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November 13, 2008

Meeting Tips
for a Tough Economy


The Professional Convention Management Association’s Capital Chapter got together yesterday for its annual meeting, and cost-saving tips were flying all over the Grand Hyatt’s ballroom. About 300 of PCMA’s 1,600 members (mostly meeting planners, hoteliers and convention and visitors bureaus reps) mingled, then took in some awards, cheesecake, and a panel discussion.


Outgoing PCMA Capital Chapter president Bill Reed and PCMA President and CEO Deborah Sexton, who flew in from home base in Chicago for the event. Deborah tells us members can’t miss the annual meeting in New Orleans Jan. 11-14, saying a new plenary session will include talks by Air Canada CEO Montie Brewer and Continental CEO Larry Kelner. A panel discussion by NY Times columnist David Brooks and political commentator James Carville will address the new administration, and how the economic crisis may affect the tourism industry. (Hey, Brooks and Carville will be worth their fees if they know about that.)


SUPERCOMM’s Regina Sheehan, the San Diego Convention Center’s Phyllis Azama and SUPERCOMM’s Justine Sherman. Jointly owned by USTelecom and the Telecom Industry Association, SUPERCOMM is organizing the associations’ annual meeting next June in Chicago. In order to keep members from dropping out, Regina said the team is “marketing, marketing, marketing.” A blitz of e-mails, phone calls and direct marketing mailers are part of the strategy. Justine says associations looking to save some money should try to condense their housing blocks to fewer hotels, closer to downtown, which will save on shuttles. Phyllis reminds us that San Diego has many hotels near its downtown convention center.


Marriott Global Sales’ Peter O’Brien and the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Rachael Heiner.


The Association Management Group’s and PCMA “President’s Award” recipient Hunter Clemens, Intercontinental Hotels’ Cecilia Bell, incoming PCMA Capital Chapter President Nancy DeBrosse, and Experient’s Ian Twentey. Cecilia says with corporations and associations canceling meetings in the short term, hotels are offering goodies like double or triple priority points, complimentary upgrades, coffee breaks and meetings spaces to lure in replacements, creating a bit of a “bidding war” among hotels. Hunter says one eco-friendly cost saving measure is to replace bottled waters with pitchers of water and coolers in the backs of rooms. He also suggests integrating technology into meetings so those who can’t attend can still dial in.


Hyatt Hotels & Resorts’ Faye Memoli and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ meeting planner Victor Robinson. Victor says a lot of associations are looking at F & B (food and beverage) as a first place to cut expenses at meetings. He also says associations are buying more audio-visual equipment for cost savings that can be seen in the first year. For example, ACOG just bought an LCD projector for under $1,000 whereas a hotel will charge $600-$1,500 to rent one for a meeting.

Have a story idea or an event to cover? Association Editor Abraham Mahshie is always on the look out for free food and good conversation. E-mail him at: Abraham@bisnow.com

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