Quo Vadis, Pittcon? | March 19, 2012 Issue - Vol. 90 Issue 12 | Chemical & Engineering News
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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null (March 19, 2012 3:02 PM)
I agree that Pittcon isn't the same as it used to be. Pittcon organizers must consider holding the conference in different cities. Orlando is a terrible location, Chicago is good but not during the winter, and New Orleans is far from both the northeast and west coasts. I no longer attend Pittcon and instead choose to attend more specific conferences.
Maureen Rouhi (March 20, 2012 1:59 PM)
Thanks for your comment. What specific conferences do you find more useful?
Marian Nardozzi (March 21, 2012 10:17 AM)
While some of these comments are somewhat accurate, I believe you have missed the larger picture which includes more on the positive aspects of Pittcon 2012 and its impact on the scientific community. Most exhibitors were very pleased with this year's event, many stated that the leads were more qualified and in spite of a tightened travel budgets, the decision makers continue to attend the event, and in general Pittcon 2012 was a good event for them.
One more comment on the size of the program---it is a "slender magazine" because we have gotten more efficient. More up to date information is posted on the website and more and more people use the internet and have smartphones to take advantage of our mobile app. We are making every effort to reduce paper waste, go greener, and reduce mailing and shipping costs to help keep down the cost to exhibitors and conferees.
Maureen Rouhi (March 21, 2012 12:29 PM)
Thanks for your comment, Marian. You're right about using technology to reduce the use of paper and other costs of hard copy. Maybe you could provide readers with stats about the number of scientific presentations in the past 10 years to show that the reduction in size is due to modern tools not a lower number of presenters.
John Varine (April 4, 2012 11:35 PM)
Number of Presentations - Oral, Poster, Symposia - at Pittcon, 2001 through 2011:

2001:€“ 2,295
2002:€“ 2,547
2003:€“ 2,625
2004:€“ 2,407
2005:€“ 2,433
2006:€“ 2,368
2007:€“ 2,308
2008:€“ 2,808
2009:€“ 2,329
2010:€“ 2,348
2011:€“ 2,489

The number of presentations has not been diminishing. The average per year is about 2,450 and it has held fairly steady since 2001.
Marian Nardozzi (April 5, 2012 9:49 AM)
Another consideration about the Technical Program is that in the past three years, we have implemented "Expo Only" hours from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm where there are no technical sessions so that conferees have the opportunity to visit the expo floor without missing any important technical presentations. In spite of this, we still maintain a very high number, and more importantly a diverse offering of quality techical presentations as evidenced by the numbers listed above.
I think also, that too many people focus on the NUMBER of aspects of the conference, such as number of technical presentations, number of courses, number of technical sessions, number of exhibitors and fail to look at the quality. Numbers without quality is not good, and in the same respect, a narrow focus is not good either. I strongly believe that most conferees would agree that there needs to be a balance and Pittcon maintains that balance.
Alyse Bao (December 30, 2013 1:55 AM)
Agree your comment!
Alyse Bao (December 30, 2013 1:48 AM)
Your comments are helpful. We're chinese company and now is working on choosing which exhibition to attend. It seems that Pittcon is not the one. Could you pls so kind to let me know some other specific conferences?

RN (March 21, 2012 10:29 AM)
I don't get the opportunity to travel to many conferences, and PittCon was always my first choice when I was granted the opportunity. Our group is a small subsection of a large analytical group, and our small group does a variety of techniques. Only at PittCon can I cover advances in instrumentation in titration, electrochemistry, spectroscopy, chromatography, elemental analysis, and mass spectrometry. The specialized conferences always end up covering only a very small subsection of what I do. I wish I was able to attend more frequently, but if PittCon is losing exhibitors, its value to me will be diminished.
Maureen Rouhi (March 21, 2012 12:30 PM)
You make very good points, RN. What do you think Pittcon should do?
JC (March 21, 2012 4:10 PM)
I do agree that PITTCON is losing its "magic" during the last years, for me the reason for this is a combination of the economical crisis and the lack of reaction of the organizers to make it more attractive.
What I miss in this article is the great effort in organize the scientific sessions, I know that one of the key points of PITTCON is the equipment exhibition but PITTCON is more than companies displaying their equipments and services. There is an enormous group of people (bachelor, master, PhD students and professors) working hard on their presentations to share with the scientific community. Nothing of this is mention on the article. And what about of the high number of short-courses offered at PITTCON every year?. A lot of people is behind the preparation of these short-courses but again this point does not appear in this article.
The location for me is not that relevant, I think the organizers really need to find new strategies to give PITTCON a new air. The option of having PITTCON every two years, in my opinion, will not solve anything.
Maureen Rouhi (March 22, 2012 11:27 AM)
You're right JC. I did not delve into the educational programming, and that is great part of what Pittcon is. I concentrated on the exhibition, because that's where some exhibitors are no-shows. In our full coverage of Pittcon, in the April 2 issue, we feature some of the highlights of the technical program.
Alyse Bao (December 30, 2013 2:14 AM)
Maureen Rouhi, in the report it said "Last year, PerkinElmer didn’t come, and this year, PerkinElmer and Agilent were no-shows". I have a question. Did PerkinElmer and Angilent also no-show in educational programming(PPT). Maybe we need John Varine supply us the data of PPT. I guess we can find PerkinElmer and Angilent.
Maureen Rouhi (March 22, 2012 11:39 AM)
For additional context, here are recent Pittcon numbers from http://www.pittcon.org/exhibitors/attendstats.php.


Registration Type/Year2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
Full Conferee 5,295 5,893 6,046 6,613 7,398 7,514 6,773
Corporate Guest 2,261 2,125 2,132 1,726 1,442 1,106 919
One Day 712 897 756 1,595 610 1,576 1,097
Graduate Student 640 684 692 889 764 943 654
Subtotal 8,908 9,599 9,626 10,823 10,214 11,139 9,443
Media 182 213 231 224 244 253 190
Student 280 318 241 328 219 483 295
TOTAL CONFEREE 9,370 10,130 10,098 11,375 10,677 11,875 9,928
Exhibitor 6,384 7,069 6,778 7,643 8,859 10,338 9,743
TOTAL ATTENDANCE 15,754 17,199 16,876 19,018 19,536 22,213 19,671

Greg` (March 22, 2012 4:47 PM)
Personally, the benefit of PittCon is to be able to evaluate the vendors technology in one place with the level of expertize to discuss in detail the advantages any particular vendors instrument has over the competition. Choosing not to attend leads me down the road that the vendor would rather have a close audience where real comparisons can't happen. PE used to one of the definitive organizations within the industry and is now a shadow of itself. It would seem Agilent may be heading down the same road.
Greg Pronger (February 20, 2013 4:33 PM)
visited to evaluate GC-QqQ systems. Looked hard at Thermo & Bruker. Agilent said to wait for their road show; more focused and local. Waited, no GC-QqQ. Agilent was never able to get me in front of a unit. Came down to a hard call between Thermo & Bruker, and ended up with Bruker. Agilent was like the horse in the race that never leaves the starting gate.
John Varine (April 5, 2012 6:56 PM)
“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." (Wyatt Technology)

Really?? Not true at all. At least double-check your figures before commenting. Here is the trend since 1984 - 28 years ago.

Both Booth Numbers and Exhibiting Companies showed a fairly steady increase from 1984 through 2001 (the year of the World Trade Center disaster). Go here and scroll down to see the statistics: . The decrease began around that time. When you consider mergers and acquisitions, the financial disasters in the past decade and other factors, it's not surprising that the numbers have decreased, just as they have in other trade shows in many industries. Similar factors affected the profits of most of the exhibiting companies.

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