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HIMSS23: Writing a Winning Proposal for Healthcare’s Premier Event

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Alex Camara-HaworthDirector
data driven healthcare marketing

The call for proposals is officially open and the countdown to HIMSS23 is on.

On April 17, 2023, tens of thousands of healthcare leaders will congregate in Chicago for the can’t-miss, global industry event of the year. CIOs, providers, IT and tech professionals, innovators, government officials — you name it — the who’s who of healthcare will be there to build relationships, learn from experts and discover innovative health-tech products designed to solve the industry’s biggest challenges.

While brands can get involved at the conference in many ways, one of the most influential is by participating in an educational session. Want to highlight your executive team’s thought leadership on important industry issues on stage while driving company visibility in front of fellow industry leaders, reporters, and other important stakeholders? Then this is for you.

It should come as no surprise that competition for speaking proposals is high and acceptance rates are low. Fear not — we’ve got you. What follows are some of PAN’s best tips and tricks based on guidance from HIMSS, as well as our own learnings after years of drafting winning proposals for our clients.

HIMSS Guidance

Unbeknownst to many, the HIMSS website has a bounty of resources when preparing applications. Everything from writing guidelines (e.g., keywords, word consistency, acronyms, spacing, etc.), to a detailed breakdown of how the panel of peer reviewers evaluate proposals. In the latter, you will find the following six areas:

  • Value of the proposal topic
  • Timeliness and appropriateness of the topic
  • Quality of proposal content
  • Synergy across proposal title, description and learning objectives to support the content of the proposal
  • Avoiding commercial influence or product bias
  • Past speaking experience

In addition to aligning your proposal to the above criteria, consider a few additional aspects. Make certain the details of the presentation have been implemented prior to submission, and similarly, ensure any research has been completed and results are available. Additionally, make sure all your ideas and claims can be validated through data and that you’ve provided a comprehensive overview of the implementation — both the good and the bad parts. After all, attendees appreciate a realistic summary, challenges included.

It should come as no surprise that competition for speaking proposals is high and acceptance rates are low. Fear not — we’ve got you.

Just as important as the things to include are the things to avoid. According to HIMSS, the most frequent reasons proposals are declined are due to one of the following:

  • Title inaccurately reflects the content
  • Learning objectives don’t match the session description
  • Goals of the session are too broad
  • Abstract either contains incomplete information, comes across as confusing or is limited in scope.

The lesson here is to build in time for several thorough proofreads of the entire application from different members of your team. Reviews should have an eye toward flow and continuity between each section, ensure that each portion maps to the same overarching story, and confirm that you can accurately deduce the session topic from the title.

PAN’s Tips for a Winning Proposal

Beyond the HIMSS-sanctioned advice, we’ve come up with a few of our own suggestions:

  • Customer case studies will help your chances if you are a vendor. These help emphasize the importance of proof points and keeping the proposal vendor neutral.
  • Play up the dramatics. HIMSS wants to know why this is a life-or-death presentation and why it is a must-attend session for their audience.
  • Pretend your competitor is in the audience — you want your session to be relevant to them as well.
  • Make sure your topic is pointed but accessible. It should focus in on a specific trend while also explain its relevance to a broader audience.
  • If you use your own data then you should also supplement it with third-party data, preferably by a nationally recognized healthcare agency/association. If you can provide global data, even better!
  • Learning objectives — keep these short and sweet!
  • Enduring credit questions — these should be intermediate, not super easy or super difficult.

Lastly, keep in mind this is the longest speaking application in the healthcare industry. Time management is everything. Unlike other industry events, HIMSS never extends the deadline for speaking submissions. Given the call for proposals is open for less than a month, make sure to use every day of that window wisely, ideally having planned out the submission before the proposal window opens.

The application is typically the same from year to year, so many sections can be started before the call for proposals officially opens. If you can get ahead of schedule, it will increase your chances of submitting before the deadline. Since 90% of applications are submitted on the last day, submitting early can help you stand out.

Check out how healthcare brands have partnered with PAN through strategic PR programs including speaking and events, and learn more about speaking opportunities at HIMSS and other ways your company can get involved in the conference.

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