One thing that I found valuable was the discussion of the state of the hospitality economy. In particular, what it means to our participants — the majority come on their own expense account — so the rate is really a critical factor. Right now there's more demand than supply, so one of the things that I'm experiencing is that I'm finding it more difficult to find sites in our price range. And it looks like it will be that way in the near future.

Flexibility is helpful in working with that situation — being able to change dates and seasons.

I also use RCMA for help getting ideas on site selection and the marketplace, so the vendor area is helpful. I go to sharpen my skills in working with contracts. There were some legal aspects of the contract process where I got new ideas in helping to develop a better contract. Some ideas in there are very helpful to me, such as learning how to protect the organization's interests yet fulfilling the needs of the facility in the contract, too.
Marvin Schmucker, CMP
Meeting Planner
MHS Alliance
Wichita, Kan.

I really did like the breakout session about convention centers. I learned a lot about convention center things that I never would have thought about — the inner workings, table settings, setup. It's made me more aware of everything and will help me as I do setups. It's an experience that I'd never had before.
Elizabeth Thomas
Regional Manager
Abiding Glory Ministries
Highland Village, Texas

There is so much that I learned at RCMA, but one thing that sticks out was the session I attended about setting up a crisis response system. As meeting planners, we have a responsibility to work with local authorities, police, fire, and other emergency personnel to prepare for crises. Advice on how to do this in the most effective way was very helpful. We do have?crisis plans that we use in our meetings, but I feel that it was most helpful to understand how to integrate our plans with the local emergency authorities, in order to prevent confusion in case of emergency.
Rod McNair
Festival Administrator
Living Church of God
Charlotte, N.C.

We have a major meeting coming up in 2009, so I went to learn about major hotels and contracts. In one session dealing with hotel contracts, I learned some valuable information about attrition clauses and why there are there. They should be there, for the benefit of both you and the hotel.

The last time I went was in Pitts-burgh. I really enjoyed it this time and got to meet so many new people. I sat by different people in each session, so I never talked to the same person.
Martha Davis
Operations Manager
General Commission on United
Methodist Men
Nashville, Tenn.

I received a lot of advice — and getting that advice was my main purpose in going — about negotiating with hotels for conferences. Probably the one thing I took away is that everything can be negotiated. You must always make sure to read the fine print. It was my first experience at RCMA, and I was quite impressed with the content and excitement of the people there.
Clifford Kimbrough
Jurisdictional Prelate Ohio
Church of God in Christ
Richmond Heights, Ohio