Meetings East, April/May 2009

Planner’s Perspective

John Paserba
Vice President of Meetings Activities; IEEE Power & Energy Society; Piscataway, N.J.

Describe your event. The IEEE Power & Energy Society’s 2008 General Meeting in Pittsburgh brought together over 2,200 total attendees from 59 counties comprising practicing power engineers, managers, designers, testers, operators, planners, policy makers, economists, suppliers, IT professionals, energy professionals, consultants and many others with interest in the power and energy profession. We held our event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC) and the Westin Pittsburgh with some content at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

Why did you decide to host the meeting in Pittsburgh? Our event has a long history that can be traced back nearly 125 years. During our site selection in 2006, very few cities had the space, characteristics and room rates in a compact area that our event required. Pittsburgh rolled out the proverbial red carpet to our organization and from the outset made it clear they wanted us in their city in 2008.

What surprised you the most about Pittsburgh? Nothing really surprised us about our choice of Pittsburgh once we made it. We were told right from the initial site visit that the city and the venues and respective staffs would deliver a high-quality level of support during our event and that our attendees would feel welcome and would fall in love with the city once they were here. Our high expectations, set by the city and venue representatives over two years in advance of our event, were fully met. If there was one very pleasant realization it was how much our attendees enjoyed the city once they were here. Many came with little or no expectations or visions of the “steel days” and were totally pleased with their Pittsburgh experience.

What were some of the unique off-site venues that you used for events or meetings? We kicked off our event with a welcome reception on Sunday on the Gateway Clipper. We had nearly 1,000 attendees join the reception and tour of the city from the three rivers. As I walked around the co-joined ships (Majestic and Empress) during the reception, I noticed nearly all of our attendees enjoyed the sunny Sunday evening on the open deck taking pictures, talking, eating, renewing old friendships and making new friends, while enjoying the fabulous city views from the rivers. We held our governing board dinner at the grand concourse followed by a bus ride along Mount Washington. The soundtrack of the bus ride was the “oohs” and “aahhs” of the nighttime city view by our board members and guests.

How does Pittsburgh compare to other cities where you have hosted meetings? Our recent meetings have been in Tampa, Montreal, San Francisco, Denver and Toronto. While we were in Pittsburgh, we had record attendance for our event. Pittsburgh worked well for us because we were compact and all our events occurred in the DLCC and Westin, with some content at the Omni.

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