The Anatomy of a Sound HIMSS18 Proposal

There are many benefits to attending a HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition, such as its exceptional education, networking, and exhibition opportunities. To build out the HIMSS18 general education program, HIMSS solicits proposals through the HIMSS18 Call for Proposals site located here.

The Annual Conference Education Committee (ACEC) receives input from a few hundred volunteer reviewers who provide feedback and comments on proposals submitted. To help those who do submit, we have many resources, including both a short and an in-depth orientation webinar that explain our processes.


Why submit?

There are many reasons to consider presenting. My favorite reason is to “give back” to the healthcare community. Healthcare is unique, since many organizations are so willing to help one another. Added to this, health IT professionals have a personal responsibility, in my humble opinion, to engage in continuing professional development (CPD) as lifelong learners.

Really, you say. Yes, and I serve as an example.

In March 2017, my colleague and I presented at the American College of Healthcare Executive’s Congress on Healthcare Leadership on the topic of “Establishing and Maintaining Leadership Excellence by Embracing Continuing Professional Development.” I also am a candidate to sit for the ACHE’s Board of Governor’s exam for the FACHE, too. So, I practice what I advise!

Yes, there is still time! It is not too late to enter your submission. HIMSS is accepting proposals through 5:00 p.m. CT on Monday, July 17.


What is the anatomy of a sound HIMSS18 proposal?

  1. Ensuring that the proposal is structured. One of the most critical aspects of a proposal is to ensure that the title supports the summary description, which in turn, supports the learning objectives. While this may sound straightforward, we find that submitters do not always dedicate the time and attention needed to create these three elements. Think of these items as an “Elevator Pitch,” since they provide a quick insight into the intent of the session. Both reviewers (and myself) use this information as we quickly assess the worthiness of a proposal. It is critical that these descriptors provide the hook and the intent, while piquing the interest of the reviewer and preparing him or her to learn more about the intent of the abstract.


  1. Defining actionable learning objectives. Another important area requiring attention is to ensure that the learning objectives align with Bloom’s Taxonomy in the form of actionable items. While this is best practice for adult education, we also require this to satisfy continuing education requirements.


  1. Supporting details abound in the proposal. While ensuring synergies among the title, summary description, and learning objectives is critical, supporting details are crucial too. Any information that is pertinent to the topic should be included to help inform the reviewer of the intent of the session.


  1. Ensuring that content is unbiased and commercial-free. Our audiences resonate well with case studies, lessons learned, and stories of success (and failures, too). We strongly discourage any type of product pitch. Rather, we encourage submitters to focus on people, the process, and the generic technologies that enabled or enhanced patient care delivery.


  1. Providing tools, resources, and takeaways for our attendees. From a learning perspective, the transfer of knowledge is enhanced when proposals identify items that attendees can use once they return to their work setting. Examples include website references, charts, graphs, grounded research, and other items that serve to enhance the session.


  1. Identifying a timely topic that has substance. With 23 different topics for HIMSS18, our ACEC works very diligently to identify not only timely topics but also timely sub-topics too. The emphasis here is on “substance.” Many of our reviewers return year after year and are very experienced at identifying sound proposals. Added to this, I have been reviewing proposals, first as a volunteer when it was a paper process (1997), and I continue to do so today. In fact, I review every proposal that we receive as well.


  1. Ensuring implementation of the details. Each conference has a persona. The persona of a HIMSS conference is one where a real-world focus resonates very well with our attendees. While we do host some theoretical presentations, case study presentations are more popular.


  1. Providing the results of research. Grounded research studies certainly provide an extra bonus to proposals. As exciting as it may be to include research, be sure to provide completed research at the time of submitting one’s proposal. Too often, we receive “promises” of research that will be completed by a certain date in what appears to be a compelling proposal. No longer will we accept a proposal that has an incomplete research component. We’ve been disappointed multiple times and will not place our program at risk waiting for completed research.


  1. Including the good and the not so good. I too have been an Annual Conference presenter over the course of my career. My final presentation, co-presented with a colleague, at a HIMSS conference was entitled “Our Grant Submission Didn’t Get Accepted. What Went Wrong?” While this was before ARRA funding, we dissected the response to this National Institutes of Health rejected grant. It was very well received by our attendees. While we realize that organizations want to present their best accomplishments on an international stage, do know that attendees (and the healthcare community too) learn from others challenges.


  1. Submitting proposals on topics that realize transformative change. Focusing on the best use of health IT and management systems while also demonstrating an element of diversity are well-received by our attendees. The best sessions recognize that differing approaches to solving challenges result in opportunities.


We have examples

Click here to review two excellent proposals where we provide the submission and the final presentation slide deck of the content. While there are many more, these two sessions, structured appropriately, received highly rated evaluations.

Should you have questions on your submissions, Deb Clough, Manager of Education, will be happy to answer them.

Please be sure to share your experiences here as a presenter at a past HIMSS Annual Conference. We welcome your feedback!