February 26, 2020

I feel like I am really aging myself here, but by my calculation this year will mark my 13th trip to HIMSS, the healthcare IT version of the Oscars. Everyone right now is blogging and tweeting their predictions for HIMSS 2020 (hello ONC Information Blocking Rule!), but I decided to mix it up a little and instead write about the top three worst experiences I have had at the annual ‘who’s who’ of HIT.


  1. My first HIMSS: trial by fire. Circa 2006, I was as green as Kermit, yet my VPs decided I could totally handle HIMSS, and asked me to come along for the ride. The idea was that I would shadow the VPs, filling in a few gaps as needed --nothing crazy. However, that plan went straight out the window when then-VP Scott came down with pneumonia and spent the week in a New Orleans hospital. I will never forget how he called me up the first morning I arrived in NOLA, told me he was on his way to the emergency room, and asked me to staff all of his meetings. He then sent me a schedule that simply had booth numbers and journalists’ names on it, and wished me well. I had no idea what it even meant to “staff a press meeting” but as I like to tell my staff now, you have to fake it till you make it, and I did just that. I don’t know who I met with or what I said, but somehow, I survived and lived to tell about it (and, so did Scott, luckily)!
  2. #Hipgate (otherwise known as the year I attempted to attend HIMSS on crutches). I was still recovering from major hip surgery (I had a procedure called a periacetabulor osteotomy, and would give it zero stars). I was not even eight weeks post-op but decided that neither Aria nor my clients could function at HIMSS without me. So, I brought my husband to Chicago to serve as my handler for the week, and hobbled from press meeting to press meeting all over McCormick Place (the largest convention center in North America!), on crutches. It was memorable, to say the least.
  3. The year the Orlando airport ran out of taxis. My colleague Ross and I arrived at the Orlando airport the night before the show, ready to get to the hotel and settle in for a busy week. However, after waiting in the taxi line for more than 24 hours (or maybe 30 minutes? It certainly felt like a full day.), we were informed that there were no more taxis coming to the airport – and keep in mind, this was before Lyft. We soon discovered that the only way to get to our hotel that evening was to take a city bus to Sea World and walk A MILE, in the dark, with our luggage, on a road with no sidewalks, to our hotel. Pro tip: when in doubt, book a car service!


I am sure that I am blocking out a whole bunch of other horrible and/or just plain awkward HIMSS experiences, but these were most top-of-mind today. Please tweet us @ariamarketing and share your #HIMSSanity horror stories. Maybe we should even start a new hashtag to vent: #HIMSShorrors?

Blog post written by:
Jessica Cohen
Author: Jessica Cohen
Executive Vice President