Anyone who has experienced the magic of high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, will appreciate the magical beginning of the recent Southeast Regional Chapter meeting of ICPA. Held March 3 to 4, 2005, and hosted by the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead, the meeting began with “Tea and Talk “at 3 p.m. The program provided lots of opportunities for catching up with old acquaintances, meeting new contacts, and finally, an open dialogue titled, “What's Keeping You Up at Night.”

Among the insomnia-enhancers discussed during the dialogue were the following:

(Planner) Discovering a large charge for energy consumption on a final bill — and how to handle it.

(Discussion) No one seemed to think the charge, if significant, was valid if it wasn't discussed with the hotel prior to the event.

(Planner) “I'm so busy, I'm afraid I'm missing something important that I haven't yet uncovered on my desk.”

(Discussion) Lots of nodding heads, no conclusive advice other than increasing meeting department head count.

(Planner) The best ways to handle booking multiple hotels across the country for meetings that have low sleeping room needs, but big catering needs.

(Discussion) Hotel national sales staff might be the best route to take to address this problem.

(Supplier) What are planners' “must haves,” and how can we get them in the original request-for-proposal?

(Discussion) Ask up front. Don't wait for the RFP.

(Supplier) Once we have an agreement to book, how can I get planners to send the signed contract back in a timely manner?

(Discussion) Advising the contract signer that you're about to lose their preferred space seems to work.

(Supplier) Is it a buyer's market or a seller's market?

(Discussion) It seems to be a strengthening seller's market, though strong values remain in certain regions of the country. Again, a national sales person is the best contact.

The convivial group of 40, pretty much evenly balanced between suppliers and planners, also heard two presentations: “Event Security” by Richard P. Mullan, regional vice president, Allied-Barton Security Services; and “New A/V Solutions from Hotel-based Production Companies” by Scott Halmi, regional director, presentation services.