This content is part of the Essential Guide: Conference guide: News and analysis from HIMSS 2014
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Five can't-miss strategies for getting the most out of HIMSS 2014

If you're going to HIMSS 2014, the massive program, exhibit hall and events lineup can be daunting. Here's how to make it work.

Attending the Health Information Management Systems Society conference is exciting, but also overwhelming for the health IT professionals, healthcare leaders and clinical staff in attendance. Last year, more than 35,000 people went to HIMSS 2013 in New Orleans. Now, a new crowd is setting its agenda for HIMSS 2014 in Orlando, Fla.

Preparation and planning is key. The first step to ensuring you get the most out of the conference is to be well-prepared days or even weeks prior to the conference. Start by visiting the current HIMSS website and using tools such as the exhibitor search tool. Then pick all the tracks and sessions you are interested in by clicking the "education" menu button. This is a good time to document questions you might have for speakers that, if not answered in the presentations, you can ask in the end-of-session Q&A.

Avoid spending all your time with co-workers attending the event with you; focus on getting to know others in the industry, so you can exchange knowledge with them.

There is a significant number of hot health IT topics from which to choose when session-searching:

Once on site, here are five ways to maximize your HIMSS return on investment:

Attend the planned sessions

Once the event kicks off, the attendees must stay focused and follow their outlined plan, attending the keynote sessions and visiting targeted vendors in the exhibit hall.

Network with peers and vendors

Another area of importance that should not be overlooked is meeting other healthcare IT professionals and executives, as well as expert speakers and exhibitors. Networking with these folks can be very valuable. Avoid spending all your time with co-workers who are attending the event with you; focus on getting to know others in the industry so you can exchange knowledge with them now and when you get back to your job.

Comb the exhibit hall

Without a doubt, the exhibit hall is a very exciting place for many technology enthusiasts. You are exposed to some of the latest and greatest in healthcare technology products. Also attendees will be able to visit special areas that showcase different technologies working together, such as what will be showcased in the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion.

Take notes

Ensure that, as you go from session to session, you document the points and lessons learned. This would be the time to capture some of the relevant points that you can take back to your team and share with them.

Share the knowledge

Whether you can write a summary of what you have learned from the event and send it out to colleagues via email, or present to a group of people from within your organization, it is important to share with everyone some of the health IT insights and trends you identified at HIMSS 2014. It's also wise to take home lessons learned during the different sessions and conversations with your peers.

The HIMSS 2014 conference will likely see many new faces visiting the Orange County Convention Center. As the healthcare industry continues to change and technology vendors continue to innovate, attendees will aggregate plenty of takeaways from the event, ranging from IT security, clinical big data, EHR systems, regulatory compliance, mHealth, medical devices and everything in between.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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