by Tom Isler | May 01, 2007



Last fall, RSNA tried a
hub-and-spoke design
for its educational exhibits.
For the most part, attendees
raved about the layout.

Hub and spoke

One dramatic experiment conducted on Smith’s watch was an innovative hub-and-spoke layout for the educational exhibit hall of the 2006 annual meeting for the Oak Brook, Ill.-based Radiological Society of North America, held at McCormick Place.

In years past, the educational hall was organized by the format, and not the subject matter, of the information. If a doctor was interested in musculoskeletal research, for example, she would have to locate that topic first in the scientific poster section, then again in the educational exhibit section and a third time in the informatics area. RSNA committees decided to reorganize the hall by subject. At first, the committees considered a more traditional segmented floor plan, but “they thought that was not really as user-friendly,” as a hub-and-spoke layout, explains RSNA’s Steve Drew, who helped oversee the transformation. Drew says the new design actually enabled doctors to walk shorter distances to find their specialty.

Smith says doctors spent 35 more minutes per day in the hall, compared with the old design, and “had a tendency to consume more” because everything was in front of them. “People thought there would be so much congestion in the hubs that it wouldn’t work, you wouldn’t be able to move around, it would be inefficient, you wouldn’t be able to find the right spoke,” Smith recalls. “We didn’t have anything like that. We didn’t have congestion.” Nor did it take very long for the doctors to orient themselves on the floor, he adds.

Smith doesn’t expect the hub-and-spoke design to become a fad in the industry. “I’d be nervous to use it for a regular exhibit floor,” he says. For one thing, convention centers, which have electrical and plumbing access spaced out evenly in a grid formation, aren’t designed for nontraditional layouts. Additionally, the hub and spoke isn’t an efficient use of space; trade shows looking to maximize the number of booths, and, thus, revenue, would be limiting themselves.

Thomas Shimala, RSNA’s director of technical exhibits, says he’s not even
considering using the hub-and-spoke plan for the association’s commercial exhibits because he’d have to exclude exhibitors, and that would decrease revenue. “We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot,” he says.