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Professional Convention Management Association

Pre Con: How a Transportation Conference Drives Traffic

by By Michelle R. Davis | Nov 01, 2014
The meeting, with the theme “Corridors to the Future: Transportation and Technology,” is expected to attract 12,000 transportation professionals.

MEETING

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies will hold its 94th Annual Meeting at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 11–15, 2015. The meeting, with the theme “Corridors to the Future: Transportation and Technology,” is expected to attract 12,000 transportation professionals from more than 80 countries around the world, including policymakers, administrators, practitioners, and researchers.

See Also: How the D.C. Convention Center Planned a 5,000-Person Dinner Practically Overnight

CHALLENGES

TRB’s Annual Meeting has grown significantly in recent years, so much so that the 2014 conference was held across three different hotels in northwest Washington, D.C. Two of the hotels were next door to each other, but the third was farther away, necessitating a taxi ride or walk to get there, according to Lisa Marflak, TRB’s director of communications/media.

Having to travel among hotels cut into the time that attendees could spend in sessions and at networking events, which are a highlight of the conference. In 2014, “with travel time or walking you might have to budget up to an hour to get from one building to another,” Marflak said. “It was hard to get to various networking events, especially those that happened in conjunction with the sessions.”

Consolidating the conference — which includes networking, presentations, and interactive workshops, as well as an exhibit hall — in one venue should improve the experience for attendees and allow them to take in more of the program, Marflak said. TRB has also contracted with 20 area hotels to provide rooms for attendees.

INITIATIVES

In the past, some of the hotels that hosted the meeting were historic buildings whose thick walls made it difficult for Wi-Fi signals to work effectively, so TRB didn’t include Internet access for attendees. Not so at the D.C. convention center, where TRB will offer free Wi-Fi. “It’s a huge improvement and will enable attendees to have discussions about the conference over social media,” Marflak said. “One of the best ways for attendees to find out about what’s going on and what’s interesting is through Twitter. Those online conversations will be enhanced by the free Wi-Fi.”

The conference will also include poster sessions that permit attendees to interact on a more personal basis with transportation experts. During those poster sessions, held along a corridor at the convention center, presenters will develop visuals around a transportation theme and attendees can speak with them one-on-one. “We offer more traditional lectures, too,” Marflak said, “but these poster sessions are much more personal than getting up and speaking in front of 100 attendees.”

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