Orthopaedic Surgeons Straighten Out the Exhibits Contracting Process

Background The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) provides musculoskeletal education to orthopaedic surgeons and other medical professionals. Its annual exhibition and conference in 2014 attracted 665 exhibiting companies, 262,000 net square feet of exhibit space, and 29,000 attendees, (including 15,000 surgeons).

Internal changes at the association and a culture of constant improvement drove the organization to seek a more efficient way for exhibitors to contract with them. The solution was in the cloud and turned out to be even more successful than AAOS anticipated.

There is no shortage of medical shows. In fact, most major medical specialties have trade shows and conferences. This huge number of exhibiting opportunities leaves exhibitors—especially those with more general medical products and services—in a constant rush to pack up one show and move on to another.

With a crazy busy and partially international exhibitor base, AAOS wanted to make the exhibits contracting process easier for exhibitors. The paper-heavy, labor-intensive manual process the organization used was a drain on its exhibitors and its staff. In addition, some changes to the organization’s database made it impossible to keep the process in house.

Moving the exhibits contracting process online became the perfect solution. After a seven-year history using a2z’s online floor plan technology, it was natural for AAOS to turn to a2z for electronic contracts and secure financial management as well. In the new system, exhibitors can complete and submit contracts from anywhere on the Internet, using any device.

“All we had to do was send a link and a password to exhibitors. They didn’t have to call or fax anything, and we didn’t have to read handwriting. There were no contracts with missing information either. With a2z, all the fields have to be completed in order to submit the contract,” says Jason Raymond, exhibits assistant, AAOS.

Fearing that at least half of AAOS’s exhibitors would prefer to use paper contracts in the first year, the group ran the online system in parallel with the manual process to be safe. “It turned out that 80% of our exhibitors contracted online. We were not expecting that,” Raymond explains.

a2z’s online contracts and financial management was more efficient and more reliable than AAOS’s previous in-house system. “In the past, managing all the paperwork during the sign-up period [annually during May or June] added a couple extra hours every day for about a month. This year, we didn’t have to sort through any information or file paperwork. [Time savings of an estimated 50 to 60 man hours] freed up more time for other projects and working with customers,” Raymond adds.

Next Steps
Raymond is pushing for 100% adoption of the online exhibits contracting system in 2015. Because so many exhibitors used a2z the first year, that goal is within reach. Plus, with the organization’s success in moving other (formerly internal) processes out of the house, including booth space selection and abstract management, he expects that will be AAOS’s direction in the future. “We’ve gotten to the point that the size and scope of what we do often requires us to look to outside sources for solutions. Our experience with a2z has been a very positive one,” he says.

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