On the heels of the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Annual Conference in Toronto November 15 to 18, we checked in with Executive Director Steve Bova to talk about association meeting attendance when times are tough and his recent appointment to the board of directors of the Convention Industry Council.

Financial & Insurance Meetings: What is your assessment of the 2009 FICP Annual Conference?

Steve Bova: Feedback was very positive. By the end of the year we will have all the survey results, both from attendees and from members who did not attend. We’re pretty sure they didn’t attend for budgetary reasons, and not because they didn’t see value in attending. In some cases, companies sent one person rather than several. You have to determine what factors define success. This year we were in a much different situation than last year. What we heard was that even if the planner numbers were down, the quality of attendee remained high. And we give a lot of credit to the companies who approved people to attend, both planners and hospitality partners. This is a loyal group.

FIM: How were the attendance numbers?

Bova: Planner attendance was down 11 percent, or 21 planners. But if you look at that in context, we’re actually in a better position than many organizations. Association meeting attendance in general was down 20 percent this year, so it was quite a feat to be down only 11 percent. On the hospitality partner side it’s a bit different because we are in the fortunate position of having more HPers who want to come than we can accommodate. We like the ratio to be 1.5 to 1 [HP attendee to planner attendee]. The ratio was stretched some this year, to about 2 to 1, so that we could put on a successful event.

FIM: In November, you were elected to serve a two-year term on the Convention Industry Council Board of Directors. How will that benefit FICP?

Bova: I’ve been a part of CIC [as the representative from FICP] for six years. This is an opportunity for FICP to gain more visibility so people understand what we are all about, and to help CIC advance its mission. CIC is made up of 34 industry organizations and has three primary functions: It administers the Certified Meeting Professional program, it provides recognition through its Hall of Leaders, and it disseminates best practices through initiatives such as APEX [the Accepted Practices Exchange]. It also operates as a think tank, in that when the member organizations get together we are able to share our experiences and talk about current issues. That’s a key value of membership in CIC. Also, those of us who are administrators of associations benefit from getting a view from the other side of the fence. Being on a board of directors gives you an appreciation for a board’s role. And that will help me develop the relationships I have with the FICP board members.

FIM: CIC is about to launch an industrywide economic impact study. What is FICP’s involvement in that project and what other CIC initiatives are of particular interest to FICP?

Bova: Funding for the research and project management have already been secured. Our intention is to be involved in helping to promote the study once it is completed, and help to get it out to the industry. I’d also like to see us get more involved in the CMP, which is widely known and accepted. We already do a CMP session at our annual conference and we’ve recently expanded this material on the FICP Web site. Also, only one FICP member has been inducted into the Hall of Leaders in the past six years. So we could be more active in nominating future leaders. [See who is joining the legendary ranks at this year’s Hall of Leaders Gala.] Overall, with the position on the CIC board I expect that FICP will be more informed and more prepared to be involved with industry issues as they arise.