New location for LabAutomation?
Let me begin this blog by saying that we want your feedback! You may not know it, but you can post comments to this or any LabMan blog by clicking on "add comment" at the bottom of each post. In this case, we're discussing future locations for the LabAutomation conference, so if you have an opinion, please post a comment! Don't wait and grouse when the conference ends up in a place you don't like!
For those not involved with conference planning, it may be surprising to learn that conference venues are planned 3 to 5 years out. To get a specific place at a specific time of year, you have to get into the que early. So, the ALA is now going through that planning process for the LabAutomation 2011 and beyond dates. To demystify this process, The Lab Man talked to Brenda Dreier, the ALA Director of Event Management and to Dr. Jim Sterling, the current ALA president. Brenda related the history of LabAutomation venues. The conference began in 1998 in San Diego, at the Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel. By 2000 the conference had outgrown that facility, and moved to the Palm Springs Convention Center. Growth and pending construction caused the conference to move to the San Jose Convention Center in 2004 and 2005, and then back to Palm Springs in the years since. The conference continues to grow, so what venue will be appropriate by 2011?
Jim pointed out several factors in the pending choice. The end of January time slot is both traditional and beneficial. It's the beginning of the budget year for many attendees, so travel funds may be more available. It's also the beginning of the fiscal year for many of the conference exhibitors, so they are eager to get the year started with a bang, including new product announcements. The ALA has always had a tradition of inviting attendees to take a break from the winter, come to a warm, inviting climate and experience an excellent conference along with mingling with colleagues while enjoying some good food and beverage. All of these factors have helped the conference achieve the current level of success, and it's not wise to mess with winning formulas. That means choosing among cities with warm climates and available facilities in January. Brenda indicates those cities under consideration include Palm Springs, San Diego, Anaheim, Long Beach, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
Unlike some conferences, the ALA tends to stay in a location for multiple years. Multi-year agreements lower the cost and those savings that can be passed on to attendees and exhibitors. The ALA has been able to keep room cost below $200/night during peak demand time in Palm Springs. This practice also lets attendees become familiar with both the convention center and the surrounding locale, so time can be spent more productively. Keeping with this practice, the venue chosen for 2011 will also be the conference site for 2012 and 2013.
What specific factors influence the choice? Obviously, your feedback counts (hint!). From a physical standpoint, the conference requires a convention center large enough to accommodate anticipated growth, but also not so large as to dwarf the event. Attendees like to shuttle back and forth between talks and the exhibit floor, so that needs to be a convenient walk. Exhibitors need sufficient space and pre-conference time for setup. There must be adequate numbers of right-sized rooms for both podium sessions and the extensive short course program. Enough hotel rooms should be available within reasonable walking or shuttle distance. The city itself must be easily accessible by air, given that conference attendees come from all around the country and world. Ideally, there would be a local scientific presence to encourage walk-in attendance. And, naturally, the finances have to be right.
The timeframe for this decision is June of this year. So, if you have an opinion, please post a comment!
Until next time,
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto