* convention centers Revised Plan for World Expo Center With 2.4 million square feet of exhibition space, the World Expo Center in Osceola County, central Florida, was supposed to be the nation's biggest convention center. At least that was the plan announced last year by a development team that included Stanley Shenkman, owner of Toronto's International Centre, and Robert L. Miller, the real estate developer who owned the land. Size was not the project's only unusual element. The WEC was to be privately funded, with threemanagement companies, Reed Exhibition Companies, Merchandise Mart Properties, and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, signing on as equity partners in a time-share-style arrangement that would have been an industry first. (See "Time Shares: Trade Show Style," October 1998 issue, page 29.)
But now, after a series of setbacks, the original idea has been altered considerably. Shenkman was unable to get financing, according to Miller, so Shenkman and the equity partners pulled out. Miller decided to go ahead with the concept of a private/public partnership, but without involving the three trade show organizers. So far, plans are progressing well. A recent court decision upheld the agreement between Osceola County and Miller's group, clearing the way for Miller and the county to move ahead with the project.
Phase one, scheduled for a 2003 opening, will feature 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space, sized down by about half from the initial plan. But Miller says there is potential for plenty of growth, as zoning allows for the center's expansion to 3.6 million square feet.
While the initial expo center design, which called for 11 contiguous, identical exhibition halls, was geared to the needs of trade shows, the revised WEC will be designed for conventions as well as shows, says Madalyn Barton, WEC's director of sales and marketing. Eighteen events are already booked from 2003 through 2012, according to Barton. She would not reveal the clients' names, but said they are all operated by for-profit organizations.
The expo center is only the centerpiece of the proposed $1 billion, 800-acre World Expo Park, which will also include a 125,000-square-foot county-owned convention center, 9,000 hotel rooms, an entertainment complex, golf course, and parking for 14,000 cars. Next door to WEC, Opryland Florida has just celebrated its groundbreaking. The 65-acre property, slated to open February 2002, will offer 1,400 guest rooms and 380,000 square feet of meeting space. So far, advance bookings total $20 million, according to Opryland.
Same Idea, Different Place? Meanwhile, the original triad of trade show organizers didn't give up on the idea of ownership in an exposition center. Setting their sights on neighboring Orange County, they, along with developer Jean Pierre Cuenant, made a bid to build a two-million-square-foot addition to the Orange County Convention Center--on the same land that had recently been purchased by the center. A citizens panel rejected the idea; the partners then withdrew their bid.
That leaves Orange County Convention Center free to move ahead with its expansion plan of adding one million square feet of exhibition space by 2003. Orange County, like the WEC, is preparing for even more growth--the master plan allows for up two million additional square feet of space, which will be built based on market demand.
Despite the failure of the show organizer/developer partnerships in both counties, the concept remains intriguing, says Tom Ackert, executive director, Orange County Convention Center .
"The idea of bringing in Reed and others as partners was very attractive to us," he says, "but that particular deal just didn't work out. We are continuing to talk to big trade show groups, asking what their real needs are--is it ownership in the building, or is it dates and space?" (Under the initial concept, the organizers would have received guaranteed space and rates for 40 years, in exchange for their investment.)
The answer, so far, appears to be dates and space, Ackert says. And that's a need that can be met by longer-term, a trend that Ackert says is growing. "When I started working here, the typical was 12 to 24 months out," he says. "Now, it's 18 months to four or five years." Long-term guarantees pose risks for both parties, "but if it makes sense for the building and for the association, then a long-term contract will be executed," Ackert says.
* mid-year with iaem Exposition Industry Aims for More Visibility The weather outside was sticky, but inside the chilled Lakeside Center in Chicago's McCormick Place the 700 attendees at June's mid-year meeting of the International Association for Exposition Management were having a good laugh. Opening session speaker Michael McKinley told stories about himself as a business entrepreneur and cancer survivor to convey a funny and moving message about "Taking Care of Business--or Someone Else Will."
Also at the opening session, Chuck Schwartz, CEM, managing director, PGI Exhibitions, said that one of his objectives as 1999 IAEM chairman has been to bring a strong message to the hotel community about the importance of exposition business and the need for more flexibility with hotel room blocks and rates for this market segment.
In that effort, Schwartz has encountered the widespread misperception among hoteliers that exposition managers are part of other industry associations. He estimated that there might be a 10 percent crossover between IAEM and groups like Professional Convention Management Association and the American Society of Association Executives.
"We're a different market and the hotel community needs to get that message," he told the group.
Highlights of educational sessions included a lively seminar on the future of association shows, with a large part of the discussion devoted to what for-profit companies like Reed Exhibition Companies and Advanstar, Inc., look for when targeting association shows to buy.
"We want the associations to have psychic ownership, otherwise you zero out the value of what they bring to the event," said Reed's Tony Calanca, the senior vice president of associations and exposition services.
Another popular session at the meeting focused on how associations could cultivate sponsorships at meetings and trade shows. Suggested tips include:
* Concentrate on selling one or two of the "big guys" and the rest of the market will follow out of peer pressure.
* Dedicate a staff person to handling just sponsorship sales.
* Give sponsors the opportunity to suggest their own sponsorship opportunities, but retain control over all decision-making in the process.
* Teach your sponsors how to interact with delegates at various sponsored events. Sometimes they simply don't know how to get the most out of these opportunities.
* meeting management PlanSoft Expands Services Remember Ajenis--the product that was promised to solve many of the long-standing communication problems between hoteliers and planners by allowing the electronic exchange of meeting data? It's several years now after the initial launch projections, but the product, released by Twinsburg, Ohio-based PlanSoft Corporation, is finally available.
Several thousand copies have been distributed to planners and hoteliers, who are trying it out and providing feedback, says Ted Frank, executive vice president, PlanSoft. The version of Ajenis for planners is available for a $500 annual license fee. Hotels pay $9,000 to $10,000 per year, per property. That price tag, Frank says, is well worth it.
"If all you do is eliminate faxes and overnight mail to and from planners, it's worth it. [Hoteliers] get hundreds of resumes in different formats, and have to track all changes. The communication back and forth is a logistical nightmare. The cost [of Ajenis] is nothing compared to what is saved."
Further, Plansoft will introduce a Web-based application of Ajenis, which will be available to facilities by the end of September, and to meeting planners by the end of the year, he says. It will be much simplified, enabling hotel convention service departments, without the software on their desktops, to jump on the Web and review exactly what a planner has changed in his or her resume. It is fully compatible with the desktop version. The Web version is not yet priced. (See software review on page 45.)
Beyond Ajenis But PlanSoft has gone beyond being a one-product company, he says. "We see ourselves as an online resource for the meeting planner community, a place to conduct business and get information."
Toward that end, PlanSoft Corp. relaunched its meeting industry Web site in late June, creating four distinct tracts. While www.plansoft.com had been aimed at all of PlanSoft's constituencies, the site now has unique services for meeting planners, meeting facilities, suppliers (audiovisual companies, DMCs, and so on), and those interested in PlanSoft corporate information.
The meeting planner area is rich with editorial content. (See sidebar at right.) Also in the planner-specific area, a searchable database has information on a about 25,000 suppliers, ranging from car rental companies to hotels. Under an agreement with ATCOM/INFO, planners will be able to search for properties equipped with ATCOM/INFO's IPORT Meeting Manager, which offers T-1 Internet access speed in guest and meeting rooms.
Look for a new "Great Rates" program soon. A staff of 15 people makes about 75,000 phone calls per year to update the database.
The site's online request for proposal (RFP) service fielded 110,000 room nights in 1999, and use is "growing very dramatically," Frank says. "Virtually every hotel chain has signed on."
PlanSoft staff will assist planners, ensuring that hotels respond within the planners' time frame. PlanSoft receives a 4 percent commission from hotels on business generated by its RFP service.-Susan Hatch
* am newsmakers David A. Bagwell has been named director of marketing at the Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney Word Dolphin in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Bagwell joined from the PGA National Resort & Spa in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he was vice president and general manager.
Alan F. Reichbart has been named senior convention sales manager at the Hilton New York, where he will handle the Washington, D.C., association market. Reichbart was formerly a sales manager at the Hilton Pittsburgh.
Neil J. Mullanaphy, CHME, is the new director of national sales for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority's convention development department. He was national sales manager at the Atlantic City authority.
Amy Frazer has been named the new manager of the the Greater Cincinnati CVB's Chicago regional office. She had been the director of sales for the Greater Woodfield (Ill.) CVB.
Laura Palmer has been hired as the first full-time coordinator of the Professional Convention Management Association's Network for the Needy program. She will serve as a liaison between meeting managers and their area food banks. Palmer is a recent graduate of Auburn University.
* moving on Evans Announces Retirement Roy B. Evans, Jr., CAE, was hired by the Professional Convention Management Association in 1982--on a Friday the 13th, as he recalls, with his dry humor. Now, he has announced his retirement as PCMA's president and CEO.
Of his accomplishments at PCMA, Evans says he is most proud of building the staff, membership, and attendance at the annual meeting. When Evans joined PCMA, it had 700 members. Now it has 4,800 members and an operating budget of about $8.8 million.
PCMA has brought in the search firm Korn/Ferry, International to lead the quest for a replacement.
The search committee is gathering opinions about what type of person is suitable for the job. They are not only surveying board members and PCMA personnel, they are also talking to executives at convention and visitor bureaus and to hoteliers, according to Rick Grimes, CAE, PCMA chairman of the board, and senior vice president at Anthony Jannetti, Inc., Pitman, N.J.
"As chairman of the board, I want to make sure we are doing all the things that are necessary to fill what is, without doubt, one of the key positions in the convention industry," says Grimes.
PCMA will have a new president and CEO in place by June 30, 2000, at the latest, he says.
CEIR on CD-ROM Want instant access to The Power of Exhibitions, the study funded by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research? Need to attract more international attendees to your show? That's the kind of data collected in CEIR's Million Dollar Library, now available on CD-ROM. Containing 100 reports, the CD-ROM is equipped with a search engine so you can quickly find information on a specific topic or locate a particular report.
"This is CEIR's way of embracing the digital world," says Doug Ducate, CEIR president and CEO. CD-ROM updates will be produced on a schedule yet to be determined. New CEIR reports will also be posted to a members-only section of CEIR's Web site at www.ceir.org in the near future, Ducate says.
The CD is $149.95 for members and $695.95 for nonmembers. Receive a free CD carrying case with your order. Call CEIR at (312) 808-2347, or fax (312) 949-3472.
* industry meetings MPI Promotes Family Time There is no doubt about who was the most well-received speaker at the 1999 World Education Congress of Meeting Professionals International, held in July at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center. Eleven-year-old Christopher walked on stage during the first general session, faced thousands of attendees, and announced that he was taking a break from his paper route and golf practice to introduce his dad.
With hugs from his son and wife Joy, and laughter and applause from the audience, Edward G. Simeone, CMP, took the mike and said that his goal as MPI's 1999-2000 chairman of the board was to help members find a balance between their personal and professional lives.
"Some say [that balance] means a decline in productivity. This is a daring step for an association," he said. "But personal imbalance threatens contentment, happiness, and, ultimately, productivity. My commitment is [to have] MPI focus on nurturing the whole person." Attendees responded with a standing ovation.
MPI attracted a record crowd of about 3,100 attendees from 26 countries. More people saw the two general sessions, as they were carried live over the Internet by MPI's partner, Broadcast.com.
In a session specifically for association planners, the top concern was how to increase attendance at meetings. A mentoring program helps, reported one participant, who found that because of the relationships older members developed with younger ones, they were more motivated to attend programs.
Further demonstrating its commitment to education, technology, and globalization, MPI announced the September publication of two new books.
* Corbin Ball, AM columnist, has written The Ultimate Meeting Professional's Software Guide. Priced at $25 for members and $35 for nonmembers.
* MPI is also releasing Professional Meeting Management: A European Handbook, a collaborative effort of 35 writers from 13 countries. It will be priced at $30 for members, and $42 for nonmembers.
PASSKEY Passkey.com, providing Internet-based convention housing services, has landed contracts with five more CVBs: Minneapolis; Nashville; Providence, R.I.; Cleveland; and St. Louis. The CVBs in Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Detroit; Kansas City, Mo; and Orlando, Fla., had already signed on. And the fast-growing company has also received a nonexclusive endorsement from the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.
Based in Quincy, Mass., Passkey.com (www.passkey.com) offers ResDesk, a centralized online database that gives the meeting planner, the housing company and/or CVB, and the hotels, real-time access to room-block information. Passkey also has an alliance with Dallas-based Pegasus Systems,Inc., whose product further facilitates the housing process by translating and downloading reservations data from housing providers into hotel databases.
PLANSOFT Alliance PlanSoft has formed an alliance with Adams Business Media, publisher of AM. In September, visitors to the ABM site, www.meetingsnet.com, will have immediate access to the Plansoft Network, a database of every North American hotel--nearly 8,000--with 5,000 square feet or more of function space. Many listings include panoramic views of meeting rooms, guest rooms, and public space. Plansoft's electronic RFP system allows planners to send meeting dates and specs to up to 12 hotels, and to hear back within the time frame designated by the planner (48 hours is the average). Listings for 14,000 industry suppliers are also included. By the end of the year, the PlanSoft Network will include thousands of overseas hotels.
The new "Planning Guide" section of PlanSoft's site will offer a compilation of features and daily news articles on meeting planning issues, supplied by Adams Business Media. The archives will be searchable.
"People want access to tips, advisories, and news," says Ted Frank, PlanSoft vice president. "[With this alliance] two visionary organizations are working together to integrate content and e-commerce."-Betsy Bair
And the Winner Is ... Steven Jacober, president of the School, Home & Office Products Association, is the lucky winner of a piece of leather luggage, following a random drawing from a list of respondents to this magazine's 1999 Trend Report. The results of that industry survey appeared in the June issue.
"I've never won anything in my life," says Jacober. "I'm delighted." Jacober's association is based in Dayton, Ohio.
Thanks to all the readers who responded to our annual survey. We look forward to picking another winner next year. - Regina McGee
*tech ed IAEM Forms Internet Task Force The International Association for Exposition Management has formed an Internet Task Force. Composed of members who are Internet-savvy, the task force will provide ideas for how trade show organizers can best use the Internet to help them with their live trade shows.
"Members are asking for leadership on our part. They want to identify opportunities for expanding the base and activity of their shows," says Steven Hacker, CAE, IAEM president.
He notes that the task force suggestions will be posted on the association's Web site at www.iaem.org.