Come Together

Medical conventions are back—and a bargain—again
Apr 01, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Healthcare confabs weathered a storm over the past decade but have been mounting a comeback. Average professional attendance at healthcare conventions in the United States rose 13.8 percent in the last five years, according to a new report by the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association (HCEA). The increase represents a five-year rebound after a trend of steadily declining attendance.

Average Professional Attendance vs. Average Number of Exhibits, All Meetings Over 10 Years Average Professional Attendance vs. Average Number of Exhibits, All Meetings Over 10 Years
The HCEA report, The 2007 Industry Research Report on Healthcare Meetings and Exhibit Marketing, tracks 15,000 medical conventions during a tumultuous decade marked by the rise of the Internet and Web-based education, a slowdown of the US economy, and the events and aftermath of 9/11. It's the first of its kind, and its goal is to shine data-driven light on an industry niche typically lacking quantitative market-trend info.

So, what do 15,000 meetings over a roller-coaster of a decade tell us about the medical-convention industry?

Hot Opportunity

While professional attendance (defined as meeting participants other than exhibitors) has risen rapidly over the last five years, average attendance in 2006 is still slightly lower than in 1997 (see chart).

But how does the recent increase in attendance compare to the number of exhibits vying for the attention of this market, or what HCEA calls the "opportunity ratio?"

Investment Ratio: Space Cost Per Professional Attendee
Interestingly, the trend lines for both exhibits and attendance are similar over the past decade. There has been a 15.7 percent rise in the average number of reported exhibits since 2001. Average professional attendance jumped 13.8 percent over

the same period, which suggests that while the opportunity to meet attendees has increased, so too has the competition in the exhibit hall. In fact, the rate of increase in competitive exhibits is slightly higher than that of attendance.

Strategic target-market opportunities to meet with doctors and medical specialists are very valuable, so it's no surprise that they can require a considerable investment. This is an important variable to weigh when quantifying the overall value of exhibiting at healthcare conventions.

Crunching the Numbers

Cost Per Attendee vs. Inflation Adjusted Cost Per Attendee (Based on 1997 Starting Cost)
Dividing the total for the exhibit-space cost by the total for professional attendance provides what HCEA calls the "investment ratio," or the baseline relationship between the standard minimum unit of cost to exhibit and the total professional attendees (see chart).

HCEA collects data on the cost of exhibit space (defined as a 10-foot-by-10-foot booth) to use as a baseline metric. At some conventions, pharma companies may only need a 100-square-foot exhibit space. But at other conventions they may require a booth many times bigger. Accordingly, the cost of a 10-by-10 space serves as the minimum unit of measure to which other costs can be added, like extra exhibit space, transportation, and trade-show labor, for example.

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