Seattle is a popular conference destination for several reasons, making it an attractive choice for event organisers and attendees alike.
Here are some key factors that contribute to Seattle’s reputation as a great conference destination:
- Technology and Innovation Hub: Seattle is home to some of the world’s most prominent technology companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, and numerous startups. This concentration of tech expertise makes it an ideal location for conferences focused on technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
- Leading Academic and Research Institutions: The city is host to respected universities and research institutions, such as the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. This academic environment provides a strong foundation for conferences that delve into cutting-edge research (including medical), education, and knowledge-sharing.
- Diverse Industry Presence: Seattle’s economy is diversified across various sectors, including technology, healthcare, aerospace, and more. This diversity allows for a wide range of conference themes and topics to be hosted in the city.
- Access to Expert Speakers and Thought Leaders: Seattle’s local ecosystem is rich with experts, thought leaders, and industry pioneers who can serve as keynote speakers, panellists, and workshop hosts for conferences. This creates a conducive environment for quality content and discussions.
- Infrastructure and Venues: The city offers a variety of well-equipped conference venues, from convention centres to upscale hotels. The Washington State Convention Center and the Bell Harbor Conference Center, for example, are popular venues that can accommodate large conferences and exhibitions.
- Strong Transportation Links: Seattle is well-connected to domestic and international destinations through its international airport and efficient public transportation systems. This connectivity makes it convenient for attendees from different parts of the world to travel to and from the city.
- Scenic and Vibrant Atmosphere: The city’s stunning natural surroundings, including the nearby mountains, provide a picturesque backdrop for conferences. Additionally, Seattle’s vibrant arts, culture, and culinary scene offer attendees a wide range of activities to enjoy after conference hours.
- Progressive Values and Sustainability: Seattle is known for its progressive values and commitment to sustainability. This can align well with conferences that focus on topics such as social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and ethical business practices.
- Strong Support for Events: The local government and business organisations often provide support for events hosted in the city, ranging from logistical assistance to promotional support. This can make organising conferences in Seattle more streamlined and effective.
- Networking Opportunities: The concentration of various industries and professionals in Seattle creates ample opportunities for networking, collaboration, and business development during conferences.
In summary, Seattle’s combination of technological innovation, diverse industries, academic resources, and picturesque surroundings make it an appealing destination for conferences. Its infrastructure, expertise, and vibrant atmosphere contribute to a positive experience for both organisers and attendees.
However, just as a heads up rates can be quite high so bear this in mind when budgeting.
We were asked in mid- 2022, by a long-standing client, to organise a medical conference in Seattle in May 2023 for approx. 200 international delegates.
We have organised a number of events for this client however this was the first in-person event in 5 years, due to the pandemic. Ironically, the event was on Covid and other associated respiratory viruses!
GOALS & OBJECTIVES
Our client was looking for a venue which would have the capacity for 200 delegates, ideally in a classroom or cabaret layout, with catering and exhibition space immediately outside the main meeting room. A space was also required for poster displays, from submitted abstracts.
We conducted a thorough venue search using our bespoke venue finding system and personal knowledge and experience. Interestingly, even though we began our search some 11 months prior to the conference date, several hotels already had no availability!
Our client confirmed the Seattle Marriott Waterfront Hotel after several virtual tours of the hotel.
We were asked to secure a good bedroom rate at the venue and also a few rooms at other hotels nearby, offering a lower rate than the conference hotel. This was achieved; however, one hotel, the Mayflower Park Hotel, proved to be the most popular.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION
As with all the past events, we were responsible for the full conference organisation & management to include not only the venue sourcing and rate negotiation but also budgetary planning, delegate and speaker management, setting up the registration and abstract submission modules, producing a programme and abstract book, marketing and promotion, sponsorship management, on-site attendance etc.
We worked closely with the Scientific and Organising Committees and other key stakeholders for the duration of the planning process.
One of the key challenges that we faced with regard to delegates registering for the conference related to this being the first in-person event in 5 years for our client and also, as transpired later in the planning process, that a number of other events in the same disease area appeared in the calendar and in locations which were less expensive than Seattle!
We would have to consider how our delegates would feel being in a room with close to 200 other people and knew we would have to have a number of sanitising stations available for delegates to use as well as face masks for those who wanted to wear one.
We had at the outset considered this as a hybrid conference however for budgetary reasons, this was not possible in the end.
There were some no-shows due to Covid and it was indeed a timely reminder that the virus has not gone away and of the importance of the scientific work which is ongoing in this area.
Three of our plenary speakers also withdrew from attending in-person at fairly short notice for a variety of reasons so, we as conference organisers had to remain flexible, organised and to work closely with our AV team to execute plan B! We were able to bring these speakers in by Zoom and record their presentations.
Another group in The Society that our client is part of, had another conference (on a related but different topic) take place in the same city just 2 months prior and this may have had an impact on our registration numbers as non-US delegates in particular would not have the research funds to travel to Seattle, twice in two months.
RESULTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
We achieved just short of 200 registrations from 17 countries. As was expected, the majority of the delegates were from the US itself, although 16 other countries were also represented, so a truly global audience.
From the high quality scientific abstracts submitted, a number gave oral presentations within dedicated slots on the scientific programme. The remainder were offered poster presentation slots.
Travel and Abstract Awards were provided to a number of young scientists, thanks to the generosity of industry partners.
The whole conference was recorded and made available on–demand for a period of 3 months and this was another revenue stream too.
In conclusion, this was the first in-person conference in 5 years for our client, in what is now a very different world. The talks were described as, and I quote, “nothing short of amazing and we were able to cover a broad range of data”.
Great conferences don’t just happen. It takes an incredible amount of hard work from the main PCO contacts as well as all the others involved to build a truly engaging experience and based on the feedback we received, delegates enjoyed the conference and there were many positive comments about the food! This is always a good reminder to all event organisers that the quality of food & beverages really do matter. We had made the decision to provide continuous water, and hot and cold drinks for delegates and this too was very much appreciated.
There were certainly some lessons to be learned, but overall, the DeSouza Associates team smashed it for our client!