Healthcare exhibitors are concerned, but not panicked, about the effect the economy will have on meetings next year, says Eric Allen, executive vice president of the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association.

In a conference call in late September, HCEA exhibitor members told Allen that they are going to wait and see if meeting attendance is hurt before making any decisions on whether to exhibit. While medical conventions have typically performed better than other sectors of association meetings in down economies, it’s hard to predict what will happen in 2009 given the waves of change, from the new PhRMA guidelines to the economy to the presidential election. “With everything that’s going on, there’s a heightened sense that 2009 is a year we really want to keep our eye on,” says Allen.

Given the uncertainty, Allen says that medical meeting planners should forge partnerships with exhibitors to devise strategies to drive traffic to meetings and exhibitions. ”Exhibitors and associations have the same goals when it comes to that meeting: They want people there,” says Allen. “Working together will only enhance an association’s chance of fighting back against all the variables that, on the face of it at least, are working against [boosting attendance].”

For more on how the economy is affecting medical conventions, check out the December issue of Medical Meetings.

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