Taking a Stand NMA BOYCOTTS WASHINGTON STATE The National Medical Association has pulled its 2001 annual convention out of Seattle to protest an anti-affirmative action initiative approved by Washington State voters in November. The boycott deprives Seattle of an estimated $5.7 million in meeting-related revenues. The NMA is also paying a heavy price for its decision--cancellation costs are running into the high five figures, says Gary C. Dennis, MD, president of the Washington, D.C.-based NMA.
"The NMA refuses to support the economies of communities that are working against improving health care, not only for African Americans, but for all Americans," he says. "We want other associations to do the same. We need a national movement."
The NMA plans to introduce a resolution at the American Medical Association's annual meeting this month calling for the association to refuse to meet in states that have passed anti-affirmative action measures. The NMA is also galvanizing an effort to repeal the Washington law and is helping devise strategies to overcome its negative effects.
As for Seattle's perspective, the boycott "didn't come as a shock to us," says Steve Morris, president, Seattle-King County CVB, explaining that the NMA had made it clear that the decision to meet in Seattle was riding on the election. While Morris respects the NMA's position, he says the CVB convinced Unity '99, a convention of minority journalists, to keep its July meeting in Seattle, because the city voted overwhelmingly against the initiative. "Our message was, don't punish Seattle for doing the right thing," says Morris. He also notes that the CVB went on record against the initiative--an unusual move for the bureau.
Since the NMA was booked during the "peak of our peak season" says Morris, the loss of the convention was symbolic rather than economic.
The NMA has used a boycott policy before, pulling out of San Diego in 1996, after California passed an anti-affirmative action law.
Virtual Directory HCEA ON CD-ROM There have been 93 editions of the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association Directory of Healthcare Meetings and Conventions, but the 94th has just become the most useful of all. HCEA is offering its comprehensive listing of www.hcea.org.and conventions on CD-ROM. In addition to detailed information on 2,700 meetings for 1999 and 2000, there is a database of information on more than 7,300 other meetings, past and future. HCEA members can order the disk for single-site use for $199; a multiple-use license is $395. Nonmembers can purchase the same for $499 and $995, respectively. The print version is still available; one copy is free with membership; nonmember copies $245. For information, call (404) 252-3663 or visit
Online Solutions BOOM TIME FOR WEB-BASED HOUSING MANAGEMENT Meeting industry players from all sides have long complained about the costly and inefficient process of managing conference housing and registration. Now, two new technology alliances offer solutions--online.
* Passkey/Pegasus: Passkey.Com, Inc. (www.passkey.com), creator of an Internet-based convention housing management product, has formed an alliance with Dallas-based Pegasus Systems, Inc. (www.pegsinc.com), which sells a product that translates and downloads reservations data from CVBs/housing providers to hotels' databases. Execs expect the system to be operational by year's end.
* WynTrac and WizCom: Nipping the heels of the Pegasus/Passkey partnership is the agreement between WynTrac (www.wyntrac.com), the Web-based housing/registration software produced by Jade Technologies, based in Dallas, and WizCom (www.wizcom.com), a system which, like Pegasus, electronically transmits reservations into hotel databases. This technology partnership is slated for a rollout in the third quarter of 1999.
Both WynTrac and Passkey create a centralized online database giving the meeting planner, the housing company and/or CVB, and the hotels, 24-hour, real-time access to room-block information. Using Wiz-Com or Pegasus, hotels can then download rooming lists directly into their databases.
Both systems are designed to save time and money, and reduce errors. Each company charges clients on a per-transaction basis, based on volume.
Who's on Board? Of course, such end-to-end systems work only if all parties join in. The big four--Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, and Starwood--have all committed to Pegasus's new system. Its new partner, Passkey, which is based in Quincy, Mass., has recently received a non-exclusive endorsement from the International Association of CVBs, and currently haswith eight major bureaus, including Boston and Orlando. Several third-party vendors have also signed on, including site selection firm HelmsBriscoe. Passkey processes $9 million in hotel room revenue each month, a figure that is doubling every quarter.
The other team is racking up points, too. WynTrac's biggest and newest client is Housing On-Line/PGI. The housing provider for the New York City, San Diego, and Hawaii CVBs, Housing On-Line/PGI is also managing housing for several of the upcoming meeting industry conferences, including Meeting Professionals International's July convention. While WizCom, based in Parsippany, N.J., can't tout the Big Four as clients, it intends to market its partnership to its roster of 90 hotel chain customers, including Radisson and Adam's Mark.
To date, WynTrac handles association or corporate meetings and offers an event registration service. Passkey is not set up for corporate meetings, nor does it have event registration capabilities, but Passkey execs say both services will be added in the near future.
Dentists Smile at Passkey Amazing. Fabulous. Great. Those are the adjectives Nancy Goldie, director, programming and meeting planning, for the Yankee Dental Congress, uses when describing Passkey, the new housing technology system that allows meeting planners, hotels, and housing vendors/CVBs 24 hour-a-day, real-time access to rooming lists. The Greater Boston CVB recently brought Passkey on board as its housing vendor, and Goldie tried it out during her January conference. Drawing a record crowd of more than 27,000 attendees, Yankee Dental is Beantown's biggest convention.
A big advantage of Passkey is that hotels, the CVB, and planners can manage rooming lists until the conference starts, so that attendees are not left on their own after cut-off. "When attendees call us, we are able to look up their reservation and change it, if necessary,"says Kim Vickers, convention housing manager, Greater Boston CVB.
The post-con data Goldie received was much more accurate than in past years. "I have a graph that tells me the number of transactions by week, modifications, cancellations, total reservations," she says.
Even though the $17 per transaction fee the CVB charges the hotels for Passkey is higher than hotels paid before, hotels embraced the new system. "They realize they are getting more for their money," says Vickers.
SATELLITE BROADCASTING. Does the concept intimidate you? You're not alone. The American Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology in Fairfax, Va., recently took the plunge and conducted its first virtual CME program. Held live in New Orleans, the two-day refresher course in radiation oncology was fed via satellite to sites in Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles, attracting a record 413 attendees at all locations.
ASTRO decided to try the broadcast because the course is popular with ASTRO members, but some had complained they couldn't make it to Chicago, where the program is usually held, explains Frank J. Malouff, executive director.
But when ASTRO staff scouted for facilities to host the program, they encountered unexpected obstacles. "We found it very surprising that a number of hotel properties do not have in-house videoconferencing capabilities," says Georgette Smith, meetings manager. They lucked out when they discovered Marriott Video Services--a one-stop shop for virtual meetings. Their Marriott contact handled everything from site selection through production, offering a cost-effective package, says Smith.
Attendees at the remote sites could both see and hear presenters at the live site. A course director at each remote site served as moderator, taking questions from the audience and relaying them over the phone to the speaker. The virtual question-and-answer session actually promoted participation, says Kathy Thomas, education manager, who moderated at the Los Angeles site. "A lot of our attendees are young people just coming out of their residencies, and they are a little intimidated by the experts. They could ask questions without being seen or put on the spot. "
ASTRO is considering doing more virtual programs, especially in the international arena, says Malouff. "Once you get past [the initial] broadcast to the next city, broadcasting to Buenos Aires or Lima--that's easy."
Tips * Time Travel. Take into account the different time zones of remote sites. ASTRO's Los Angeles site started with the second presentation of the day and viewed the first one by videotape later.
* Prepare Presenters. Do an orientation session with the production crew and speakers.
* Visual Aids. To ensure slides will be readable at remote sites, have the production crew review them and load them into PowerPoint before the program.
* Cost Saver. It's less expensive to broadcast from a production studio than a hotel.
MIM'S THE WORD During a site inspection, the CVB sales rep not only treats you to a lovely dinner, but she also presents you with two Waterford goblets.
T-shirts and mugs are one thing, but is it ethical to accept such a pricey gift when you haven't committed to meeting in the city? That was one of the dilemmas raised on the Meeting Matters MIMList, a new listserv launched in mid-March for conference organizers, sponsored by the Meetings Industry Mall and Cardinal Communications.
Designed to give planners a forum to network, solve problems, and discuss hot industry topics, the listserv attracted more than 100 subscribers during its first week, says Rodman Marymor, CMP, managing partner, Cardinal Communications, Berkeley, Calif. In addition to the gift dilemma, e-mail flurries have addressed basics, such as where to get information on the CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) program, as well as perennial issues such as how to increase attendance.
Industry veteran Joan Eisenstodt is the listserv's moderator, or as she calls herself, "provocateur." She initiates discussions and monitors the listserv so that it will remain a professional forum. Members are not allowed to promote their services, take personal jabs at planners they don't like, or name names when describing the behavior of ethically challenged industry colleagues.
To sign up, visit www.mim.com/mimlist. You have the option to receive the e-mails as they are sent, or as a daily digest of listserv activity.
Going Global CONFERENCE TEACHES INTERNATIONAL MEETING BASICS "Especially with international events, you have to be the expert when it comes to hotels, security issues, transportation, and so on," advised Pamela H. Block, CMP, assistant director of conferences, Chemical Week Magazine, New York City. "Do your homework, find the right suppliers to work with, and then step back and let people do their jobs." Block, who plans 12 annual events worldwide, was one of several panelists at the Beyond Borders Conference, held at the New York Hilton Hotel and Towers, April 5 to 6.
The conference, now in its third year, focuses on the information needs of planners who manage overseas events. This year it provided a rich learning environment for the 105 attendees who participated in sessions on everything from site selection to security issues, VAT reclaim, audiovisual tips, international protocol do's and don'ts, shipping requirements, and currency management, among others.
Adams Business Media, under the direction of vice president Virginia Lofft, produced the event, with meeting planning by Anne J. Boehme, CMP, owner of Meetings & Management Techni-ques, Valley Stream, N.Y., and adjunct assistant professor, New York University Center for Hospitality, Tour-ism, and Travel Administration. Spon-sors included Shangri-La Hotels International, Networld Inc., the New York Hilton Hotel and Towers, and PGI, Production Group International.
* "Always have a lower-tech, Plan B alternative for your audiovisual needs."
--Jeff Loether, Electro-Media Design, Ltd.
* "Get to know your U.S. embassy in the country where your meeting is. Bring them a box of Oreos and they will love you forever."
--Carolyn Blackburn, Shangri-La Hotels International
* "Don't ask for references, ask the party for contacts at the last five groups they have worked with."
--Jonathan Howe, Howe & Hutton
* "Always bring back original invoices in order to reclaim VAT."
--Staci Krell, Meridian VAT Reclaim, Inc.
* "If you pay 65 to 75 percent of your F&B before the event, you're carrying a big stick when you get on site."
--John B. Houghton, vice president of sales & marketing, Metro Toronto Convention Centre
The American Society of Microbiology, Washington, D.C., won the Special Recognition award at Starwood Hotels' annual "Night at the Academy Awards" customer appreciation gala, held recently at the St. Regis hotel in Washington. The society, based in D.C., was honored not just because it holds two large meetings a year at Starwood Hotels, each attracting 14,000, but also because of the planning teams' organizational expertise and creativity. Nancy Elder, CAE, director of meetings and conventions, who was scheduled to accept the award, was unable to attend. Lori Feinman, logistics manager, ASM, accepted the award in her place. From left: Wendy Rodkey, global account director, Starwood's D.C. global sales office; Beverly Kinkade, CHSE, CMP, vice president, industry relations, Starwood; Feinman; Charles Robinson, director, Starwood's D.C. global sales office; Fred Kleisner, president and COO--The Americas, Starwood Hotels & Resorts World-wide, Inc.; Frances Sankey, associate director, Starwood's D.C. global sales office
PCMA Leadership NO MORE COO TITLE The Professional Convention Manage-ment Association, in Birmingham, Ala., has eliminated its COO position, instead promoting Pamela McDonald from director of meeting services to vice president of administration and meeting services. Before joining PCMA, McDonald was meeting manager for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, in Birmingham.
PCMA's COO position had been held by William J. Myers, CAE, CMP. Myers was terminated last October for violating PCMA's sexual harassment policy after the former controller Pamela M. Boyles filed a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit. (See MM Janu-ary/February 1999, page 19).
Hotel News HYATT LAUNCHES MEETINGS CONCIERGE SERVICE
Hyatt Hotels Corp. is taking some of the headache out of meeting planning by hiring 60 meeting concierges for its major U.S. properties. The new position is part of a customer care initiative that grew out of a Hyatt survey of 1,000 meeting planners. The concierges help planners with the full range of preparation and on-site meeting tasks.
* We're not looking to exclude anyone. It is simply that the professional aspects of CME . . . should remain the province and responsibility of the medical profession."
--Ruth M. Glotzer, MEd, director of Office of CME, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston
Such limitations may be viewed legally as purposeful restraint of trade . . . against legitimate businesses that are qualified and approved by the governing bodies, i.e.,, AAFP, ACOG, AOA, and others."
--Robert F. Orsetti, MA, president, Medical Information Services, Mt. Laurel, N.J.
For more on the accreditation controversy, see Who Should Provide CME? page 45.