State of the SIGGRAPH Conference
As everyone in the technical community knows, we have been in a severe recession for the past two years. Both attendance and exhibition space at technical trade shows and conferences have decreased drastically. Many shows have been canceled. For example, the largest U.S. computer show, Comdex in Las Vegas, has dropped by an estimated 75% in exhibit space in two years. Many of the peripheral Comdex shows have been canceled. Comdex/Networld-Interop in Atlanta, which attracted 50,000 people two years ago and about 25,000 this year, has been canceled for next year. Similarly, Comdex Chicago has gone from 75,000 two years ago to canceled for next year. Attendance at other ACM conferences has also been down by about 30%. In summary, it is a very difficult time for technical conferences and trade shows.
SIGGRAPH has not been immune. For S2001, held in Los Angeles, attendance was less than expected, although still high at 34,000. S2001 made a small profit, but after the mandated transfers to ACM and to ACM SIGGRAPH, there was a net loss. For S2002, we were expecting lower numbers for both the exhibits and attendance because it was in a non-west coast city (San Antonio) and one that was new to attendees. However, while all agreed S2002 was a great technical and creative success, both attendance (17,000) and exhibits were much lower than we expected, so S2002 had a substantial loss even before the mandated transfers. Even though attendance was down for S2002, content submissions (papers, sketches, CAF, etc.) were at record high numbers, showing that the community still thinks that SIGGRAPH is the place to show off their best work.
ACM SIGGRAPH is still in sound financial condition because the SIGGRAPH Conference returned large surpluses for many years. Fortunately we did not spend the surplus and saved it for the proverbial "rainy day", which is now upon us.
Although we are in good financial condition, we cannot afford to continue to lose money as we did in 2002. Thus, we have taken steps to ensure our financial health. The first step was to change our normal west coast - non-west coast rotation and move SIGGRAPH 2004 from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Based on our history, we estimate that holding S2004 in Los Angeles will generate about 10,000 more attendees and improve revenue by $1.0-1.5 million.
The next step was to drastically reduce our budget for SIGGRAPH 2003. Our goal has been to reduce content as little as possible, but we still have had to reduce some because of the size of the budget reduction (about 25% of the total budget). The number of Courses has been reduced, but it is still at the SIGGRAPH 97 level. The formal Panels Program has been cut, but we have retained the Special Sessions and added a new feature: "Graphics Conversations" . These two changes have allowed us to shorten the conference by a full day and save several hundred thousand dollars. In addition, the Studio will not be funded this year. It will still have a space but no financial backing from SIGGRAPH. The CAL has also been eliminated. Many items have been reduced or eliminated. For example, staff support has been reduced, free coffee breaks have been deleted, signage has been reduced, etc.
However, SIGGRAPH 2003 will still have the full Papers, Sketches & Applications, Computer Animation Festival, and other programs. Emerging Technologies will be slightly smaller as will the Art Gallery, but both will still have the coolest, most creative stuff on the planet! We realize that people-to-people networking is very important to the attendees so we will still have a reception. We will have an area of the convention center (called "Vortechs") that will be an excellent place for networking all week. In Vortechs we plan to have many activities that promote interaction and fun at minimal cost. Suggestions that are being considered include a computer gaming pavilion with possible tournaments, a bean bag lounge area, discussion circles with VCRs/DVD players, a "Hyde Park" corner, an evening DJ/dance area, indoor volleyball, and others.
In summary, the technical recession has affected SIGGRAPH but we still plan to put on the world's premier Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques Conference in San Diego next July. Y'all Come!!!