Troubles plaguing travel—the war with Iraq and fears about severe acute respiratory syndrome—didn’t keep many from the third annual Affordable Meetings Mid-America, which took place April 1 to 4 at Chicago’s Navy Pier.

The show, which features educational programming bookending an exposition, is free for meeting planners. Attendance was down a bit, but not by much. Preliminary estimates place 934 meeting planners at the event, with 341 expo booths—about 650 exhibit personnel. Last year’s event drew 1,025 meeting planners, a difference of about 9 percent. The drop was attributed more to the economy than anything else.

"The Show was not dramatically affected by the war," says Lori Robinson, group manager, George Little Management Inc., White Plains, NY. "Meeting planners understand the importance of focusing on business and moving forward with business during these times."

If the war had any impact on the show, it was in registration timing. Show management noted that pre-registration numbers were down until right before the show—and into the first days of the war—and then picked up steadily, daily, to anticipated numbers, suggesting that ambiguity about what the U.S. would do in Iraq and when, along with its impact stateside, kept many waiting to sign up. Even the trend towards short-term booking and weekly or daily managing of the books may have kept attendees holding off.

Also, the show’s regional appeal, along with its free registration for meeting planners, probably kept numbers up. Planners praised the educational content, and a number of the seminars were standing room only. Topics ranged from the nitty-gritty, such as contract negotiation, to the important but lighthearted, such as ways to battle procrastination.