Technology Forum: Pittcon 2007

February 20, 2007

E-Separation Solutions

E-Separation Solutions-02-20-2007, Volume 1, Issue 2

Each month in our Technology Forum we will feature a discussion between industry experts on various trends and issues in the chromatography field. This month's Technology Forum looks at the topic of Pittcon 2007 and the trends and issues surrounding it. Joining us for this discussion are Tom Ricci with Ricci Communications and LCGC Columnists John Dolan and John Hinshaw.

Each month in our Technology Forum we will feature a discussion between industry experts on various trends and issues in the chromatography field. This month's Technology Forum looks at the topic of Pittcon 2007 and the trends and issues surrounding it. Joining us for this discussion are Tom Ricci with Ricci Communications and LCGC Columnists John Dolan and John Hinshaw.

1) How many Pittcon's have you attended and how have you seen the conferenceevolve over the years?

Tom Ricci: I have attended 13 Pittcons - 10 as an exhibitor, and most recently, as a marketing consultant for the Pittsburgh Conference. The PIttsburgh Conference organization is very sensitive to the issues faced by today's conferees and exhibitors, particularly in terms of tight budgets and travel restrictions, and is continuing to evolve its Technical Program and Exposition format to help maximize the value for all attendees. Pittcon has always been the premier industry product exposition and that hasn't changed over time. In recent years, the conference has placed significant emphasis on strengthening the Technical Program and has implemented a number of changes in the Exposition to facilitate networking and increase opportunities for interaction between conferees and exhibitors.

John Dolan: This is my 31st consecutive Pittcon. My first Pittcon was thelast year in Cleveland ("Cleveburg"), then we went through the Atlantic Cityera and on to the road show style of a new site every year or two.

John Hinshaw: I've attended over 20 PittCons since 1979, the last year it was held inCleveland. Through the mid 1990s the conference expanded steadily as it rodeon top of the economic growth in the analytical chemistry business thatcharacterized most of those years. The end of that cycle tightened budgetsfor exhibitors and even more so for conferee travel allotments, which hasresulted in a steady attendance decline since. I believe that the analyticalsector is healthy and growing, and that the PittCon's forum is adapting tothe changing landscape as needs shift.

2) In your opinion, what effect does the location of Pittcon have -particularly this year in Chicago?

Tom Ricci: Conventional wisdom suggests that location plays an important part in a conferee's decision to attend Pittcon. However, the data from conferee surveys indicate that location has very little significance. Most conferees say they attend to take advantage of the variety of educational opportunities that exist, network with their colleagues and other scientists or business partners, and to get a hands on look at the latest instrumentation and laboratory equipment. Chicago, despite the winter weather, has always achieved high attendance, mainly because of the high concentration of industry and universities in the metro area, and I expect this will be the same in 2007.

John Dolan: I'm not fond of Chicago because of the weather in Feb/Mar andthat the convention center is inconvenient to get to. However, as a locationfor the show, it is probably one of the best because there is lots of localindustry to draw upon.

John Hinshaw: From its beginnings through 1996 the conference expanded steadily; itreached an all time high attendance of 34,000+ that year in Chicago. Insubsequent years attendance has contracted by up to 33%. The trend wasreversed briefly when the conference returned to Chicago in 1994 and thisyear I expect attendance will jump upwards again. Although sunny warmlocations such as New Orleans and Orlando may seem attractive, theattendance numbers make proximity to analytical producers and consumers amore important factor. Historically, attendance has gone up when PittCon hasheaded north to Chicago, New York, or Atlantic City. The weather factor is aminor inconvenience.

3) What are some new trends that you expect to see at Pittcon 2007?

Tom Ricci: In recent years, Pittcon's core application areas of interest in the material and chemical sciences have been augmented by an increasing trend toward pharmaceutical and the life sciences. Based on review of this year's Technical Program topics, I think you will see that trend continue, particularly in the areas of genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. Other emerging technologies gaining prominence in the Technical Program include nanotechnology forensics, and chemical/biochemical weapon detection.

Another interesting trend at Pittcon is the growing number of external scientific societies and organizations who host meetings for their members or present symposia during Pittcon week. These organizations include American Society for Testing and Measurement (ASTM), The Society for Electroanalytical Chemistry (SEAC), National Science Foundation (NSF), and most recently, the 10,000 member American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry. These partnerships and co-sponsorships diversify the Technical Program as well as provide economical benefts to their membership.

John Dolan: The high pressure (>6000 psi), small particle (<2 um) HPLC columns and equipment are the hot topics in the field of LC. I know through the grapevine of a few new products and expect to be surprised by others.

John Hinshaw: Last year saw a significant increase in the online availability and distribution of marketing and technical information and a correspondingdecrease in the number of mailers sent pre- and post-conference; I expectthat trend to continue. The move away from instrument-oriented presentationsto application-oriented presentations will continue too, as reflected in thelarge number of topical application sessions this year. Over the last fewyears the number of papers per attendee has been on the rise, a trend that I hope will continue as well.

4) What are your thoughts on the conference's new Networking Sessions, whichwill allow attendees with similar interests to meet and discuss theindustry?

Tom Ricci: Great ideas are often born and nurtured from informal discussions. I think these networking sessions will provide a valuable opportunity for participants to exhange ideas and learn from their colleagues who share similar challenges and goals in their scientific endeavors. They are also a great way for Pittcon to help build community and relationships that can be extended indefinitely. I expect these sessions to be very well received and become a permanent fixture at Pittcon for years to come.

John Dolan: I was not aware of these. I view Pittcon primarily as a vendorto vendor show as the practice of announcing new products has dropped off inrecent years due to product introductions on the internet. These factors,plus travel budgets make Pittcon less attractive to out of town attendees.Another thing I noticed this year was that the Sunday afternoon symposia arefull-bodied sessions. At first glance, I see more technical sessions ofpersonal interest to me on Sunday afternoon than any other time in the week.Unfortunately, I think most attendees will miss these because they expectthe technical program to start on Monday.

John Hinshaw: I like the concept but it's not clear from the descriptions how much time isalloted for discussion versus presentation by the organizers.