Volume 90 Issue 12 | p. 3
Issue Date: March 19, 2012

Quo Vadis, Pittcon?

Department: Editor's Page
Keywords: Pittcon

The 2012 Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy, Pittcon 2012, took place on March 11–15 in Orlando (see page 8). Aficionados say its exhibition is getting smaller, and many wonder whether Pittcon might need an overhaul to stem the decline in exhibitor participation.

Industry consolidation contributes to the drop in exhibitor numbers. And major companies are skipping the show. Last year, PerkinElmer didn’t come, and this year, PerkinElmer and Agilent were no-shows. Agilent had a booth, but it was empty.

Agilent told Pittcon in July 2011 that it would be a no-show in 2012, Pittcon President Jon N. Peace tells C&EN, which would reduce the company’s seniority in securing prime booth space. Near the start of the conference, Agilent reserved a small booth but didn’t staff it, which still qualifies as nonparticipation, according to Peace.

“Pittcon is evolving into a ‘shopping mall’ show as opposed to a technical new product and application-launching show,” Nick Roelofs, president of Agilent’s Life Sciences Group, tells C&EN. The show is valuable for the education market and for routine product shopping, Roelofs explains, and for smaller companies that do not have market reach. “I think going forward you will see more and more large companies dropping out,” he says. “We all are moving our key product launches to more technology-specific shows, and we all have large sales-based market reach.”

PerkinElmer will no longer exhibit at Pittcon, Dusty Tenney, president of analytical sciences and laboratory services, tells C&EN. The company is focusing on connecting one-on-one with customers and others “in ways that will result in deeper relationships,” he explains.

Agilent’s empty booth created much chatter at the show. According to Christopher P. Gaylor, vice president of North American sales at Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Shimadzu beefed up its presence to take advantage of the absence of PerkinElmer and Agilent. “Customers will be looking for the multiple-product-line companies like PerkinElmer and Agilent, and if they don’t find them we hope they’ll come and spend more time in our booth. It’s good for us,” Gaylor tells C&EN.

Meanwhile, executives at Wyatt Technology hope Agilent’s absence will shake things up. “Agilent decided not to come to Pittcon, it seems to me, because Pittcon is too frequent. It should be every two years like Analytica in Germany,” Executive Vice President Clifford Wyatt tells C&EN.

“I’ve been coming to this show for 28 years, and it’s gotten smaller every year,” says Clifford Wyatt’s brother, Geofrey, who is president of the company. “Twenty-eight years ago, the book of presentations being given was like a telephone book. Now it’s like a slender magazine. Few people want to give a serious scientific talk at Pittcon.”

The Wyatts also are unhappy about Orlando. “How many potential customers are in Orlando?” Clifford Wyatt asks. The exhibition can now fit in the convention centers of San Francisco or San Diego, he adds.

“Pittcon is a zombie. Everybody knows it’s dead but the people who run it,” Geof­rey Wyatt says. Strong words, but maybe not enough to catalyze radical change. Organizers say the conference is doing the right thing with its annual schedule.

Scientific advancements and product developments are happening more rapidly, Peace says. And Pittcon’s smaller exhibitors need an annual opportunity to connect with customers. Plus, he adds, an annual show gives attendees the best opportunity to gain the most from the technical programming and short courses.

According to Peace, Pittcon has considered West Coast venues, but decided against them because most potential conferees come from the East and Northeast. Peace adds that “exhibitor surveys have not indicated that West Coast venues are of interest to most exhibitors.” On the other hand, the diminishing size of the exposition opens opportunities for other venues in the Northeast, such as Philadelphia and Boston.

Is a middle ground possible: Hold the conference annually to maintain the educational value and the exhibition biennially to maintain exhibitor participation? Pittcon organizers likely won’t consider such a hybrid, unless exhibitors continue to walk away.

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