Complete Story


Mastering Meetings: An In-depth Look at the Association/Venue Relationship

Part III | Series of III

By OSAE Member Tracy L. Vanneman, Sr. Manager-Business Development, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP)

What does it take to make an association meeting a success? Energetic attendees and engaging speakers go a long way, but a foundational feature of the best meetings is a healthy relationship between the association and its meeting venue. Both sides have a lot to offer, and a lot to lose, when it comes to providing a memorable experience for attendees.

To further explore this unique relationship between an association and the venue with which it contracts, I sat down with Patty Kealy, CDS, Director of Global Accounts with ConferenceDirect. With 30 years of experience on all sides of the meetings equation – hotel sales, third party site selection services, and onsite association conference staff, to name a few – Patty has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in the meetings industry. Here she shares her perspective and helps us to navigate the critical relationship between association and venue.

Continued from Part 2, which can be read here.

Part 3: Event Postmortem

Q: After the last stuffed mushroom is served, the last drink is poured, and the last box is packed, what follow up do you recommend for an association management professional to help close the book on the event (besides timely payment of the final bill), leaving the relationship with the venue in good hands for a potential return some day for a future meeting?

If the association meetings team has treated everyone with professionalism and appreciation along the way, working through problems together in a dignified manner, then the hotel will want your group back. Saying thank you to everyone that helps with the event is critical. Venue staff work very hard, often for low pay, but your praise for their effort can make their day and inspire them in their work. If your budget allows, cash tips to specific line staff that really excelled for your group are welcome. Send personalized, thoughtful notes of thanks to your event manager, your catering manager, and the general manager. If the experience was outstanding, offer to write a testimonial or serve as a reference to help the hotel generate future business.

Q: Speaking of the future, what do you think will change the most in the next 10 years of association meetings (pertaining to event space) and how should both associations and venues start preparing now?

Investors are building a lot of new hotels, but few of them include large meeting space. Therefore, inventories for large meeting hotels is not increasing, and the existing meeting hotels are looking for more revenue streams beyond guestrooms and food and beverage. Associations will need to prepare for these added expenses, perhaps increasing sponsorship or exhibits revenue to cover new costs.

Meeting attendees also seem to be seeking more interactive events, so being ahead of the game in knowing how your members’ wants impact your meeting specifications is crucial. This could mean moving away from typical classroom or theater sets and instead setting your session rooms in more interactive configurations or rethinking your event schedule.

Finally, future meeting planning might mean widening the search when it comes to meeting destinations. Convention centers in second and third tier markets are proving to be a very valuable commodity, as some associations are choosing to avoid the challenges with pricing and availability in large first tier cities like Chicago and Boston. In the years to come, it may be wise to consider cities that are not commonly thought of, like a Raleigh or Spokane. The hotel package may not offer the large number of guest rooms, meaning that you will have to contract more hotels, but second and third tier cities are eager for your business, and their pricing reflects their desire to host your group. Younger members generally love to travel, so venturing into different markets may prove to be more successful as the demographics of your association change. Even established members who have been attending your meetings for years may appreciate the opportunity to explore new terrain.

About the authors:
Patty Kealy, CDS
Director of Global Accounts, ConferenceDirect

With more than 30 years of hotel experience ranging from small independent hotels to large convention venues and Hilton National sales, Kealy's vast industry experience informs her understanding of the profit margins at hotels. This background allows her to better serve her clients, helping them find the right venues for their events while saving them money through fair negotiations that are a win-win for the client and the hotel. Celebrating her eighth year with ConferenceDirect, Kealy works from Minnesota but travels the world to serve her clients. 

Tracy L. Vanneman
Sr. Manager-Business Development, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP)

As an association professional with 14 years of association, nonprofit and sales experience, Vanneman’s primary work is building and managing relationships with corporate partners, including development and delivery of SIOP sponsorship, exhibit and advertising opportunities. She also works in many aspects of the SIOP membership and event attendee experience, including managing the administration of the continuing education program and event planning for meetings from a few hundred to more than 5,000 attendees. In 2008, Vanneman joined the SIOP administrative office staff.

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