*Attendance at ATA Show May Spur Changes Next Year

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ORLANDO, FL -- Light floor traffic at the American Teleservices Association's annual convention here this week may lead to changes in the exhibit hall hours at next year's show, ATA officials said Oct. 31.


Some exhibitors complained of sparse activity on the floor during the convention's first three days. Bette Lou Kliewer, national account executive at Pacific East Research Corp., Sumas, WA, used the word "terrible" to describe the traffic.


Exhibitors said they met with the ATA leadership to discuss ways that the convention could be improved next year. Many said the exhibit hall hours -- 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on the show's second and third days, Oct. 30-31 -- were not conducive to attracting new business.


Traffic was poor during the morning hours, said Peter Sansom, inside sales representative at Astound Inc., Toronto. However, it was much better during the lunch hours.


Sansom said he would not recommend that his company return for next year's show if the ATA doesn't change the exhibit hall hours. But he said he was confident that ATA leaders were flexible and willing to work to make the show better.


By the end of the convention, about 500 people had registered, said Shirley Knowles, manager of conventions and meetings at the ATA. Attendance at breakout sessions that included featured speakers was good, Knowles said. But she acknowledged that floor traffic was light.


The ATA will revamp the exhibition floor hours next year in Las Vegas and bring in speakers who will provide a greater focus on technology, Knowles said.


The ATA should consider doing away with the morning breakfast hour and add evening hours for the exhibit hall, Sansom said. On the show's first day, Oct. 29, the exhibit hall was open from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and included a reception that attracted traffic.


Some exhibitors speculated that problems within the ATA that came to light at last year's convention may have impacted this year's attendance. During last year's convention in Nashville, TN, association leaders revealed to the gathered membership that the alleged mishandling of $310,000 by former president/CEO J. Scott Thornton had put the ATA in a financial hole that could have killed the organization.


"The ATA is just starting from the ground up again," Kliewer said. "People may be a little nervous to come because of last year."


Some industry members may have mistakenly believed that the ATA was doomed after last year's controversy, said ATA spokesman Kevin Brosnahan.


"Getting the word out [was the challenge]," Brosnahan said.
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