An Executive Director's point of view


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.

December 03, 2015: Get your room now

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
At a recent professional conference, several Board members complained the hotel was full when they tried to register, and they were forced to book rooms elsewhere.

Well, they should have reserved rooms immediately, even if they weren't sure they would be able to attend the conference. They should not have waited.

There would have been plenty of time to cancel and still receive a full refund if they later decided not to attend.

If you want to stay in the hotel where the meeting is held, get your room right away.

P.S. And don't expect special treatment because you are a Board member. First come, first served is a fair policy.

November 03, 2015: Podium signs

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
When affixing your logo and/or sign to a meeting room podium, check with the facility beforehand to find out what type of adhesive to use.

Double-sided tape and mounting tape don't adhere to all surfaces.

October 27, 2015: There's only one step...

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
That's one too many for people with mobility limitations.

So, be sure that meeting facilities, and individual rooms within those facilities, are accessible to people who cannot use steps. That includes those utilizing manual wheelchairs, power chairs and scooters, walkers, and canes (often), as well as anybody whose physical ability makes it difficult to climb up and down stairs, even only a few.

Buildings and individual rooms should be accessible by ramps and automatic doors. If automatic doors are not available, a person should be stationed there to open them when necessary. And NEVER EVER lock the door.

Here are some more guidelines for ensuring the accessibility of a meeting facility.

October 19, 2015: Too crowded

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
In politics and community affairs, it's always wise to pack people into a small room without enough chairs.

An overflow crowd is proof that so many people support the organization, the cause, the candidate, etc. that they can't even fit into their allotted space. It's a great photo op.

That may sometimes be a wise tactic at association meetings, too. At one conference, I presented two workshops with the same number of attendees, but the first was held in a small room, where additional chairs had to be dragged in and set up in the doorway and out into the hall. The second was in a room so huge that empty chairs outnumbered attendees. The first session generated a lot of positive buzz.

At the annual meeting of the American College of Correctional Physicians (which is where I am now and why I haven't posted in a while), more than enough chairs had been set up but many attendees did not want to sidle through the rows to use them. So, some of the doctors stood along the back wall, sat on the floor, or settled into spots on the steps that led down from the doorway. And nobody complained.

We missed the photo op, but lots of folks reported this was the best conference they had attended in a long time.
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