The drawing power of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual midwinter convention is well documented by growing attendance and competition for exhibit space. Attendance has more than tripled in four years, and indoor exhibit space has expanded to the equivalent of 10 football fields.
The clamor for inclusion in the 1999 convention started almost as soon as the booths were broken down at this year's show in Orlando. With six months to go before HIMSS convenes in Atlanta, two-thirds of the floor space is booked, and 433 education-session proposals have been winnowed to 220, with 50 more to be cut.
A survey of attendees at the Orlando event quantifies some of the reasons they're attracted to the meetings.
The poll, conducted by Exhibit Surveys of Red Bank, N.J., reveals that a significant majority of attendees come to buy, not just look, and that the number of executives who have final say in purchasing decisions is higher than the convention industry average. And it's rising.
Each year brings a fresh batch of prospects, too. Nearly half the booth browsers were attending their first HIMSS convention. Only 20% were at their third consecutive show.
And although computer and healthcare trade shows abound, 45% of the respondents in Orlando said HIMSS was the only trade show or conference they had attended in the past year. A year earlier, 48% of respondents said HIMSS was their only conference of the year.
The survey report for 1998 was based on 256 responses to a mailing sent to a sample of 1,070 show registrants. Exhibitors were excluded from the sample. Healthcare professionals totaled 7,889 out of an overall attendance of 19,581.
Of the respondents, 35% have some type of information systems job function, about the same as in 1997. But 30% are in top management, up from 26%.
The rise in top-management attendance is reflected in a tilt toward more decisionmaking influence among attendees: 38% said they have final say in a purchase, up from 35% a year earlier. Both figures exceed the all-shows average of 34%, also computed by Exhibit Surveys, which surveys trade-show clients across a number of industries.
Overall, 70% of attendees said they planned to buy at least one of the exhibited products or services during the next 12 months, up from 64% a year earlier. The all-shows average is 61%.
The four-day convention is always in a warm, sunny location, and attendees in Orlando generally stuck around for most of the show-on average, 3.3 days.
Orlando attendees spent an average of 9.9 hours at exhibits, up from 9.7 in San Diego, and more than an hour longer than the all-shows average of 8.4 hours.
The second day of the show had the highest percentage of attendance, at 90% of registered show-goers, but traffic was nearly as high on the first day (86%) and the third (88%). Attendance slipped to 46% on the last day.
More than 90% of attendees traveled more than 400 miles to attend the convention, with a wide geographical distribution. Usually only 44% of a trade show's attendees travel that far, according to the survey firm.
Only 13% of the HIMSS attendees were from Florida or a neighboring state. For all trade shows, an average of 48% of attendees come from the state where the show is held or a neighboring one, according to Exhibit Surveys.
No attendance projections have been made for the Atlanta meeting, but HIMSS expects an increase over Orlando's total, says Karen Malone, conference manager.
The Orlando space sold out by December, two months before the show opened, says Lawrence Dragt, exhibits and vendor relations manager. The convention space for the February 1997 exhibition at the San Diego Convention Center sold out by August 1996, prompting plans for a makeshift tent encampment on an upper level of the center that isn't usually used for exhibits.