It’s been a year since the introduction of the promotional guidelines prohibiting the distribution to healthcare professionals of pens, bags, and other “service items” bearing the product’s logo. So, how has it impacted the industry, especially the traffic on the floor of the exhibit hall.

Having just returned from a medical conference this past week, I decided to reflect on my experience from last year at the same congress, just before the promotional guidelines went into effect.  I admit, I have vivid memories of convention floors and seeing the mass of colored bags, each bigger and better than the last one.  I also must confess, that I have seen a particular “giveaway” and asked where it came from, and headed off to that particular company’s booth—not because I was at all interested in their product, but because I was lured by the attractive bag, backpack, or whatever.  I dutifully listened to the message and collected my “treasure” and felt obligated to fill it with literature or other giveaways, only to return to my hotel room and realize there was no way that this collection would fit into my luggage, and was certainly not worth the extra baggage charges if I had to check it. So I abandoned several items of my treasure as I checked out of my hotel.  I am sure I am not the only one who has done this, but I may be one of the few who will ’fess up.

So does the current environment stimulate healthcare professionals’ interest in the exhibit hall?  The primary shift I observed was an increase in pre-meeting invitations to visit a company’s exhibit booth to learn about a procedure, or a product’s place in a therapeutic algorithm, or to participate in a drawing for a medically relevant prize. There are fewer colored bags filled with literature slung over shoulders of congress attendees tempting me to ask, “Where did this come from?” This does, however, make it easier to negotiate the convention floor.  Overall, I found myself more selective of the exhibits I visited and more focused on the content.

It’s not often that I think that enacted legislation is beneficial, but the bottom line is, I think we have managed to elevate our profession and focus on the content— the real reason we come to the exhibit floor.