Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2013


By Katie Kervin, Assistant Editor
PCMA Convene

The joint meeting for infectious-diseases and epidemiology professionals engages attendees on its show floor by helping them navigate it.

Two years ago, organizers of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s (IDSA) annual meeting decided to join forces with the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS) to create IDWeek a joint meeting that, according to the event’s website, serves as “a forum for health professionals of varied backgrounds to collaborate, cooperate, and learn from each other’s expertise.”

IDWeek’s first incarnation, last Oct. 17-21 in San Diego, drew more than 5,500 professional attendees and 6,600 participants overall, including exhibitors and press. “We did better than we would have independently,” said Sandy Harwood, CMP, IDSA’s vice president of meetings and education and IDWeek’s meeting secretariat. “We pulled in other exhibitors that had not previously [exhibited] with either group in the past, and certainly not with IDSA.” Harwood found that some exhibitors, who typically might only be able to participate in one organization’s show, are able to reach a wider audience with the development of IDWeek.

This year’s show, themed “Advancing Science, Improving Care,” will take place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on Oct. 2-6. Attendance is projected to be higher than last year, although some attendees are federal employees, so Harwood anticipates that there may be issues with current sequestration measures that limit the amount of spending for federal agencies which often includes meeting travel.

IDWeek organizers have implemented some strategies on the show floor to help attendees get the most out of the experience. One such offering, which IDSA attempted at previous meetings and is now starting to take hold with IDWeek’s bigger audience, is the “Books on Bugs” section of the show floor, located within Publisher Row, where medical and pharmacological book publishers set up their booths. “What we found is that a lot of our attendees are introverts,” Harwood said. “They don’t necessarily like to go up and talk to an exhibit representative, particularly if they’re going to the book section.” Books on Bugs offers Wi-Fi and coffee for sale and attendees can sit and read without feeling pressured to engage with exhibitors. It is located right in the middle of the exhibit floor, Harwood said, so it “naturally draws people in.”

The design of the show floor itself is another important aspect of IDWeek. “I try to stay away from the traditional [trade-show] aisles,” said John Buckley, CMP, IDSA’s director of meeting services. Buckley instead designs the floor more like a maze (with the exception of the straight aisles that are required by the fire marshal). He’s found that to be an effective way to channel attendees through the entire hall, where they’re more likely to stop by multiple booths rather than beeline for the particular one they’re looking for. “I also try to put numbers to each booth as a decal on the floor,” Buckley said, “because people don’t always want to make eye contact they want to walk.”

Poster sessions are a big part of IDWeek, so Buckley sets up posters in an area accessible only by entering into the exhibit hall. Lunch is served during exhibition hours. “I eliminate the ‘box’ part of the box lunch,” Buckley said. With a coupon, attendees pick up three items that “do not fare well in an attendee bag” like pizza or a sandwich with fruit and a drink. Buckley purposesly places limited rounds of ten in the back of the hall, but also many highboys throughout the show-floor aisles. “With limited items to eat,” he said, “attendees are done quickly and exhibitors have an audience.”

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