No one would argue that the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Association Executives, held August 4 to 7 at the Philadelphia Convention Center, was a hot time — both figuratively and literally.

While daytime temperatures soared into the high and humid 90s, approximately 5,500 of ASAE's 25,000 members ducked the dog-day weather by wandering the aisles at the exposition, where they found 922 booths and more than 500 vendors to do business with. It was the largest expo in ASAE's history; this year's floor held 167 more booths than the expo just two years ago.

The opening general session was equally packed. It was capped by a presentation by former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw, who passionately questioned the lack of health care research for women in the U.S., saying that coronary disease is the top killer of women, yet the research to date has focused almost exclusively on men. “We went to war in the Gulf to protect a vital resource: black gold. Why then do we not fight as hard to protect our most precious resource — our people?”

The Meeting Connection

ASAE also had a hot new idea: It partnered with Universal Orlando Resort to provide a first for planners: a two-day Meetings & Expositions Days program specifically for senior meeting planners. The opening keynote speaker, Fast Company magazine co-founder William Taylor, packed the Jurassic Park — themed room on Monday with a presentation on how planners can capture the spirit of innovation, then put that spirit to work to implement change.

The crowd thinned considerably after Taylor left, but those who exited missed a dynamic panel discussion on increasing the impact of meetings professionals on their association's business, moderated by David Noonan, deputy executive vice president, American Academy of Ophthalmology. Stalking up, down, and through the audience, which was seated in a room arranged in rounds, a refreshing change from the usual classroom style, Noonan posed questions about strategic planning and branding, business management, sales and marketing, and leadership and communication issues to both the panel and the audience.

Panel member Dave Poisson, CAE, general manager, RR Donnelley & Sons Co., Fairfax, Va., said to take a look at what other meetings are doing: “How does Fast Company price its meeting at $1,500 per attendee? They don't do anything different than we do. What do they provide that's worth the price tag? We have to look at what other businesses do, not just those in our own fields.”

Other interesting sessions included two on the ever popular topic of meeting law. Joshua Grimes, a Philadelphia-based attorney, explored recent trends, including the truth about energy surcharges and resort fees, attrition, event cancellation, and facility renovations. A session on understanding and managing the legal risks of meetings, by the ubiquitous John Foster, Foster, Jensen and Gulley, LLC, also was a highlight. But one of the best sessions, many planners said, was one that promised to “Double Your Memory in 90 Minutes,” which helped them put together all those names and faces they met at the conference.