Editor's Corner—8 things I won't miss about the Westin St. Francis as JPM goes virtual

The exterior of the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco
The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco's Union Square is the longtime host of the annual J.P. Morgan healthcare conference. (Zoia Kostina/Shutterstock)

If you've attended the J.P. Morgan healthcare conference in San Francisco for the last several years, you probably spent at least a minute or two Sunday thinking about how you’d be spending the day if the conference was convening in person.

Thinking back fondly on a time when your company would pay for you to eat at a restaurant, maybe, or what a privilege it would be to “have to” break Dry January "for work" immediately upon touching down in San Francisco.

But as JPM goes virtual, there are a few things I definitely won’t miss—at all—about the experience, and most of them have to do with its longtime host venue, the Westin St. Francis.

Don’t get me wrong: I think the Westin is a perfectly fine hotel when it’s not stuffed to the gills with attendees of a conference that’s way too large for the space. And if we never do JPM there again, I’ll even be a little wistful (not to mention slightly frustrated that all my knowledge of where to find back staircases, power outlets and free chocolate will become totally useless).

But let’s celebrate the silver linings here. Please enjoy this list of things you will not have to contend with this year as you take in the conference from home.

1. The crowds

If you’ve never been to JPM in person, the one thing you likely know about it is that it jams a crushing sea of humanity into an undersized hotel for the sake of being “quaint” and “honoring tradition.” Trying to move yourself through the hallways surrounding the conference rooms was highly annoying at best and terrifying at worst (and this was before large crowds were the stuff of our literal nightmares). As much as I’d love to be able to see people in person this year, I’m pretty glad I won’t have to see them in such close quarters that I can barely move my arms.

2. The lack of seating

The last presentation has just wrapped up for the morning. You need to send off an email, or finish jotting down your notes, or—if you’re me—file a story before giving up the precious outlet you’ve commandeered. But try telling that to the people who have arrived to turn over the Grand Ballroom for lunch. You’re out of there, and it’s time to say goodbye to the only seat you will likely be able to find for the next few hours at least.

Okay, I admit that the woeful lack of JPM seating is not entirely specific to the Westin; it’s a problem all over Union Square when biopharma descends each year (I mean, unless you have $300 to splash around for a meeting). But you won’t find me complaining about having a desk all to myself this year. My one-bedroom apartment has never felt so spacious.

3. The Borgia Room

I cannot emphasize enough how bad JPM’s system for post-presentation Q&A has been. Here it is in a nutshell: After their presentations, executives head from the Grand Ballroom to the Borgia Room, a comparatively minuscule breakout room across the hall, to answer questions. Hundreds of people follow, hoping for a standing-room-only spot in the breakout.

At the same time, hundreds of people press from the other direction as they try to get into the Grand Ballroom for the next presentation. So, essentially, if you want to hear the Q&A, not only do you have to miss the entire next presentation to do it, but you also have to risk life and limb.

This year? Q&A follows directly after the presentation as part of a single session, and the next presentation on the same track doesn’t begin until the Q&A ends. Enough said.

4. The temperature

I am pleased to report that I will not need to wear my wool coat this year to watch JPM from my bed. (Oh come on, you're doing it too.)

5. Union Square traffic

You know that feeling at the end of the day when you want nothing more than to get the hell away from the Westin—unless you have to walk to do it? And so you call an Uber, only to watch on your app from outside The Handlery as it gets stuck behind light after light on Geary trying to cross Powell? And in the meantime, it probably starts raining on you because San Francisco? Yeah, I won’t miss that, either.

6. Meetings in hotel rooms, especially when the bed hasn’t been removed

It’s just weird.

7. Registration

Sunday night used to be the time to head down to the Westin if you wanted to avoid long registration lines come Monday morning. Now it’s just another time to queue interminably while missing the most exciting part of whatever NFL playoff game you really wanted to watch.

8. Constant badge checks

Not going to be an issue this time around!

Okay, your turn—what did I miss? Message me on Twitter at @CarlyHFierce.

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