An Executive Director's point of view


December 23, 2017: Meeting rentals

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
Associations are being encouraged to increase their non-dues revenue by renting meeting space in their offices and facilities to outsiders.

It's not just a way to make more money. It's also an opportunity to become the premier provider of this service by offering quality space, paying attention to detail, and not surprising renters with sudden changes.

Hospitals, universities, government offices, social service agencies, and many other entities have rented out space for a long time, but they aren't in the business of doing that. They are just trying to make some extra money.

And they usually reserve the right to relocate renters if they need the space for themselves.

Here are some typical problems:

1. I drove nearly five hours to check out a small meeting room at a YMCA. The space was fine, so I took it. One week later, the Y called to tell me it needed the room for a meeting of its own and moved mine into a racquetball court.

I couldn't visit the facility a second time to see the new room. But my audience was composed of running event directors who were not accustomed to posh settings. I thought they'd be OK with the change.

When I arrived the day of the meeting, I discovered there were two steps in the corridor, so I couldn't wheel anything into the room. And the temperature setting was very low.

But I had registered more than three times as many people as I had anticipated and they wouldn't have fit in the originally selected room. The relocation seemed to work.

2. At another association, I booked a meeting in a hospital auditorium and was told that our continental breakfast would have to be served outside of the room. Food and beverage was not allowed inside.

On the day of the event, I found hospital personnel setting up the breakfast inside the auditorium. They said a fire marshal had visited a week earlier and had prohibited setup outside of the room. Nobody had bothered to tell me.

I had sold that inside space to an exhibitor. Fortunately, the company rep called at the last minute and said he couldn't attend. He promised to pay the association anyway, provided we distributed his product to attendees. We agreed, we were paid, and everything worked out.

3. Another time, I contracted for use of a high school auditorium and called the morning of the evening event to be sure everything was set. I was assured it was.

When I arrived, the room was being used by another group and nobody with authority was onsite. My meeting was shifted to a classroom.

4. That same organization rented space another time at a park district facility and arrived to find the room locked. The floor had been waxed for a district event the following day. A receptionist, the only employee present, directed us to another room, which was too small for our meeting.

So, we persuaded the janitorial staff to unlock the doors and we used both rooms - the larger one for the meeting, the smaller one for registration and packet distribution.

A parks official called us the next day to scold us for commandeering his staff. He threatened to never rent to us again. That was just fine with us. We had no intention of renting the place again.

If you decide to rent out your association space, be sure to treat the renters the same way you would want your association to be treated.
Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
Many attendees of our educational conferences, annual meetings, trade shows, and other events are merely there to network.

They aren't interested in learning, buying, or engaging in association activities.

They just want to interact with colleagues and see what's going on in the industry or profession.

So, let's accommodate them.

We can address their needs in our marketing materials, provide places for them to mingle with others, let them into the expo, and add a question about networking on event evaluation forms.

If our associations become known as "go-to" places for everybody, more people will register for events, more people will join, and more people will renew.

It's just a smart thing to do.

July 27, 2017: Speaker seating

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
Consider this when planning meetings or other events with speakers.

May 02, 2017: When to Talk in Meetings

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt

But not always.

Here are some guidelines.

September 28, 2016: Disabled members and customers

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
The keynote speaker at an association conference was wheelchair-bound but the organization failed to provide a ramp for him to reach the speaker's platform.

The hotel, fearing it would be blamed for the oversight, secured a ramp at the last minute.

At another meeting, an association member tightly clutched her walker as she hobbled down a long ramp at the far end of a hallway only to find the doors to the conference room locked. She then climbed back up the ramp and attempted to negotiate the steps inside the meeting room.

Always provide proper access for disabled members and customers. And don't think of it as an extra duty. It should be a routine part of your job.

July 12, 2016: Meeting problems

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
If volunteers are involved in producing your meetings (even just a little bit), here are a few things you need to tell them because they really may not know:

1. Attendance guarantees for meals are required several days before the event.

You'd think with all the weddings, bar mitzvahs, and family reunions that are scheduled, people would know this. Well, they don't. They often think a person should be able to register onsite and still get a meal.

Be sure they know when a guarantee has to be made and how to decide the number. And they should understand that it's usually wise to guarantee a higher attendance than the number of reservations in hand at that moment.

2. Non-paid walk-ins. Members cannot invite others to join them at a meal served to a committee, specialty group, or other entity unless that person followed the same reservation and payment process as everyone else. It doesn't matter who they are.

3. Food cannot be brought in from the outside, even for a small meeting (unless your meeting contract allows that, which it probably doesn't). And that may also be true for sites like hospitals. You must order meals through the host catering service.

4. Changing meeting schedules also changes catering schedules. So, hotels and restaurants must be told immediately of changes so they'll know when to begin serving food. And refreshment breaks are often limited to thirty minutes, so be sure they start when you want them to - otherwise you may have to pay an additional charge.

5. There will be audio-visual costs even if you use your own laptops and projectors. The property will still need to wire the microphone, provide a screen (unless you bring that, too), and connect your equipment.

6. Speaker instructions must be specific and adhered to. If speakers are required to submit handouts for copying by a certain date, be firm about that. They cannot show up on meeting day and expect you to make copies for them.

7. Signs, flyers, and directions cannot be affixed to walls. They must be on sign holders, which must be ordered from the property. (Those usually don't cost much).

8. Stay on schedule. Don't let speakers - no matter who they are - run beyond their allotted time. Other speakers should not be asked to shorten their presentations because the meeting is running late.

9. You may have to abide by sponsorship restrictions. For example, medical associations cannot provide continuing education credits if meeting sponsors are provided with tables or booths within the meeting room, when banners are displayed in the room, or when logos are printed on meeting brochures.

10. Many properties do not allow exhibitors to wheel their own materials into expo halls. They have to be shipped or be carried in by specific personnel. And exhibitors (including the association that owns the expo) may not be allowed to plug an electrical cord into a socket. That must be done by a union electrician.

11. Exhibitors cannot move their materials into another booth, even one that is vacant or not being used by the purchaser.

12. Exhibitors cannot drag tables and stools from the eating area into their booths. Everything in the booth must be pre-ordered and paid for.

And there is so much more.

Just remember that people who don't plan meetings, especially in hotels and convention centers, often don't know what is and is not allowed, and may think many rules are illogical (they may be, but they have to be followed, anyway).

April 09, 2016: Too much walking

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
When booking space for meetings and conferences, really, really consider the amount of walking required of attendees.

The attractiveness of a site or the opportunity to snare a big discount is easily negated by forcing attendees to walk long distances.

A sprawling resort, a convention center attached to the far side of a hotel, and hotels that require extra walking to reach ramps and elevators may not always be best, even if other amenities offer advantages.

Many able-bodied people cannot walk long distances, nor can people using canes and walkers, or the numerous folks who suffer from back, hip, leg, and foot problems.

So, don't treat distance as just another consideration. It's a really, really important issue when booking meeting space.

March 23, 2016: They didn't know

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
An association was delighted to have recruited a well-known author to conduct a book signing at its conference.

But the volunteers who organized the event did not know that authors do not bring books with them to sell.

The association needed to arrange with the publisher (who actually owns the book) to ship copies to the conference beforehand and to take back the leftovers afterward.

Fortunately, the author resided in the city in which the conference was held and had about a dozen books at his home, so he brought them to the conference and signed and sold all of them.

If volunteers are in charge of activities in your association, don't be afraid to look over their shoulders and advise them of things they may not know.

They may want to do everything themselves, but it would still be wise for them to consult professionals who do these things for a living.

February 29, 2016: Quiet times at meetings

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
Sometimes you just need a break - even at a conference.

Here are a few ways associations are making that happen.

December 19, 2015: Avoiding steep hotel costs

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
Local associations often book meetings in places other than hotels. They don't need sleeping rooms and alternative venues usually provide a less expensive option.

But these other facilities frequently reserve the right to relocate your meeting to another room if the one you booked is needed for its own event.

If you opt for a location such as a hospital, school, park district, or social service agency, be sure to strike that provision from your contract so you can be sure you'll be able to use the room(s) you reserved.

Here's more.
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