Wavelength Tech Forum: Pittcon

March 15, 2010

With Pittcon 2010 now behind us, it is time for some of Spectroscopy's industry-leading experts to take stock of how the biggest conference in analytical chemistry fared and what it means for the market as a whole.

With Pittcon 2010 now behind us, it is time for some of Spectroscopy’s industry-leading experts to take stock of how the biggest conference in analytical chemistry fared and what it means for the market as a whole.

Joining us for this discussion are Tom Ricci of Ricci Communications; Howard Mark, Consultant, Mark Electronics; and Matt Pamuku of Applied Isotope Technologies.

What did you think of the attendance at Pittcon this year, and the traffic on the floor in general?

Ricci: Coming off such a tough economic year, it was good to see conferee attendance close to last year’s Pittcon in Chicago, which is typically the highest attended venue. The daily “exhibit only” hours and poster sessions split into two areas on the floor helped traffic in the exposition and most exhibitors that I spoke with felt positively about conferee activity.

Mark: We can partly go by the numbers, here. Last year the attendance as of Thursday morning was just over 18,000. I don't have the exactly matching values for this year, but based on the data I do have, which shows an average increase of roughly 500 each day during the week, the corresponding attendance would be 16,500-17,000, somewhat less than last year. Scuttlebut I heard in the press room was that a decrease in attendance in Orlando was expected, so this drop-off is probably not too bad. It will be interesting to see what happens in Atlanta.

Pamuku: Both the traffic and the number of booths seemed to have dramatically decreased. To wit: The number of rows used to go up to 9000s; this year it went up to 4000. Just a few years ago, the Pittcon venue occupied 2 buildings and the distance between the first and the last row was nearly a mile. This year, the entire Pittcon venue fit in one display hall, with room to spare.

What was the biggest trend in instrumentation you saw this year?

Ricci: Productivity and laboratory automation seemed to be a major theme this year with the instrumentation vendors. Instrumentation continues to get smaller and more portable for a variety of field applications.

Mark: I would say the most notable trend is the continuation of last year's trend in decreasing instrument size. Not only were handheld instruments being shown for molecular spectroscopy, but there were handheld X-ray instruments and mass spectroscopy instruments being shown, too.

What did you think of Orlando as a host city?

Ricci: Coming from the northeast, I always look forward to visiting Orlando in March – nice climate change, even though it was a bit colder than normal this year. There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel and Pittcon’s Universal Night was a special treat. The Orlando venue also provides an opportunity for more visitors to attend from Latin America and I think the attendance figures will bear that out.

Mark: As sometimes happens at Pittcon, I didn't get to see too much of it.

Pamuku: Orlando is a good city to host Pittcon, but the lines at the airport security check point were horrendous.

After taking in this year’s conference, how do you think Pittcon is positioned for the future? Will it continue to attract vendors and attendees?

Ricci: Pittcon has built a strong core community of scientists and exhibiting companies and the event continues to generate excitement each year for attendees to see what’s new in laboratory science. Pittcon has demonstrated resiliency in the recent economic downturn and I think it will continue to flourish, particularly as the business climate begins to improve.

Mark: Pittcon has long become a tradition, for both vendors and conferees. This being the case, companies have a concern, with some justification, that not showing up would put them at a competitive disadvantage. Therefore I expect that, despite a normal amount of ups and downs, Pittcon will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Pamuku: Pittcon may have to go through additional contractions and perhaps change some things. The sessions are poorly organized; some sessions had only one talk (this does not make sense). The posters were poorly attended. Some of the posters read like press releases rather than scientific presentations. Some of the vendors are either skipping or significantly reducing their commitment to Pittcon.

How do you think next year’s conference in Atlanta, Georgia will fare compared to this year’s conference?

Ricci: This will be Pittcon’s first visit to Atlanta since 1997. Given the long absence, I think it will be a welcome change and provide an opportunity for new local exhibiting companies and conferees to participate. The biotech community has been growing in the southeast U.S. and with Atlanta’s close proximity to major research centers, including Research Triangle Park and Oakridge National Lab, attendance for Pittcon 2011 looks promising.

Mark: As the old saying goes, "It's dangerous to make predictions, especially about the future." If the scuttlebutt was correct, then attendance next year should be up again. If this does happen then I think it will be a strong positive harbinger for the future, though. We'll just have to wait and see.

What do you think?

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If you are interested in participating in any upcoming Technology Forums please contact Editor-in-Chief David Walsh or Associate Editor Meg Evans for more information. Next month’s forum will be a discussion about Optics/Lasers.