When 5,000 attendees converge in Boston in August for the annual meeting of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), they will sample a generous slice of the best the city has to offer: an opening reception in historic Copley Square, a New England clambake dine-around that has some of the city's best hotel chefs trying to outdo one another, and a grand finale evening with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra led by maestro Keith Lockhart at the waterfront Harborlights Pavilion.

For Patrick B. Moscaritolo, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, the opportunity to showcase the city for colleagues and potential clients is just the tip of the iceberg. "Ever since the Boston Tea Party, this city has been viewed as a place where people march to their own drum," he says. "The ASAE meeting has given a focus to a very specific initiative at the bureau: to build a public/private partnership in Boston's business and political community in support of meetings and convention business."

Moscaritolo estimates the city as a whole will have kicked in a total of $1.4 million to host the meeting. And there are other surprises awaiting ASAE attendees, courtesy of the Boston partnership. Just a hint: Expect something special in your hotel room when you get back from the Pops concert on the final night.

But there have been challenges in hosting the ASAE meeting, not the least of which is that the city's Hynes Convention Center is too small for the group's exposition. ASAE has cut back its exhibit program this year from 850 booths to 650. "It's frustrating to have all these potential customers in town and know that the building is too small," says Moscaritolo. His frustration is shared by Francis X. Joyce, executive director, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and co-chair, along with Moscaritolo of the ASAE host committee. Both men had hoped to have announced at the ASAE meeting that a new and larger convention center had been approved for Boston. But that possibility evaporated when a megaplex proposal for a new convention center and stadium was shot down by the state legislature earlier this year.

"I feel confident that the expansion will happen over time," says Joyce, "to stop the bleeding of business opportunity." Pent-up demand for Boston as a meetings site is especially strong among medical groups, he says