Pamela A. Troop, director of meetings operations for the American Society of Association Executives, is working with a clean slate, so to speak. She began with ASAE in September 2000, right after ASAE's annual meeting in Orlando. And all four members of her meeting department staff are new, too. For a meeting professional with 23 years of experience on both sides of the fence - planner and supplier - what could be more exciting than building a team from the ground up to face the challenges of a new technology era? ASAE's clout and what she calls the "visionary perspective of President and CEO Michael Olson" is not lost on Troop. In fact, as she builds a department and a strategy, she says she will look to Olson's vision as both a foundation and inspiration.

Q: You were working for a housing management company prior to ASAE. Why did you move back to meeting planning?

A: Actually, I took that job [with Expovision] when my husband and I moved to the D.C. area in the fall of 1999, because it was tough at first finding a job specifically in meeting planning. At Expovision, I was director of client services, but for me it was difficult to be involved only in the housing aspect, since it's really not my thing. I wanted to be involved in food and beverage, logistics, all of it. But that's not to say that I didn't learn quite a bit about housing mangement.

Q: So given your experience in housing management, how are you going to handle this component of ASAE's annual meeting?

A: At ASAE, we consider ourselves innovators. So in Denver [ASAE's annual meeting location in 2002], we'll use the latest technology, such as [that provided by] Passkey, which we also used at our annual meeting in Orlando last August. This year's annual in Philadelphia, we'll be using ExpoExchange for our housing management. It frees up time for us so that we can be more service-oriented to our members. And rather than dealing with hotels directly, with housing companies we can get a better sense of our pick-up, our wash factor, those kinds of things. This is important with an annual budget of about $1 million and a fairly new staff of four.

Q: So not only are you getting your feet wet, but you're shepherding a neophyte staff as well.

A: That's right - I hired two planners and two had just come on board before the annual meeting in Orlando. It's such a great situation. We're all fresh. And these people are full of energy and creativity - they want to save the world!

I have set up our department's structure with assigned tasks for each planner. One meeting manager's responsibility is ASAE's annual Management & Technology event as well as our annual meeting; another focuses on our CEO symposiums; and the third splits her time between ASAE meetings and Foundation events. The last person is right out of college and has more drive than anyone I have ever met! She will take on any project we give her. I tell them often: "We're the new team and our best medicine is staying positive."

Q: ASAE is very high profile in the association world. Is this an added pressure ?

A: I see it as only a good thing. ASAE has such an overwhelming influence - cities bend over backwards to showcase their destination to our members. The economic impact of an ASAE event for a destination is a 20 percent return on that meeting in five years. . . . I'm almost smothered in vendors and suppliers, but it makes my job easier. The response is immediate because everyone wants to be part of an ASAE meeting or program.