IT'S DEFINITELY AFFECTING OUR MEETINGS. Although most of our delegates drive in, our staff flies in, and costs have gone up. It used to cost us less than $200 to fly to Newark, and this April it was more than $300. Not to mention the bag restrictions. We've done some shipping ahead and made adjustments, such as fewer staff coming to events.

In speakers, we used to bring in someone from the West Coast to speak on the East Coast, for example, so people could hear someone they weren't familiar with. Now the speakers aren't from as far away. We're also finding locations as centrally located as possible. We do 10 meetings in the U.S. and five outside the country. Our last one was in Des Moines, and we didn't see a drop in attendance, but it was the second weekend in May.

Ours are always ladies' retreats, and the attendees seem to be selling more chicken dinners to be able to come. They're being proactive and trying to do fundraisers.
John Payne
Office Manager
Women's Ministries
Church of God of Prophecy International Offices
Cleveland, Tenn.

We just finished our 2008 convention in Eugene, Ore., AND THIS YEAR HAPPENED TO BE THE LOWEST-ATTENDED CONVENTION EVER. Many people had made reservations and then canceled at the last minute, and the primary reason was gas costs or flight costs. Secondary, for us, we usually run a Monday-through-Friday conference, but because of the Olympic time trials following us in Eugene, we held it Friday through Sunday, and there were pastors who couldn't get away.

We were able to meet our numbers; we were short a few room nights. However, when we negotiated, because of having to move the dates, I negotiated financial considerations.

Because our headquarters are in Michigan and many of our members are in the Midwest, for the next three years, we want to stay in the Upper Midwest, a five- to seven-state area, and see if that helps. Next year we're in Kalamazoo and then in Springfield, Ill., so we're optimistic that that will be helpful to our members.

In Oregon, our largest contingent was from Southern and Northern California, Oregon and Washington, so they didn't have as far to travel and they're used to $4 a gallon gasoline, as they've had it a while.

Part of our membership is military chaplains and missionaries, both of whom are financed by American dollars. Because of the weaker U.S. dollar, many couldn't afford to make the trip.
Robert Kaiser
Meeting Planner
IFCA International
Byron Center, Mich.

FAMILYLIFE IS EXPERIENCING ABOUT A 17 PERCENT REDUCTION IN MEETING ATTENDANCE for our 2008 fiscal year. We believe that the uncertain economy is a significant factor and the “pain at the pump” is salt in the wound. Having said that, we still had 80,000 attendees this year, and for that we are thankful. We are reducing the number of events in 2009, mostly in locations where we had multiple venues.
Eric Dahinden
Event Scheduling Manager
FamilyLife
Little Rock, Ark.

AS AN ORGANIZATION, WE'RE MINDFUL OF IT. The one thing we're doing is communicating as much information as possible in the nights that attendees are already in meetings, rather than having more meetings. That's not just for fuel costs, but to be respectful of time in general.

Most of our meetings are regional, but we have national conferences in October and March, where many fly in. We're sold out in October.

But you never know. Our conferences will be a priority. Those who are thinking about attending are adjusting their budget to make it.
Spencer Beach
Executive Communications Manager
Global 12 Project
Bethany World Prayer Center
Baton Rouge, La.

WE HAD OUR LAST MAJOR MEETING IN JANUARY, AND OUR NUMBERS WERE DEFINITELY DOWN. I have been doing three weekends in a row — two in nice hotels and another on a religious center. But now I'm going to plan one weekend and simplify everything so I can keep costs down.

A lot of those people who didn't attend said it was because of gas prices, which drives up the cost of everything. A lot of our people sacrifice to have their kids in Christian schools, so if they have to cut something, it will be what they do for enjoyment.

I've already signed the contract for next year, at a nice hotel that holds up to 400 people. I used to get 250 attendees at each of the three weekends. I'm also looking for speakers who request lower honoraria.

Our organization is also planning a national convention in September 2009, and I'm not getting good responses. People are unsure of the economy, and they're being careful.
Janet Page
Women's Ministries Coordinator
Central California Conference
Seventh-day Adventist Church
Clovis, Calif.

AT THIS TIME, IT IS HARD TO TELL HOW GAS PRICES WILL AFFECT OUR MAJOR MEETINGS. We are monitoring and will continue to monitor the situation, along with keeping in contact with our members to see if any adjustments in our meetings need to be made. We have signed contracts a number of years out, so it is hard to change locations, but we are conscious of rising prices and how they will affect our meeting attendance.

Our next good-size meeting is not until October, and prices may level out after the heavy summer travel season.

In our negotiations with hotels, we have tried to keep our expenses — as well as our attendees' expenses — at a minimum. Our members have all felt the budget cuts, and many still choose to attend our meetings because they know that we provide the highest-quality program we can without causing them major financial hardship.

We have combined some of our meetings so that people only have to travel to one location but can attend two separate meetings back-to-back.
Daniel Baczkowski
Director of Events
National Catholic Educational Association
Washington, D.C.

Bulletins:

  • Sue Tinnish has been named director of APEX, the Convention Industry Council's Accepted Practices Exchange Initiative. Tinnish is a planner, trainer, and facilitator, and a volunteer on the APEX Educational Advisory Council.

  • A new TSA program lets travelers select an airport security lane based on their experience with airport regulations. The program is running in Salt Lake City, Denver, Boston, Orlando, and Spokane, Wash., is expected to expand.