ASAE Boston 1996's kickoff reception in historic Copley Square was so successful that outgoing board chairman Garis Distelhorst, CAE, announced, "Boston gets the gold medal for the best ASAE opening event in its 76-year history."
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) 76th annual convention drew 5,526 delegates (of whom 2,426 were association executives), compared to 6,100 at last year's meeting. Two factors contributed to the drop. Last year's meeting was held in Washington, DC, a destination that always draws more walk-in traffic. Second, the Boston exhibit program was cut by 250 booths (25 percent), due to space limitations at the Hynes Convention Center. ASAE plans to downsize its exhibit program next year as well, to maintain a more balanced buyer to supplier ratio, said ASAE president R. William Taylor.
The Republican convention dominated news reports, but ASAE attendees were treated to a fiery-and often humorous -debate between wisecracking Clinton advisor James Carville and conservative commentator Linda Chavez at the opening session. Opryland Hotel Convention Center sponsored all three of ASAE's general session speakers.
At Monday's general session, attendees watched a moving video tribute to the hundreds of associations involved in rescue and relief efforts after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. They then gave a standing ovation to Oklahoma Restaurant Association Executive Vice President Bob Clifton as he accepted a special Associations Advance America Summit Award on behalf of the Oklahoma association community.
New officers and board directors were installed at the closing ceremonies. Susan Bitter Smith, CAE, executive director of Arizona Cable Telecommunications Association in Phoenix, AZ, is the new chairman of the board. She is the fifth woman and the first person from Arizona to hold the position.
Technology Changes the Industry "Technology is the most significant change to the meetings industry," said Taylor during a press conference. New at ASAE Boston 1996: * ASAE Boston Listserv allowed attendees, free of charge, to join electronic discussions among presenters and other participants before the conference. One member told Taylor the listserv doubled the value of her membership, giving her 100 more education opportunities.
* Technology Demonstration Centers-interactive sessions where attendees got an up-close look at products and services, including new meeting planning software.
* The closing session was downlinked by satellite to four sites around the country.
* In July, ASAE launched Career Starters, a free, online newsletter listing association and nonprofit jobs on ASAE's Home Page.
MPI/ASAE Survey Tracks Industry Growth, Change Results from the 1997 Meetings Outlook Survey released August 12 by ASAE and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) back up ASAE's focus on technology. That annual survey of 100 meeting planners in the corporate and association markets found the following: * 68 percent of respondents expect technology to be the most significant change in the meeting industry over the next two years. Meeting planners expect the greatest changes will be in on-site meeting functions, such as video- taping sessions for resale, satellite audio and videoconferencing, and smartcards.
* 61 percent responded that an increase in specialized education topics is the most significant change they expect.
* Almost 75 percent ranked Return on Investment () as "very important."
* 79 percent considered the Americans With Disabilities Act an important factor when selecting a meeting site.
* 18 percent of respondents coordinate community service projects in conjunction with meetings or conventions.
* 60 percent hold international meetings. The top three destinations are Canada, the United Kingdom, and Mexico.
Meetings Exchange Debuts Soon -Free to Industry Associations The Meetings Exchange was formed in June as a cooperative venture between the former Virtual PCMA and the PlanSoft Ajenis Limited Partnership, according to Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Executive Vice President/CEO Roy Evans. The database of hotels, convention and visitor bureaus, convention centers, and other industry suppliers will be distributed via the Internet beginning this fall, or by CD-ROM, which will be given free of charge in December to members of its sponsoring associations, including PCMA, Meeting Professionals International, and the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Hyatt, ITT Sheraton, and Marriott Hotels are the three founding hotel sponsors of the PlanSoft partnership.
Ed Tromczynski, president, PlanSoft Ajenis LP, announced during ASAE's annual meeting in August that Ajenis, the software product that will create a standardized platform for the electronic exchange of meeting specifications between hotels and planners, will be rolled out in the first quarter of 1997. The three hotel chains will give the Ajenis software to 3,000 of their meeting planner customers at no charge. Others can purchase the software for under $500.
Ajenis is software plus a private, dial-up network that is designed to work much like Lotus Notes, with meeting managers and their hotelier partners dialing into a server and working on the same "document"-a computer file-whether it be the meeting resume or a banquet event order. Changes to documents are recorded automatically in a history file, which includes the change, who made it, and when. An unalterable record of all work on each document is thus preserved. The templates for events offer "drag and drop" categories so that typing is practically eliminated. Budgeting and billing information is also recorded and Ajenis includes an electronic scheduler/function book.
Later phases will focus on standardizing electronic forms of RFPs and, says Tromczynski, and the electronic transfer of rooming lists and offer other registration services. Ajenis is Windows-based.
Meetings Exchange will offer basic listings on hotels and suppliers, who have the option of upgrading their listings and will pay more for enhanced, multimedia, graphics-rich presentations of their properties that will allow planners to do virtual site inspections. Eventually, video clips will be available. There will be a small subscription fee for meeting planners to access Meetings Exchange.
In related news, the first joint meeting of PCMA and ASAE will debut in Rosemont, IL, April 10 to 12, 1997, when they cosponsor a national technology meeting called METCON (Meetings and Exhibitions Technology Conference)
METCON will include educational seminars, which will be the responsibility of PCMA, and an "interactive" exhibition program called the Learning Laboratory, taught by exhibitors.
Northwest Airlines Gives Nonprofits a Break Launched in June, Northwest Airlines' Association Dollars Off Certificates (ADOCS) program offers meeting planners more value with less hassle than the percentage discounts offered by other carriers. The program is available to associations and other nonprofit organizations.
Meeting attendees are given certificates, good for flat dollar amount discounts on applicable fares of $200 or more. Attendees receive $30 off fares ranging from $200 to $299; $50 off fares from $300 to $449; and $75 for fares over $450. Those figures will usually translate into greater savings than percentage discounts. If your ticket is $300, for example, you'd get $15 dollars off with the standard five percent discount, while the certificate cuts the price by more than 16 percent.
The program covers all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. European and Asian destinations are included as well, under a separate discount list. Eventually, Northwest plans to develop a program for inbound international fares.
To qualify, you must designate Northwest as your official airline, and at least ten attendees from two different cities must be attending. Planners still receive one free ticket for every 40 sold plus negotiable fares on site inspections.
The user-friendly certificates should boost attendance, says Maureen Pickell, manager of meeting and incentive sales for Northwest Airlines, Eastern Region, because they are tangible. Explicit instructions are printed on the back of the certificates, enabling travel agents to more easily follow the correct procedure. She hopes that will ensure that associations receive credit for using the certificates.
Pickell believes the program is the first of its kind. None of the airlines we called-United, Continental, or USAIR-are offering similar incentives.
PGI, Sheraton Show Charity Begins at Home PGI, Production Group International, based in Arlington, VA, a, entertainment, exhibitions, and business communications company, has "decided to give something back," says Chairman and CEO Mark Sirangelo. In addition to allowing employees time off to do work, PGI gave part of its exhibit booth space to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children at the recent American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) annual meeting in Boston, something the association wouldn't ordinarily have been able to afford. The Center handed out literature to association executives who in turn can create awareness within their memberships.
In another charitable venture, PGI will sponsor and create an interactive Web site and Internet "CyberCast" of the National AIDS Candlelit March to take place on October 12 in Washington, DC, the proceeds of which will benefit the Whitman Walker Clinic. Some 150,000 people are expected to march from the Capitol steps to the Lincoln Memorial, where a host of celebrities will appear and perform. The CyberCast designed to "give voice to the quilt," says Matthew Randall, PGI's media and communications manager.
ITT Sheraton and the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau led a community effort of ASAE attendees after the August ASAE meeting that cleaned up a crack house in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. In addition, Boston-based Sheraton gave a $5,000 check to the Daniel Marr Boys & Girls Club, also in Dorchester.
IT&ME Show Highlights The Motivation Show-which is made up of the 24th Incentive Travel & Meeting Executives Show and the 63rd National Premium/Incentive Show-takes over McCormick Place North in Chicago again this fall. The world's largest incentive show runs from October 15 to 17. For information, call show organizer Hall-Erickson at (800) 752-6312.
For the first time this year, the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE) will host an intra-industry event to unofficially open the show Monday night.
IT&ME's biggest bash happens, as usual, Wednesday night, with the annual Pizza-Thon at the Hangge-Uppe. Destination management company Safaris Inc. and its new owner PGI are the cosponsors of this year's party, now in its 19th year.
IACVB Gets Stakeholders' Input Although Mike Wilson, incoming chairman of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (IACVB), asked that it not become a "bitch session," an interactive strategic planning session that allowed members to voice their opinions on how the association is run turned into just that at the annual meeting held in July in Detroit.
Facilitated by consultant Harrison Coerver, the session featured Iris, Inc., an electronic audience polling system by which the audience could name and vote on the issues that were important to them, including trends within the convention and visitor bureau industry, and their satisfaction level with IACVB as an association. Results were immediately tabulated by computer and flashed on a large screen.
"Please rate your overall satisfaction with IACVB," Coerver said, asking members to vote on a scale of one to five, one being "not at all satisfied" and five being "very satisfied." Fifty-six percent voted "not at all" to "somewhat satisfied"; 36 percent said "satisfied," and 8 percent said "mostly" to "very satisfied."
When asked for reasons for their response, audience members volunteered ten items, which were listed on the screen. Members then voted on the one most important reason for dissatisfaction with the association's leadership. Some 19 percent of the association noted lack of value for the dues paid; 17 percent said leadership was not reflective of the membership; 13 percent said the association was more revenue driven than member driven; and ten percent said there was an inadequate focus on tourism and leisure travel.
The board of IACVB, all of whom are volunteers and most of whom are CEOs of their own bureaus, have been leading the association for more than a year as a search for a new full-time executive director was under way. Karen S. Jordan, formerly executive director of the Austin Convention & Visitor Bureau, took the reins as CEO of IACVB in late August. Wilson, president of the Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau, began his one-year term as chairman of the board of directors at the July meeting.
In other IACVB news, the association will meet in Hong Kong next year for its 83rd annual meeting, July 19 to 23.
Hilton to Raise Rates; Could Comps be a Thing of the Past? Business is so robust, said Brian Stevens, vice president sales and marketing, Hilton Hotels Corporation, that rates will rise 15 percent in 1997. Because revenue management continues to be a top priority with Hilton, management is even eyeing the sacred tradition of one comp room for every 50 booked that meeting planners have enjoyed for years. "Even with 75 percent occupancy, we will always have empty rooms, and will need to fill those," said Stevens. He made his remarks during the annual meeting of the American Society of Association Executives in August.
That rate increase is twice that predicted by research firm Runzheimer International of Rochester, WI, for hotel rooms in 1997.
David Scypinski, director of convention and meeting marketing, Hilton and Conrad Hotels, said Hilton is still anxious to resolve the housing issues that face the convention industry.
"When are we going to stop having to pay $60 for a reservation?" asked Scypinski, in reference to a percentage charge that some third-party housing vendors tack on per night to meeting reservations. Nor have we heard the end of full disclosure, said Scypinski, who said sometimes those third-party vendors are kicking back five percent of the charge to the association, which is using it to finance the convention, but not telling the attendee/hotel guest.
Scypinski also said that he believes the Centralized Housing Reservation System spearheaded by the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau in 1995 failed because of lack of leadership and inadequate financing. "We think a standardized housing process will come about if it is driven by a customer (meeting planner) association."
ICCA Reaches Out to USA The Amsterdam-based International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), is "walking, not running, to becoming the international meetings association," according to Pieter A. van der Hoeven, president, and Tom Hulton, executive director. First setting out to conquer North America, ICCA is after "quality, not quantity" membership, says Hulton.
With members now numbering 466, the association welcomes national tourist offices, convention and visitors bureaus, convention centers, hotels, and professional congress organizers, among others, to its ranks. The reason ICCA is hot on the U.S. market? "Fifty-eight percent of international meetings come from Europe, 20 percent from the USA, and the balance from Asia/Pacific, South America, etc. We are keen to develop because there is so much potential," says van der Hoeven.
In fact, the U.S. is not active in attracting international meetings business (includes organizations that have taken meetings to more than three countries), and as a result, U.S.-based organizations don't "think international," and don't meet offshore very often. ICCA also wants to draw on the professionalism of U.S.-based associations, and export that education to its members all over the world.
By garnering supplier members from the U.S. and educating them about hosting international meetings, ICCA hopes to ultimately attract planners to its ranks. It is working closely with the American Society of Association Executives and other U.S.-based meeting planner associations to build alliances. ICCA will be setting up a U.S. office this year in Washington, DC.
Hulton points to San Francisco, Vancouver, Montreal, and Boston as North American cities that have actively sought international meetings business. Boston's marketing efforts have resulted in 54 international meetings being held there since 1993. Many of those meetings are in the medical and pharmaceutical arena. Key to the city's success was convincing area physicians to form local host committees, a critical factor in winning bids from international societies that often have only volunteer leadership in place and depend heavily on on-site support from members.
ICCA says that in the embryonic stage are plans with the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus to create an international corporate meetings database.
Marriott Copley Hard-wired, Ready to Host Internet Meetings The Boston Marriott Copley Place, which was perhaps the first hotel in the country to offer instant Internet access by hard-wiring all of its meeting space last November, has joined with the nearby Westin Hotel, Copley Place, to offer the same service.
By the end of the year, the entire Boston Convention Complex, including the Hynes Convention Center and the Sheraton Boston, will be hard-wired, according to Dave Keamy, director of marketing at the Marriott Copley Place.
Having T3 lines in place, which offer multi-megabit direct Internet access, gives users near-instantaneous access. What this means to meeting planners, says Keamy, is that meetings, especially scientific, university, government, andthat use the Internet/World Wide Web extensively in their meetings or exhibits, can save thousands of dollars by not having to install temporary T1 lines each time. Between the Marriott and Westin, some 2,000 computers can be online simultaneously.
CLC Finds New Home For Hall of Leaders The Convention Liaison Council (CLC) will create a Hall of Leaders Wall at Chicago's McCormick Place, which will be located in the Grand Concourse that connects three McCormick Place buildings-the North and South Halls and what will be the Lakeside Center (now the East Hall).
The original Hall of Leaders will remain at the Washington, DC Convention Center. All inductees, past and future, will have a plaque in both cities. The newest inductees will be welcomed into the Hall of Leaders at McCormick Place next July, in conjunction with the American Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting.
Marriott Conference Center Offers Telemedicine Live, interactive telecasts of medical procedures were part of a recent continuing medical education program, "Techniques of Endoscopic Therapy in Gastrointestinal Disease," sponsored by Georgetown's Division of Gastroenterology, held at Georgetown University Conference Center in Washington, DC. Via a satellite link, South American physicians at Javeriana University in Bogota, Columbia, watched procedures in progress at Georgetown Medical Center. They asked questions and discussed the cases with a moderator.
The communication links were provided by NASA's Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS).
Antitrust Suit Against New Orleans CVB Dismissed The CVB and convention center industry scored a victory June 27 when the United States District Court of the Eastern district of Louisiana dismissed antitrust litigation brought by Helen Brett Enterprises, Inc., organizers of four yearly public expositions in New Orleans, against the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau (NOMCVB) and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The lawsuit alleged that NOMCVB and the Center violated antitrust laws by refusing to book convention center space more than 18 months in advance unless the company guaranteed a set number of hotel rooms.
The court found that the convention center is shielded from antitrust liability and unfair trade practice laws, since it is considered a political subdivision of the state. The NOMCVB is also immune from antitrust laws, the court concluded, because it is a private entity that contracts with the government to carry out policies.
The Helen Brett case was considered a test case. "The decision will reverberate throughout the hospitality industry around the country," says Beverly Gianna, director of public affairs, NOMCVB. "Halls and bureaus will know what they can and cannot do in their booking policies." n
Enveloped by the charm and enthusiasm of the Opryland Hotel staff and the city of Nashville, attendees at the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) World Education Conference in July didn't just learn to manage meetings better during their three days in town. They learned to love country music.
The Music City meeting drew nearly 2,200 attendees-including a record 830 meeting planners. Nashville showcased its favorite venues with some of its best homegrown talent: Diamond Rio at the Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry; and Martina McBride during the final night "lawn" party in Opryland's two-month-old Delta Ballroom. Both brought audiences to their feet.
Downsizing, doing more with less, and technology still reigned as the popular education topics. MPI is in no danger of losing its place as the world's largest association of meeting planners, welcoming 4,300 new members in 1996 for a new total of 14,237 members in 45 countries.
Louisa Davis, CMP, administrative officer, Metallurgical Society of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, won one of MPI's Meeting Professional Awards, Tomorrow's Leaders Category.