Think Vegas is king of the convention circuit? Well, the Society of Marketing Professional Services held their late‑August national conference in the nation’s capital, and CEO Ron Worth says it rated as their most popular ever (nudging out Chicago).
About 1,000 SMPS members—most of whom work in architecture, engineering, construction, and real estate—set up camp at D.C.’s Grand Hyatt for the four-night affair. Many of their members are in their 30s and 40s (“other associations can’t get over how young we are,” Ron says), women (75% female), and, apparently, thirsty. Attendees spent “a lot of late nights” at the clubs on 7th Street, and 400 of them hit the annual “mega-social” at the Lucky Strike bowling lanes at Verizon Center complex. (In previous years, venues like the House of Blues in New Orleans have hosted the social.) It isn’t all boozing, though—these real estate marketers love to network about projects in between appletinis. “They walk away with tons of work,” Ron says.
The SMPS awards gala recognizes excellence in marketing materials, some displayed on the board Ron shows us here.
Conventioneers took “job tours” of the Washington Nationals’ new baseball stadium, the Capital Visitors’ Center, and the St. Coletta Special Education Public Charter School in Southeast. The St. Coletta project is dear to Ron, and not because celebrity designer Michael Graves worked on the capacious facility, which boasts more event space than the National Building Museum’s great hall. (Graves designed the award‑winning scaffolding around the Washington Monument and has a line of consumer products at Target, like the blocks on Ron’s desk above that reflect the architectural style of St. Coletta). One of Ron’s two sons, Jason, attended the school for children with disabilities.
Washington’s bevy of museums also scored big with SMPSers, most of whom attended without their families, and the international contingent soaked up the chance to do embassy walk-throughs. Of course, there was no gambling or floor shows.
Ron started out as an architectural engineer, but his people skills led him into marketing positions with his original industry employer, CECO. After a stint heading up the Washington Building Congress, Ron caught the eye of SMPS President Eric Mott while promoting his book Building Profits in the Construction Industry. During his eight-year tenure at SMPS, Ron has more than doubled the staff (up to 15) and membership (up to 6,300) while quadrupling revenue (now at $4 million).
The SMPS has a large educational component. For example, it offers webinars as well as a heavy schedule of regional programs on topics like “Powerful Proposals” and “Basics of Business Development.” Ron says he finds helping people with their careers enormously rewarding. “Most people fell into marketing, like I did,” Ron says. “There was no curriculum for it.” Under his leadership, the SMPS has introduced a certification program and conducts executive leadership forums for principals, which teach about crisis management.