, and with a half hour to explore before my 7pm commitment, I followed the crowd down the escalator and wandered into the HIMSS10 Opening Reception. WOW. Heading to the Thesaurus to find another word for HUGE. Gargantuan. This room was gargantuan, darkly lit, and decorated in some kind of island theme with giant palm trees lighting the way to the food.

Maybe a little too big and a bit too dark for easy networking, though, as I would have felt like a bit of a creeper walking up to a stranger in this atmosphere with my hand outstretched. So, using one of the two drink tickets that a stranger named Margaret Sheridan handed me on the escalator (thanks Margaret, whoever you are!), I grabbed a bottled water, snapped a few photos on the trusty iPhone, and walked out and discovered it was already dark and I had no idea how to get to the Chamber of Commerce building that was so easily visible in the daylight. I mentioned I’m directionally challenged – that’s in the daylight. At night? Well, if you have a Garmin, you’ll understand when I say, “Recalculating. Recalculating. RECALCULATING!” So, it’s dark, I’m standing outside the GWCC looking, I guess, lost, because a very nice man passed me, then turned around and said, “Are you lost?” He then laughed when I told him I was looking for the Chamber of Commerce (it was only ½ block away), but he walked me there anyway, which was very nice of him, and certainly appreciated.

My 7pm event was an event hosted by fellow HCI blogger and now friend Pam Arlotto, celebrating her company’s 20th anniversary. She could not have chosen a more beautiful venue than the Chamber’s second story event room, which featured very large windows overlooking the lights of downtown Atlanta. Really gorgeous.

And intimate, which makes walking up to total strangers with your hand outstretched much easier, and much less suspect. My game plan was to stay for a half hour or so, power networking, and then collapse for the evening, but the crowd was so full of fascinating people I ended up staying much longer than I had planned. Among the guests I met: a former CIO who now splits his time living in Baltimore and Mexico, several CEOs of healthcare technology companies, multiple executives from healthcare consulting firms, and even a very savvy recent PR grad who, although young, obviously understood the value of networking and was doing it quite well. The highlight of the evening, though, was walking up and introducing myself to two women, and then discovering that one of them was healthcare technology professional Roberta Rothman, who several months back introduced herself to me in the form of an email thank you note for writing this blog! And there she was! The world of Healthcare IT really is a small one, which certainly makes it a great place to be. Not only was Roberta wonderful to talk to in person, she was also extremely gracious as she offered to drive me back to the hotel, which put a very nice bow on the gift of the day.

So there you have it – Day One of HIMSS! I’m very satisfied with my ROI today, as my mission to meet as many new people as possible started off very successfully. Monday’s schedule is a bit more demanding, and includes three meetings, two receptions, and two parties (if I can find them), so I’ll report back to give you my further impressions later. If you’re not, wish you were here and if you are, I hope to meet you.

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