The American Pharmacists Association held its annual national meeting last March in Seattle for 6,500 attendees from across North America. The pharmacists came to earn continuing education credits, network and visit over 200 exhibitioners.
“It is a big deal for us because it is the one time of the year where we really showcase publicly the association to our members,” says Windy Christner, CMP; senior director, meetings & expositions for the APhA.
“We had a very good experience there in 2004 and that prompted us to renew our commitment in 2011,” she explains. “One of the primary draws is that Seattle is one of those places that a lot of people want to go to, but don’t get to.”
Christner says there’s an appeal to the Northwest being “beautiful, earthy and green, close to the water, like in a postcard.” That has a big effect on a program of this size because everyone is more relaxed and the savings on transportation are a “huge plus.” And then there’s the locals.
“The Seattle vibe is very laid back and the people are kind of unique,” she says. “They’re a little more down-to-earth maybe, than you see in a lot of big cities. They’re more involved in their communities and being green, and that’s reflected in how everyone is not so all uptight.”
The group booked seven downtown hotels ranging from the Grand Hyatt Seattle to the Crowne Plaza Hotel Seattle, with the farthest less than a 10-minute walk to the Washington State Convention Center. HQ hotels were The Westin Seattle and Sheraton Seattle Hotel.
“Downtown is really picture perfect,” says Christner. “Everywhere you go, you see the hills, the water, there’s lots of shopping and it’s a very clean, vibrant area.”
How are the restaurants in the downtown core?
“You have a huge variety of ethnic types of food, price points and really funky, fun places as well as quiet out-of-the-way places. And everywhere is so easy to get to.”
For offsite dinners, she recommends Pink Door, Wild Ginger and The Garage—a bowling alley where they held a staff vendor appreciation function. The highest awards party was at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel.
For the final reception, about 1,200 attendees took the monorail to the Experience Music Project. The Gehry-designed museum houses Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s music memorabilia, plus there are all types of interactive opportunities including playing in a band and filming it.
A short walk from the hotels, Pike Place Public Market was a highlight for everyone. “It’s so cool, all the fresh food, the shops and local artist galleries,” says Christner. “They have tons of good cafes, we ate there a couple times. And you can get these huge bouquets of flowers for $10-$15.”
And how about the overall service and support?
“The convention center, hotels and the Seattle CVB—they all work together cohesively…. There was not anyone there that I wouldn’t work with again, and that says a lot.”