How AES Selects Annual Meeting Locations

The American Epilepsy Society (AES) Annual Meeting typically attracts nearly 6000 participants from around the globe. The event utilizes approximately 12,000 hotel sleeping room nights; requires meeting rooms for approximately 110 education and career development sessions, and 200 in conjunction with meetings; and occupies a footprint of roughly 430,000 to 500,000 square feet.

When are location decisions made?

Like most other organizations that convene large and complex annual conferences, the Board of Directors selects sites five to seven years in advance. Currently, contracts are signed with convention centers and hotels for AES Annual Meetings through 2026, and site selection is underway for AES 2027 and AES 2028.

 

How does AES decide where to hold its meetings?

There are many factors that go into the AES Annual Meeting site location decision. It is important to note that these factors are assessed at the time site decisions are made and may change in the period between contracting and the actual meeting. Here are some of the most critical considerations:

  • Affordability for registrants. Potential AES Annual Meeting cities must include discounted hotel sleeping room rates in their bids, along with favorable rates for convention center space and services. These rates determine the total cost for registrants to attend the meeting, and AES negotiates aggressively to keep them as affordable as possible.
  • Availability of adequate space, hotel rooms, food service (including restaurants), etc. The location needs to be large enough and with sufficient infrastructure to accommodate 6000 people who need meeting space, local transportation, meals, sleeping rooms, and other services for nearly a week—and with the goal of locating most activities and services within walking distance of the convention center for the convenience of attendees. There are a limited number of cities in the US that can accommodate a meeting of our size, and we compete with other meetings and events for our standing early December conference dates.
  • State and local track record on public policies that reflect AES positions and core values. The AES Board reviews public policies in each location under consideration to ensure they are aligned with critical issues on which AES has taken a position or are reflected in AES core values. This evaluation is rigorous and is done before signing. However, policy landscapes often change quickly, and unfortunately, sometimes a location’s public policies become misaligned with AES positions and values after signing.
  • Air transportation routes from high volume domestic and international markets. Airline service routes and historical performance are reviewed as part of the decision to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of flights without undue numbers of connections required to travel from key markets.
  • Geographic rotation. Where possible, the AES Board is committed to a regular rotation among the major sections of the US to help ease access for all potential attendees.

 

Can AES change the location of the Annual Meeting?

To secure the space and services AES needs to produce a meeting, we must sign contracts several years in advance. Significant and unavoidable cancellation fees are part of these contracts, and they become more significant as the date of the meeting gets closer, generally reaching well over a million dollars if AES cancels during the 12 to 24 months before the meeting.

Changing the location of the Annual Meeting in less than two years out would require: (1) finding an alternate location that can accommodate a meeting of our size and complexity; (2) paying significant cancellation fees, as well as taking on potentially substantial increased expense due to tight planning timelines; and 3) significant reworking of the event to meet a new location placement. Planning for each AES Annual Meeting requires about eighteen months of staff time.