Wavelength Tech Forum: Pittcon 2008

March 17, 2008

This month's Technology Forum looks at the topic of Pittcon 2008 and the issues surrounding it. Joining us for this discussion are Jerry Dulude, with Glass Expansion, Kevin McLaughlin, with Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Ken Kempfert, with PIKE Technologies, and Don Kuehl, with Cerno Bioscience.

This month’s Technology Forum looks at the topic of Pittcon 2008 and the trends and issues surrounding it. Joining us for this discussion are Jerry Dulude, with Glass Expansion, Kevin McLaughlin, with Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Ken Kempfert, with PIKE Technologies, and Don Kuehl , with Cerno Bioscience.

What were your overall impressions of Pittcon 2008?

(Dulude) My impressions were very favorable; a lot of activity (at the conference), good food (not at the conference), and warmer than Massachusetts.

(McLaughlin) The overall show seemed to be slower this year compared to the last couple of years in Chicago and Orlando. At times, the floor looked empty. This may be due, in part, to the layout of the convention center, which is quite long and narrow in New Orleans. However, in talking with other vendors and associates, many had the same impression when walking the aisles.

(Kempfert) We were pleased with the show in general. Our end users leads count was consistent with recent years Pittcon shows. Our booth attendance by our OEM customers was excellent.

(Kuehl) From the eyes of a vendor, Pittcon is judged by the leads and business that were produced. For us, as a vendor, the show was very positive.

What were your feelings on this year's New Orleans location? Was it an improvement over last year's Chicago location?

(Dulude) Last year’s conference in Chicago encountered very bleak weather. I don’t think we saw the sun until Thursday. It was very cold and we had a little snow almost every day. So weather-wise, it was an improvement even though New Orleans was colder than the average for that time of year. With respect to dining, interestingly, I thought Chicago was better, and I never would have guessed that I would feel that way. We went to several top rated restaurants and were a bit disappointed with the exception of two. One of the main advantages of New Orleans, however, was the proximity of the hotels to the convention hall. Almost everyone in Chicago had to take a bus.

(McLaughlin) The short answer is no, it was not an improvement. While holding shows and conventions in New Orleans is a vital aspect to rebuilding the city, the city itself is still a tough sell. Many people expressed concerns about safety before and at the show. In addition, and this may not be an issue for some, flights to New Orleans for some attendees were limited, making it more difficult to get there.

(Kempfert) Yes, New Orleans is a big improvement over the cold and blustery Chicago weather. The New Orleans people seem to be happy to have their visitors return – the restaurants are excellent!

(Kuehl) New Orleans is the best location for Pittcon. First, you typically don’t run into the weather issues of getting into and out of Chicago. Second, everything in New Orleans is easily accessible by walking. Third, the hall is easy to get to and everything is on one floor.

What were your thoughts on the sessions, posters, short courses, and conferences?

(Dulude) From my experiences with the technical sessions, I thought they were quite good. In fact they seemed less commercial than past technical sessions. The posters seemed to be well attended and were in a good location. Although I did not attend any short courses, I heard favorable comments from both students and teachers. I heard that the ICP-OES short course was very well attended. In fact, it was interesting (and heartwarming) to me that there was so much interest in ICP-OES. Although there were about the same number of technical papers on the subject, there seemed to be a lot of interest in the technique from conferees as a useful laboratory tool for a wide range of applications.

(McLaughlin) Overall, we thought it was a good program that appealed to both novice and experienced instrument users. And, contrary to the answer to #1, many of our presenters and scientists indicated the short courses, posters, and conferences were well attended, more so than in past years. Perhaps this helps explain the slower foot traffic at times.

(Kempfert) We like the posters sessions in the exhibition area.

(Kuehl) The New Product sections are a waste. Most posters and sessions are generally OK.

What was your impression of the turnout?

(Dulude) I don’t know what the final figures were but we found a great deal of traffic at our booth. In fact, we generated about 75% more quality leads this year than last. So from our viewpoint, the turnout was excellent.

(McLaughlin) Based on the exhibitor meeting on Thursday, the attendance went down this year. We weren’t surprised. However, we do feel the quality of the attendees and leads we received was generally high. This seems to be a trend over the last few years where more serious buyers, and fewer “literature collectors,” are attending.

(Kempfert) Turnout in general appeared to be down again relative to previous years.

(Kuehl) This is hard to judge since Pittcon does not readily release any numbers.

What improvements would you suggest for Pittcon 2009?

(Dulude) We were quite happy with the conference and exhibition as a whole. The length of time of the exhibition was fine. The technical sessions were well organized and diverse. I think that for some people it may have been a problem that there were so many concurrent sessions, especially for those in multi-disciplined laboratories, but I don’t have a better solution.

(McLaughlin) Returning to Chicago is the first and best improvement. Beyond that, I think Pittcon needs to determine a focus and stick to it. It seems that over the last few years it has tried to be the show for all people and all scientists. With the proliferation of smaller technique- or application-focused shows, it can't be. Pittcon needs to understand their core audience and reach out to them with stronger marketing efforts and a continually improving technical program.

From an exhibitor standpoint, Pittcon needs to ensure things progress smoothly. This means, for example, ensuring that corporate guests aren't turned away as happened this year, and providing us with real statistics about conferees instead of numbers that differ each time we ask.

(Kempfert) We recommend reducing the exhibition time to Monday through Wednesday at 3:00 PM.

(Kuehl) Perhaps Pittcon should be held every other year. I believe this could help build renewed interest in the show.

What do you think?

Click here to participate in our "Question of the Month" survey on Pittcon 2008.