Q&A with Life Sciences Congress Executive Director, Bonnie Grant

For life science meeting planners considering Philadelphia for a future convention, the PHLCVB offers resources through the Life Science Congress (PHLLife).  This branch of the PHLCVB works to connect meeting planners with life sciences leaders in the tri-state area.  In this Q&A, Executive Director Bonnie Grant, gives insight on how PHLLife can help with planning a successful meeting in Philadelphia.


What can the Life Sciences Congress do for meeting planners?

The Life Sciences Congress consists of an advisory board who are leaders in various life sciences communities, including medical, healthcare, nursing, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and related fields. We offer these industry leaders as resources, asking them to share their best critical thinking with meeting planners.

Almost half of the business that happens at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Center City hotels is life-sciences related. We work to connect planners with local contacts who are heads of medical schools, medical device companies, pharmaceutical executives, the tri-state bio organization and who are affiliated with various associations or have members or faculty that are involved in any number of medical societies or associations. We spend a lot of time cultivating those relationships and teaching them about what we do, what our meeting planners do and how they can help.

Besides the expertise of the Life Science Congress, what other assets does Philadelphia offer to Life Sciences meetings?

Philadelphia’s assets include our medical institutions – 22 nursing schools, two dental schools, two colleges of pharmacy, a veterinary school, a school of optometry, a podiatry school, almost 100 hospitals, and an equal number of “hi-tech,” biomedical, and pharmaceutical companies. Philadelphia is also within two hours of 80 percent of the world’s major pharmaceutical firms, including GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol Meyers, Squibb, Johnson and Johnson, AstraZeneca, and Du Pont. Our relationships with these organizations help us to help meeting planners, whether it’s to build attendance, to get speakers, to source exhibitors or to secure venues for off-site receptions.

Can you give an example of a circumstance where the Life Sciences Congress assisted a convention group?
We help with a lot of outreach. Usually our smaller meetings seek help with speakers, so we will facilitate introductions to our well-connected board members.

One example that stands out, is earlier this year, when we used these connections to help the American Association of Diabetes Educators when Paula Deen canceled her keynote engagement at the last minute, as a result of her national publicity crisis. We were able to reach out to our life sciences industry board members with connections to diabetes who stepped up to help secure another speaker. Sometimes groups will ask us about a specific speaker and if our board members have any connections to them, we work to make that happen.

Another example illustrates how we help with public events. When the 2011 American Transplant Congress (ATC) met in Philadelphia, they held a very public event for survivors with donated organs, so we helped them spread that public message.

In 2014, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) is planning a public Brain Fair when their convention is held here in April and the Life Sciences Congress was able to bring a lot of the regional advocacy and other organizations that deal with brain trauma, brain injury and brain disease to the table for two days of meetings, so that AAN could communicate the opportunities of that Brain Fair to them. Rather than meeting planners navigating the local organizational landscape themselves, our congress is able to make the coordination of these events much easier.

We also provided assistance to the National Black Nurses Association, meeting in Philadelphia next year, with an outreach meeting they held for organizations that employ/teach nurses but which also targeted potential corporate sponsors, several of whom we maintain relationships with.

Is there anything else you would want a meeting planner to know about the Life Sciences Congress?

Philadelphia is the fourth largest media market and so the breaking news that happens at these meetings can often receive wide-spread local attention. We maintain a life sciences media list and offer PR consulting to conventions which meet a certain criteria, to aid in about getting media visibility locally.

To learn more about the Life Sciences Congress, visit


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