Why the Most Successful Booths at HIMSS15 Got Emotional

HIMSS 2015, the annual healthcare IT conference, set new records for attendance, with 43,129 people roaming an exhibit space just under 600,000 square feet. It may also have set records for footsteps recorded by iPhones on an exhibit floor.

With HIMSS being the vast ocean of IT technology and solutions it is, many exhibitors felt challenged to attract buyers and tell a differentiated story. The buyer-to-booth ratio created a numerically competitive landscape, which was certainly palpable on the showroom floor.

It can be hard to drive attendees to the exhibits when there is such compelling content in the breakout sessions alone. Making matters worse, the addition of an executive experience, called HX360, may have further siphoned the high-value prospects off the main floor.

Savvy exhibitors were expecting this. They took initiative to send direct mail, booking their most high-value meetings in advance. Still, most booths would prefer to see more foot traffic.


The crowd was dense when the doors first opened but as attendees spread out across the showroom floor, many booths found themselves craving for new connections.

How were exhibitors setting themselves apart? How did the most successful booths at HIMSS drive traffic and generate leads? By getting emotional.

Traditional drive-to-booth efforts had the expected benfits. Contests, premium giveaways like CDW Healthcare's GoPro Hero 3 raffle or MedeAnalytics' drawing for a Garmin Vivosmart, branded tchotchkes, and show advertising all seemed to catch moderate attention.

SAS, booth 4016, attracted buyers by offering a chance to win an Apple Watch. This may have driven traffic, but can be seen as superficial. This is an audience full of IT buyers who have to deal with meaningful use, patient records, mobile devices, regulatory compliance, and data breaches on a daily basis. They are in dire need of solutions for their sleepless nights, and your story must be their solution.

The community within the HIMSS mobile app benefited from marketers taking advantage of social media at the conference. In fact, only a few years back, HIMSS set the record for tweets at a healthcare conference. This is a very social audience which has yet to reach its full potential.

Historically, exhibitors present their products and solutions primarily through bullets, charts, and graphs. In fact, in previous years, the show could have been summarized as "half-a-million square feet of bullet points and pie charts." Absent were the images of physicians and their patients.

This was the year it all changed.

Exhibitors at HIMSS15 featured vibrant images of the people whose lives are affected by healthcare technology solutions, including IT workers, as well as physicians and patients. With so much focus on patient outcomes, patient activation and engagement, and interoperability throughout the patient journey, it's no wonder that the patient became the protagonist of the story.

The opportunity here is to lead with the stories of improving outcomes, reaching populations in remote areas, and solving frightening security issues. Stories such as these have the necessary emotional appeal.

In a recent study published by Google, it was proven that the emotional connection between B2B companies and their customers is actually far stronger than consumer brands, including the likes of Apple. IT buyers may need to know how these products and solutions work, but they are, first and foremost, human beings. And we know that human beings act emotionally, and then justify rationally.

HIMSS exhibitors still thinking that emotional storytelling has no place in a technology show are seriously missing the boat. Successful exhibitors inspired the imagination, stoked the fires in fear, and provoked potential buyers to the point of loving what the solution stands for.

Bold and emotional marketing, utilizing strong words like "inspire," "fear," and "love," will grab the buyers' attention. Then you can show them how you do it better than everyone else.


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As the show continues to up its game, it will become increasingly important to think more experiential and appeal to the emotions of the buyers earlier in their journey.

Utilizing storytelling at your exhibit will give your message wings, which you can then use to extend your messaging through event marketing and social channels, creating a gravitational pull toward your exhibit.

Exhibitors, be brave. Tell your stories loud and clear. Make them believe in you and how you're different. Even if it takes a pie in the face.


Rob Everton

Senior Director, Business Solutions & Creative Technology / Cramer

Request as Speaker

Additional contributions by Jonathan Ronzio

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