AORN logo

Nashville, TN- AORN, or the Global Surgical Conference and Expo, calls itself the largest gathering of perioperative nurses in the world. Thousands of nurses converge upon this show eager to learn about the latest surgical technologies and products. From an engagement standpoint, AORN provides an interesting case study, as most of the attendees are not actual decision makers. In fact, these attendees have widely varied levels of influence on the decision makers, depending on the structure of their individual hospital systems, so its much more challenging to judge ROI on show expenditures. Additionally, healthcare shows in general play by the rules of the Sunshine Act. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires medical product manufacturers to report payments made to physicians and teaching hospitals. This means EVERYTHING, right down to ball point pens, and that usually means no giveaways whatsoever at physician-targeted shows. Even though this show was targeted at nurses, it still seems that most exhibitors shy away from any giveaways, and that presents an added barrier to engagement. In this edition of my ongoing series of post-show tactical analyses, I offer up a brief overview of the some of engagement techniques I observed at AORN 2019. I hope you can use this info to increase booth effectiveness while saving money and time wasted on unsuccessful tactics.

AORN trade show consultant

CE Credits

Healthcare Providers must obtain a certain number of continuing education credits, or CE credits, each year to maintain certification. Providers can obtain these credits by learning and being tested about new technologies. Offering CE Credits was the most popular and effective engagement technique on the show floor at AORN. CE Credits are a win-win: they offer a valuable service to prospects, and exhibitors have an opportunity to show their product, although it must be portrayed in a relatively unbiased, educationally-focused overview of options. AORN booths either exchanged educational quiz booklets or delivered presentations/quizzes to provide CE credits. From an engagement standpoint, it is essential to have a moderator who can push attendees to demo stations following the expert presentation, since the expert presenter will be delivering an “unbiased” educational talk.

Rating: A


As mentioned above, expert presentations were heavily utilized at AORN to provide educational overviews followed by a test opportunity for CE credit. Presenters at health care shows are primarily subject matter experts, along with professional moderators to crowd gather, facilitate Q/A and push attendees to reps and demo stations. Attendees generally find interesting presentations via the show program or app and visit the booth at the designated time, rather than just strolling the show floor to find something interesting. However, I saw some booths successfully utilize crowd gathering techniques for less-attended presentations. As the presenters are generally expected to maintain an unbiased perspective, its critical to have a moderator to add the booth call-to-action, whether it be a demo, a rep conversation, or simply a badge scan. I saw many booths miss this critical engagement opportunity.

Rating: C

Other Engagement Tactics

A few booths utilized some of the more common engagement tactics from across the industry spectrum. I observed a money machine cash cube, a few end-of-day raffles and plenty of pen and grocery bag giveaways (the Sunshine Act didn’t apply at this show). While these were nice starting points, most booth staff at AORN were simply not trained to properly leverage these tactics, so the tactics were left dormant much of the time. Healthcare booths are generally staffed by medical company sales reps with specific territories, so assertive general attendee engagement has historically been less than stellar (unless reps recognize attendees from their territory!) No matter how great a booth engagement tactic may be, if booth staff doesn’t assertively engage with all attendees, its worthless.

Rating: D

The nurses on the floor at AORN were legitimately interested in learning about exhibitor’s new technology. However, due to the laissez faire engagement stance of most exhibitor booth staff, many booths were left empty. This presents a unique opportunity for exhibitors willing to use more straightforward engagement tactics. Whatever your booth attract, be sure to spend time training your booth staff and consider a professional moderator to ensure maximum attendee engagement. Otherwise, you’re wasting money.

Until next time, best of luck planning your next event marketing initiative. We’ll see you on the show floor!

don colliver trade show moderator