This year’s meeting of the Radiologic Society of North America felt as foreign to the current American landscape as Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
While politicians in Washington played hide-and-go-seek with desperately needed government funding and unemployment benefits, rows and rows of glistening CT and MRI machines spanned the floor of Chicago’s McCormick Place. Physicians clutching cups of made-to-order espresso were wooed into private imaging suites created with elaborate screens and partitions. One was even shaped to resemble a pagoda, with an exquisite black and floral kimono inside.
“I believe one of the exhibitors said in a meeting that we had down here that they considered this the Renaissance RSNA, everything’s back solid and strong,” says RSNA assistant executive director Steve Drew.
When asked the dollar value of the equipment on display, Drew says they’ve never stopped to calculate it, but that $100 million would probably be a “very conservative guess.”
Exhibits have remained solid in terms of the amount of space being bought and the size of the booths, with about 700 exhibitors on hand this year, down slightly from an all-time high in the mid-700s.
“We feel good about it,” he says. “Based on information gathered through partnership meetings we have with our major exhibitors and market indicators, we had actually budgeted down 7% and we’re about even with where we were last year. So, depending on how you look at it, it’s almost a 7% increase.”
RSNA isn’t the only one feeling good about this year’s meeting.
The city of Chicago, which struggled this past year to retain its competitive edge in the convention trade, anticipates that the 6-day show will bring in $120 million, says Meghan Risch, director of public relations for the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.
The economic impact of RSNA, arguably one of the biggest medical meetings in the world, has remained relatively constant, she contends, despite the economic downturn.
Attendance this year was about 57,500, according to unaudited attendance figures. Of these, 36,000 were professional registrants, defined as everyone but exhibitors and guests.
“We’re running about 4% ahead on professional attendance and the really good numbers there are the non-North American registrants, which came in at 36% of the professional registrants,” Mr. Drew says.
The average hotel stay for RSNA is five days – roughly double that for most medical meetings. Its international makeup is also probably the highest of Chicago conventions, according to Ms. Risch.
“International attendance is growing and RSNA is a great example,” she says.
–Patrice Wendling (on Twitter @pwendl)