Although NASS is a North American-based society, the meeting is a global gathering of spine-care professionals who come together to share information, techniques and procedures, training, and best practices. “Up to 25 percent of our Annual Meeting attendance is international,” said Jennifer Krsanac, CMP, NASS’s director of meeting services. “A lot of them do come to the U.S. for training, and they do want to learn our techniques and procedures, so this is one of the top meetings for them to go to.”
As a fairly young association, NASS is still watching its membership grow and evolve, according to Krsanac, “which in turn evolves and changes our meeting each year.” When she started more than nine years ago, the Annual Meeting consisted of just one general session, an exhibit hall, and a few breakout rooms. This year, NASS will have 10-plus concurrent-session rooms, instructional courses, and the exhibit hall, plus a number of receptions.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Krsanac said, “but it’s hard for us to then be able to book out for future years, because we don’t know at what point we’re going to plateau.” Registration this year is pacing ahead of 2012’s meeting by about 20 percent, which Krsanac said is to be expected. “We see a pattern in attendance in our meetings — it seems to go in peaks and valleys,” she said. “So every other year seems to be a peak year for us.”
Another challenge NASS faces — along with many other meetings — is getting attendees and exhibitors to book within its room blocks. While NASS is currently capturing about two-thirds of exhibitors and one-third of attendees, Krsanac hopes to increase those numbers to upwards of 50 percent of attendees and 75 to 80 percent of exhibitors in the near future.
This year, NASS will continue a recent innovation — an automated badge-pickup process, with registration kiosks at the convention center that allow attendees to walk up, scan a barcode, and collect printed badges and information. This has improved the registration process so much, Krsanac said, that attendees are able to get in and out of line in approximately 10 seconds.
NASS will expand the networking opportunities at this year’s Annual Meeting with “table discussions” within the food-service area of the exhibit hall. Tables will be labeled with specific conversation topics, and attendees can sit down with their lunches and discuss whichever topic was designated by NASS’s education department. It’s a way for peers in the industry to “gauge feedback from their colleagues that they might only see on a yearly basis at our meeting,” Krsanac said.
To help keep attendees on site at the convention center, NASS is also making available a surgical truck that can be rented by exhibitors — including medical- and surgical-device manufacturers and other medical suppliers — for hands-on demonstrations. Some companies will issue open invitations to attendees, while others will host invitation-only sessions for specific types of doctors. Krsanac said: “[We want to help make sure they’re] not wandering off someplace else to take care of these different training sessions that they have.”
Convene’s Pre-Con/Post-Con series asks meeting planners about their challenges and how they intend to address them (Pre-Con), and then checks back in after the meeting has occurred (Post-Con) to see how well they worked out.