Attendance Holds Steady for the American Association of Orthodontists Annual Session

May 12, 2013

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) held its 113th Annual Session May 3-7 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, with an attendance of more than 14,400 according to the unofficial count.

The attendance number was on par with attendance at the 112th Annual Session held last year in Hawaii.

Chris Vranas, executive director of AAO, said that 44 percent of their active members come to the Annual Session. Even during the height of the recession in 2009 and 2010, their numbers did not drop, and they continued to grow their membership.

Part of that growth is attributed to their recruitment of international members, which now make up about 25 percent of their membership.

The AAO understands the needs of their members and provides them with the education they most need. Aside from CEU credits they offer their Orthodontists, they also provide general business education on how to run a practice. Something Vranas said members requested because they are not getting that information in dental school.

That well-rounded approach is evident on the showfloor, where exhibitors range from those offering cutting edge dental technology and equipment to those offering financial and tax services, Web site development, social media marketing and even artwork for practice offices.

Another unusual site on the showfloor is the Kidz Place, an area right in the middle of the exhibits with a variety of games for younger children. Vargas said they started a kids program about four to five years ago. There was a need to create a more family friendly event because of an increase in women going into orthodontics.

With only four hours left in the show on Tuesday, May 7, there were still many attendees on the showfloor. Brenda Ashwell, product manager with PracticeGenius, a company that provides marketing services to Orthodontists, said that traffic had been good throughout the event.

Yvonne Figueroa, marketing communications manager with 3M Unitek, exhibiting with the AAO for about 60 years, said, “this is a big part of our annual marketing program … it’s the largest show in the U.S.”

Figueroa added that she loved the dedicated exhibit hall hours. “They (attendees) come here for the newest, latest and most exciting products available - what’s going to impact their business,” she said.

Vranas agreed that the dedicated hours were extremely important to them and to any show. “From 11:30 to 1:30 we have no programming. The exhibitors love it. You have got to support your exhibitors; they are the backbone,” he said.

Other advice Vranas had for show organizers is to plan your program based on your destination. “It’s crazy to keep doing it the same way,” he added. “You have to set the schedule for the destination.”

Vranas explained this by saying that last year when their event was in Hawaii they ended the program each day at 2:00. This gave the attendees time to hit the beaches and do some sightseeing. Activities that, in all likelihood, they’d do anyway.

The American Association of Orthodontists is the world’s oldest and largest dental specialty organization, founded in 1900.

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