A survey conducted by the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association, Atlanta, and Pri-Med, Boston, revealed that both physicians and exhibitors find value on the trade show floor at healthcare conferences. While 98 percent of the physicians surveyed said timely clinical topics were the top draw, a respectable 66 percent said having the opportunity to meet with exhibitors was an important factor driving their attendance at live CME events. Industry-supported symposia also got the thumbs-up from 69 percent of those surveyed. In all, 90 percent said the exhibit area was valuable to them, with 73 percent reporting it was very valuable; only 3 percent said it was not valuable.

As for what they do in the exhibit hall, 91 percent educate themselves on a product or service, 82 percent ask to be sent literature, and 70 percent get information from a sales rep.

Because education and promotion are completely separate at healthcare conventions these days, nothing in the sessions is driving attendees to the exhibit hall, so visiting a booth is a deliberate decision an attendee makes, the survey found. While sales reps still top the bill as the leading sources of information about pharmaceutical therapies, tied at 69 percent with journal articles, 57 percent of physicians surveyed named exhibits at a medical convention as one of their top product information sources, well above peers (32 percent), the Internet (28 percent), direct mail (25 percent), and journal ads (16 percent).

The results of the study, conducted at the Pri-Med South Conference & Exhibition in 2005 and 2006, were released at HCEA's Annual Meeting, held in June in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.