No one would argue that the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Association Executives, held August 4-7 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.

The largest expo in ASAE’s history, this year’s floor held 167 more booths than the expo in San Diego, Calif., just two years ago. ASAE says the vendor population explosion is due mainly to companies offering new business products and technologies developed specifically for the association market. SeminarSource (www.seminarsource.com), extended its reach even off the floor by offering demos of its Evance online association management product in meeting rooms in the Philadelphia Marriott, which is connected via walkway to the convention center.

The opening general session speaker, former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw, grew passionate when he began to question the treatment of women in the U.S. "Why is it that fewer than 8 percent of top executives in the U.S. are female?" he roared to the packed house. Unfortunately, with ASAE’s push for diversity in associations and the ovation he received, he may have been preaching to the choir.

ASAE partnered with Universal Orlando Resort to provide a first for the conference: a two-day Meetings & Expositions Days program specifically for senior meeting planners. Michael S. Olson, ASAE’s president and CEO, says, "M&E Days is designed to look beyond logistics to address topics such as trend analysis, assessment of stakeholder needs, and comparative analysis of best practices." 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 where the business is going, moderated by David Noonan, deputy executive vice president, American Academy of Ophthalmology. Stalking up, down, and throgh the audience, which was seated at refreshing rounds instead of 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. Then, using interactive voting technology, came to a consensus on some of the issues. The next day included a breakfast keynote by Hugh Lee, president of Fusion Productions, on integrating learning and technology into meetings, plus skills development and best practices sessions.

Other interesting sessions for meeting planners included two on the evergreen 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 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 they said was already helping them put together all those names and faces they met at the conference. But one of the best moments for many came as they were checking out of their hotels: While the energy surcharge that so many planners love to hate was on the final bill, ASAE had negotiated to have it credited for its attendees.