At conventions, our frustrated but able young staff run around in circles, carrying out the mandates of a bloated volunteer meeting bureaucracy. We need to change, but how?

Concentrate on results and forget, at least temporarily, the protocol. Survey your registration staff, for example, on how procedures can be streamlined, then give them the tools they need to do it. You might find out that officers' and board members' questions take up too much of your staff's time, and that materials for them can best be distributed with agendas and queries answered at meetings of the two groups. Act more like a coach than a boss, with you and senior department heads doing any obligatory bowing and scraping--relieving line staff of that, and helping them achieve the top priorities you've identified.

Our meetings are missing the mark: We're simply not serving up what the volunteers want. What do you recommend?

Who's setting objectives for the meetings? Why not let attendees--those in the trenches who actually pay to go to the meeting--not just officers and board members, set the criteria for success for the next gathering through a post-meeting evaluation questionnaire? Maybe you're putting too much emphasis on financial results and not investing enough in program, a common mistake by CeOs eager to show a positive bottom line. You might also consider doing a telephone survey of nonattendees. Why did they not attend? And what do they want presented that would guarantee their coming to the next meeting?

Our officers complain to me that the "image" of our poorly attended convention is negative and the major reason for diminishing member interest. How do we change it?

One way is by improving the product. You can do that by transforming the attitude of the people who deliver it. Infuse your people with enthusiasm by getting excited yourself about the important message to be delivered. Aim to make the meeting the very best you've ever created--one that for members is a bargain and a program triumph, and one that staff are proud to run. "Package" convention materials: Choose a distinctive and colorful convention logo and use it on all print matter, postage meter imprints, convention badges, banners, signs, and audiovisual materials. If you're on the World Wide Web, use it there. Have a receptionist and/or telephone answering device repeat convention theme and dates, and encourage registration to all callers and Web contacts beginning 120 days in advance of the meeting. Develop convention press kits incorporating these ideas, and convey news about the meeting in a fresh manner. Award prizes for the best ideas that enhance program and boost attendance. At the meeting, outfit registration personnel in blazers, dress immaculately, smile, remain ever-optimistic, and insist department heads and line staff do the same.

We're holding our first meeting overseas and need to circulate passport information to the membership. What do they need to know?

To apply for a passport, you need proof of citizenship, such as an expired passport or birth certificate with raised seal, along with a valid picture ID, such as a driver's license, and two recent photographs, two-inches-by-two-inches, taken against a plain white background. The photos should show the face from bottom of chin to top of head, including hair, and may be in color or black and white. No dark glasses or hat. Family snapshots, vending machine prints, and full-length photos are not acceptable. Ask the postal clerk for form number 11 and fill it out, showing your ID to the clerk before signing, and mail in the form with your birth certificate and passport photos, plus check. Cost: $65 for those 18 and older; $30 for those under 18. Allow four to six weeks for delivery. Questions? Call the Federal Information Center at (800) 688-9889, or for information on expediting passports, see the article "Travel Documents--Fast" on page 37 of the December 1996 issue of Association Meetings.

Only the "old fogies" are left to attend our closing convention banquet. What's a good alternative to appeal to the younger members and to send them home smiling and feeling good about the association?

How about hitting the "beach" instead on the final night, with a ballroom volleyball event, complete with nets and oversized, balloon-like air balls? Props: deck and beach chairs, tables with colorful umbrellas. Dress: sweat suits and sneakers. Food: shrimp, clam and sushi bars, fish chowder. Libations: microbrewery beer and wine bars. Musical entertainment: Strolling musicians playing ukuleles and guitars. To add glitz to the event, try champagne served by white-gloved waiters; and tables with humidors of imported cigars.

How many different ways can a hotel be owned or managed?

They change as we speak, but these are the common ones: a chain owns and operates a property; a chain manages the hotel in behalf of an absentee owner; the owner hires a management company that operates it as a franchise, which is part of a chain; a syndicate of investors owns the hotel (and perhaps several like it) and employees work for the syndicate, which operates the property independently or as part of a national franchise system; or the owner operates it, independently or as a franchisee.