The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians had the prettiest cover--textured paper and a woodcut feel to the illustration; the International Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-Optics had the most session information; the Symposium on Cataract, IOL and Refractive Surgery Congress on Ophthalmic Practice Management had a terrific day-planner for attendees; and the Pennsylvania Psychological Association performed a small miracle, producing a conference guide for the princely sum of $650.

But the winner was an easy pick: The Final Program for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and its companion Pocket Guide overflowed with great features, and they were presented in a neat, attractive graphic package.

The 82-page Pocket Guide was sent with registration materials to attendees who registered in advance. Its main purpose was to give registrants enough information to plan their schedules at the meeting. It was designed to fit in a #10 envelope. A standout feature was the back cover that unfolded into a three-panel convention floor map.

The 354-page Final Program had detailed information about all sessions, plus the great features highlighted in the photograph.

Our thanks to each and every entrant; we were pleased to be so impressed with the quality of the entries.

TOP GUIDE PARTICULARS * Organization: American Academy of Ophthalmology

* Event: 1997 Annual Meeting

* Site: Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco

* Dates: October 26 to 29, 1997

* Budget: Final Program--$130,000; (Quantity: 35,000)

* Pocket Guide--$14,500 (Quantity: 28,000)

* Winning Team:

* Tom Raif, Scientific Program Manager

* Susal Oslar, Technical Programs Manager

* Linsy Reese, Marketing and Logistics Manager

* Darrell McKethan, Print and Design Director

* Jacki Van der Voort, Designer

MEETING OVERVIEW At-a-glance page for figuring out what happens when, over the course of the conference. It is immediately apparent, for example, that attendees could spend the entire meeting attending courses if they wanted to. It's also clear that the AAO is not big on unopposed time for exhibits--there are a total of two half-hour segments when the exhibit hall is open and no classes are running.

POCKET GUIDE This includes the "Programs-By-Day" material and a compact form of the poster and technical sessions, but what won over the judges were two items:

a fold-out map of the convention center and a page that showed an area map along with nine succinct safety tips for conventioneers walking in an unfamiliar city.

SCIENTIFIC POSTERS A listing of scientific poster sessions is organized by day and by subject. Under each subject listing is a notice indicating when the presenters will be on hand to discuss findings with attendees.

EXHIBIT FLOOR MAP This two-sided, fold-out map appears in the Pocket Guide. On the reverse is the North Hall map. Attendees who wear bifocals may have had trouble reading the exhibit booth numbers, but on the whole, the detail is admirable--including the locations of such important convention hall destinations as emergency exits, rest rooms, and telephones.

FINAL PROGRAM Think of a useful feature for conference attendees, and it is probably between the covers of this comprehensive and easily readable final program. There are maps of the city showing where the hotels are; eight pages of maps of the convention center and area hotels; shuttle bus schedules; the "Meeting Overview," and "Programs-By-Day," features shown on this page; and such useful items as a listing of every participating hotel with address and phone number, a form for collecting Category 1 CME credits, and a form for becoming a member of the AAO. Last but not least, there's an alphabetical index by name of every presenter at the meeting--an ideal tool for physicians seeking to confer with specific colleagues.

PROGRAMS-BY-DAY The AAO packs a lot of information into an easy-to-read day-by-day format. Especially noteworthy is the "program" entry, which describes the type of learning offered: skills transfer, instruction course, symposia, or free papers. There's also a column indicating whether there will be an audio- or videotape of the session available. Having the time, room number, and reference to a more detailed description in the course program are also nice touches.