Answering the Call, CIC Reinvents Itself "Part of the problem with the Convention Industry Council is that it never had much of an image or communicated particularly well with its various audiences--or the industry as a whole, " says Garis F. Distelhorst, CAE, president of CIC.

The 50-year-old industry umbrella group for 26 member organizations is making moves to polish its presence by changing its name (formerly the Convention Liaison Council) and recently hiring both a marketing firm and public relations agency. High on the priority list is revamping the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation, a major source of revenue for CIC and point of criticism from industry professionals.

And to those who say the CIC is a marginal booster group with no teeth and of no consequence, Distelhorst says "that's why we hired a PR firm." In the spring, Cleveland-based CIC hired Middleton & Gendron Inc., New York City, to promote the organization's rebranding to members and the public. In the same announcement, Michael J. Dimond of Dimond Marketing Group, Nashville, Tenn., was hired specifically to sell sponsorships for CIC, according to Distelhorst.

"We desperately need to do a better job of communicating about the CMP," Distelhorst admits, "and not only about the value of it, but communicating and building support among current and future CMPs." Aggressively building the CMP "brand" is part of CIC's new strategy, and to that end, all of the nearly 6,000 CMPs are now listed on CIC's revamped Web site (www.ciconline.org). Anyone who does not maintain his or her five-year recertification is off the list. Much of the action is a response to the widely publicized practice of professionals who let their certifications lapse, but continue to use the designation.

The CIC Manual and Glossary, which has also come under attack for being outdated, is undergoing an overhaul by contracted editors, Distelhorst adds. Content will expand to include technology and updated legislative and regulatory issues.

And new developments are under way for the CIC Web site, which may include a job bank for CMPs, a job-posting function, online discussions, and links or partnerships with other industry sites. "Some people say the CIC should meet more often," Distelhorst says, "but the Internet makes communicating more efficient, and the board is in touch regularly because of it."

The entire CIC group now meets once a year, with the next Forum scheduled for December 13 in Washington, D.C. A committee headed by American Society of Association Executives President and CEO Michael S. Olson, CAE, is working on a program that will, Distelhorst says, reflect the thoughts of the entire membership. "Two overriding themes have emerged," he says, "and the first is how to find people [employees] and keep them; and then there's technology--it's both a threat and an opportunity, and we'll talk about it at the Forum. We have to find tech-savvy people and keep them from jumping elsewhere."

But What About APEX? One of the top priorities for the association has been to spearhead the development of accepted practices for the convention industry. "APEX (Accepted Practices for Excellence Exchange) is a huge undertaking and I don't know if it's going to work," Distelhorst admits. "It's too much for a single association to take on, or too political, so it's an appropriate project for the CIC."

Distelhorst says CIC is putting together a working group of no more than 20 people, all of whom will have expertise in the seven practice areas that APEX targets. He hopes to have the group in place soon, so they can take the APEX business plan, "tear it apart if necessary," and recommend to the board whether the effort should go forward or not.

Because of the controversy and sensitivity of "standardizing" practices in the diverse world of meetings, conventions, and hospitality, the consensus was to begin with terminology, the least prickly of areas that include housing, contracts, and post-con reports. "I believe it will go forward," Distelhorst says, "but how fast we'll move, I'm not ready to say."

Although at its January annual meeting the Professional Convention Management Association Foundation stepped up to the plate and committed $30,000 a year for five years to APEX (providing the other major industry associations did the same), no funding has materialized. "We haven't asked anyone for money yet because we haven't done anything," Distelhorst says. CIC will first look to the hotel/supplier side for financial support. "If we can't get financial support from the supplier side, then I'm not sure the effort will take off.

CEIR TAKES UP EXHIBITION CENSUS Want to know how many trade shows and exhibits under 30,000 square feet are held in the Northeast each year?

"There's nowhere you can go to get that answer," says Douglas L. Ducate, CEM, CMP, president and CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).

That's why Chicago-based CEIR is taking a head count of every U.S. and Canadian consumer and trade exhibition, a project that's never been done before, according to Ducate. CEIR hired Johnson & Lambert Co., Washington, D.C., to do the work. The project is a six-figure investment for CEIR, but will be worth it, Ducate says, so valuable that CEIR is hoping nonmembers will pay for the end product, due out next year.

"I think we'll find that we're significantly understating the size of the industry," Ducate says. "The number usually quoted is 4,200 annually, but I think the number will be north of 7,000."

HALL OF LEADERS GENDER GAP? In an industry dominated by women, it's hard to miss the fact that there are so few women inducted into the Convention Industry Council's Hall of Leaders.

CIC President Garis F. Distelhorst, CAE, says it's an accurate observation, but it's not because of how inductees are selected. "It's true," he says, "there are too few women, but there are too few women nominated." Of the 70 Hall of Leaders members, five are women and that number won't change this year--all five inductees are male.

But there's a reason: of the 17 nominations received by the CIC, only three were women, according to Distelhorst, and all three were not directly in the meeting planning industry. "It's an area that deserves broader discussion when this happens again," he says.

The following industry leaders will be inducted at a dinner and awards ceremony on December 12 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C.:* Michael J. Dimond, president and CEO of Dimond Marketing Group. His 40-year career includes a stint as senior vice president of marketing for Gaylord Entertainment.

* Edward P. Greeley (posthumous), vice president of exhibitions at the American Institute of Physics in Melville, N.Y. Greeley was a pioneer in his support of university-level study.

* Philip Harrison (posthumous), founder of the convention and meetings publishing industry in 1949 with Successful Meetings.

* Brian D. Stevens, co-founder, president and CEO of Conference Direct in Los Angeles. Stevens' fund-raising talents have generated millions of dollars for the meetings industry.

* Richard Swandby, CEO and founder of Exhibit Survey, Inc., Red Bank, N.J. He raised the bar for the industry by developing methods to quantify the value of the exhibition medium.