American Association for Respiratory Care Breathes New Life into Booth Sales

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) provides education, resources, advocacy, and opportunities for health care professionals who specialize in treating conditions related to the heart and lung systems of the body.

The organization, based in Irving, Texas, hosts a four-day annual convention and trade show for 5,000 to 6,000 attendees and approximately 200 exhibiting companies. For the 2014 meeting, the group entered into a successful strategic partnership with a2z to implement an online exhibits sales platform, including enhanced eBooth listings. The results were a breath of fresh air for the event management team.

Recognizing the problem

Prior to the 2014 show cycle, AARC managed booth sales manually. From the end of February through the month of June, an exhibit coordinator emailed exhibitors individually; provided quotes by phone, fax, and email; and issued invoices and handled collections manually. Besides the large amount of time required for the process, there were other disadvantages: booth sales could only be conducted during business hours, it was difficult to service international exhibitors, and the pricing structure and processes were very complex. “It was a terribly laborious, slow, primitive process that needed to be fixed,” says Doug Laher, associate executive director of AARC. 

Removing the obstruction

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) AARC implemented the ecommerce-enabled a2zShow Online Exhibit Contracts Solution and made it accessible to exhibitors through the event website and via mobile devices. The solution automates booth selection, payments, confirmation, invoicing, and accounting. It also provides exhibitors with more exposure through online listings (an additional revenue stream for AARC) and the ability to engage targeted buyers in advance of the show. a2z helped AARC to structure the pricing for the eBooths and provided them with marketing support in the form of educational videos, emails, and infographics to inform exhibitors about the new service.

Seeing the progress

Automation of the online booth sales process, Laher says, resulted in an estimated 25 percent increase in productivity for AARC’s exhibit coordinator. It also enabled them to sell booths for 2015 on site at the 2014 show—a process they had never attempted in the past. “This year, with our priority points system in place, we could meet with exhibitors in order, and in three days we accomplished what used to take three to four months, eight hours a day, four days a week,” he explains. In addition, seven percent of the exhibitors at the 2014 show purchased digital sponsorship opportunities, the revenue from which helped cover most of the investment in the technology solution. “a2z brought us into the twenty-first century. It automates a number of processes and allows us to do business 24/7. With this partnership, a2z became a profit center for AARC instead of a service provider,” Laher adds.

Maintaining the momentum

Because the Online Exhibits Contracts solution worked so well, AARC will keep it in place for future events. With more time on her hands, the exhibit coordinator can focus more attention on outreach to new companies, Laher says. Plus, now that exhibitors have been introduced to the eBooth opportunity, he is looking forward to further gains in revenue from the sales of enhanced listings. Expanding the partnership with a2z is a definite possibility as well. “I appreciate the way a2z provides a range of smart solutions to meeting planners, from content management to online hosting to exhibitor purchases. I’m looking forward to more [a2z] products and services that meet our unique needs,” he adds.