Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Planning the Annual Meeting and Trade Show is a Piece of Cake… Right?

Imagine planning a wedding.  Some of us had big weddings, some of us had small weddings, and some of us haven’t tackled that dragon. If you have planned a wedding, been in a wedding, or witnessed a friend/family member/coworker plan a wedding, you have a glimpse of what it’s like to plan the OHIMA Annual Meeting and Trade Show.  While the OHIMA Board doesn’t have to pick out a dress/tuxedo or decide who to invite, we must prepare for 900 conference attendees, around 100 exhibitors, 30+ speakers, food coordination (breakfast, lunch, happy hour, etc.), and more all while keeping with the theme. Then, just when this year’s conference is over, we’re already working towards the next one.  And, quite honestly, it’s done with a smile on our faces… due to brilliant planning and organizational skills of our Executive Director, a conference-zilla has yet to be seen!

Many, if not all of you, have attended one of the great OHIMA Annual Meeting and Trade Shows over the years. 39 in-person extravaganzas have been planned and hosted by OHIMA Board Members and Staff. COVID-19 adjusted our plans for the 40th celebration we had planned for 2020 but, as Lauren shared in her recent blog article, we adjusted our sails and provided the excellent content via a virtual format. So what actually goes into planning the annual meeting and trade show?  Unless you have served on the Board of Directors or worked for OHIMA, you likely have never thought about the behind-the-scenes action. As the Director of Professional HIM Development, I’ll share just a handful of tidbits that go into planning the wonderful Annual Meetings we’ve all come to love and look forward to...

  1. The dates are planned YEARS in advance.  Because we book all of the Hilton’s meeting/conference rooms and a big block of hotel rooms, we are always looking to the future. Competing with weddings and other large meetings means we are working 3 or more years out on booking the dates. The OHIMA Executive Director finalizes contracts for the space and makes sure we’re all set.

    *** Fun fact: Our conference is so large that the only two Columbus locations that can accommodate our size are the Easton Hilton and the Columbus Convention Center.  The onsite rooms for attendees & speakers, free parking, nearby shopping & eating options, and hospitality of Hilton staff have kept us returning over the years but HIM Board & Staff have had to get creative with the conference schedule in order stay at this wonderful location.

  2. Keynote speakers are booked in the summer – usually 8 or more months in advance.  The daily highlight of the conference (other than catching up with old friends, colleagues, classmates, etc) is an exceptional keynote speaker who wakes us up and kicks off the day. Nationally acclaimed speakers are often scheduling their arrangements 10+ months out so we must get on their calendars quickly.

  3. Speaking of the theme, the Board selects this at our summer transition meeting – typically held in June.  Here, we all put on our thinking caps, consider hot topics in the HIM industry, and come up with a catchy tag line with accompanying theme. Then we move forward with graphic designs and color schemes.

Whew!  I’m tired already just thinking about the work that needs to be done.  Since I’m the Professional HIM Development Director again for the 2020-2021 association year, be on the lookout for a future blog post with more information on behind the scenes annual meeting planning!

About the Author 

Carol Barnes, MS, RHIA is currently a Director on the OHIMA FY19-20 Board in charge of the Professional HIM Development strategy.  Carol is an adjunct faculty with The University of Cincinnati HIM program.

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