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ACS National Meetings: The Site Selection Process

by Dee Ann Casteel
November 19, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 47

Dee Ann Casteel
Credit: Robert Landry
Chair, Committee On Meetings & Expositions
Photo of Dee Ann Casteel, Chair, Committee On Meetings & Expositions
Credit: Robert Landry
Chair, Committee On Meetings & Expositions

The American Chemical Society Council Committee on Meetings & Expositions (M&E), with support from ACS staff in the Department of Meetings & Expositions, is responsible for finding suitable cities for the society’s spring and fall national meetings. The site selection process starts with the M&E Subcommittee on Sites and then moves to the full M&E Committee for discussion. Once the committee comes to an agreement, M&E recommends sites and dates for the meetings to the ACS Council and ACS Board of Directors.

Average attendance at an ACS national meeting is approximately 14,000, though it can reach 18,000, depending on the location. That scale makes size a key factor when determining whether a city has the facilities required to host the kind of meeting that ACS members have come to expect.

Over the years, M&E has developed site selection criteria that help ensure a successful national meeting. The screening process includes a review of the city’s convention center to assess the number of session rooms and total hall space; hotels, as regards price, available sleeping rooms, session rooms, and distance from the convention center and downtown area; transportation, including fares for airlines and trains as well as availability of flights; and overall appeal, including financial outcome of previous ACS meetings in the city, number of nearby universities and colleges, chemical and allied companies in the area, shuttle bus costs, and shopping and cultural attractions.

While M&E would like to hold national meetings in a variety of locations around the U.S., not many cities are large enough or have the required facilities to meet ACS member needs. To combat city fatigue, M&E has developed a site rotation plan where our most popular cities are visited every three or four years. Other cities where previous ACS meetings have had success are then added to fill in the calendar. Some experimental cities with solid plans for infrastructure growth that meet ACS criteria are also considered as host sites.

We schedule national meetings about 10 years in advance in order to reserve our desired meeting dates. This is standard business practice for organizations that sponsor large annual meetings, but it also leaves limited opportunity for changing locations after making commitments. We do, however, reexamine sites selected for future national meetings to make sure each city remains viable.

During its recent meeting in Philadelphia, in fact, M&E recommended to the council and to the board of directors that the fall 2017 national meeting be relocated from St. Louis to Washington, D.C. The meeting will be held on Aug. 20–24. A number of factors prompted the recommendation to relocate the meeting, with the primary one being the insufficient number of meeting rooms within comfortable walking distance of hotels and the convention center. As the city of St. Louis continues to grow, it will be considered for future ACS national meetings.

Midwestern cities currently scheduled include Indianapolis in fall 2013. It should be noted that Indianapolis is a new site for holding a national meeting. Nine years ago, after studying the city’s infrastructure, meeting costs, location, accessibility, and history of hosting large meetings and events, M&E decided Indianapolis was an excellent midwestern candidate for our site expansion program.

Our recent intensive review of these aspects of Indianapolis reaffirmed the city’s suitability. In fact, Indianapolis stands out over other possible midwestern cities in respects that are very important to the success of a national ACS meeting. These include a central location near many important academic institutions and industries; relatively low travel costs for a large fraction of the membership; an excellent, modern, large convention center that will accommodate most of our technical sessions and has generous exhibition space; a large number of hotels quite close to the convention center, so the technical sessions will be close to each other; and a local section that is energized to promote the site and has a great plan to introduce attendees to the city. In addition, the meeting will have an appealing theme of “Chemistry in Motion,” which covers the interests of most divisions, from reaction kinetics to nanomachines to polymer rheology to fuels and propulsion (and Indy racing).

M&E particularly wants to emphasize the overall compactness of the meeting site. This will make the meeting much easier to navigate for all attendees and will make cosponsoring symposia work better.

As costs for organizing and attending ACS national meetings continue to increase, M&E recognizes the importance of site selection to all aspects of these meetings. The committee is working to improve the site selection process by analyzing the most significant measurable factors—including costs—when evaluating a site for a meeting.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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