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June 2010 Focus Forum Summary

Association Executives Gain Insights Into the Power of the Network

Keys to Successful Meetings in 2010 and Beyond

WASHINGTON, DC, June 7, 2010 – What do an historic blizzard in the Nation’s Capital, the massive ash from the Icelandic volcano, Hurricane Katrina, and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have in common? Each had a dramatic impact on the annual conference of one or more associations. Dramatic, but not necessarily disastrous.

For those associations tied into what Jack Sammis, President and CEO of IMN Solutions, calls the Power of the Network, the strength of a long-standing partnership between his company and the hospitality industry helped to significantly offset for his association clients the potential disastrous results created by these occurrences. The network his company represents includes more than 100 associations and over $100 million in annual buying power. That network is pivotal when it is necessary to renegotiate hotel contracts, rework sleeping room blocks and meeting space, or when it is necessary to cancel a meeting.

Leveraging a powerful network to mitigate the impact of a force majeure event on an association’s annual conference was one example presented at “Lessons Learned: Keys to Successful Meetings in 2010 and Beyond,” a Focus Forum for association executives held at the W Hotel in Washington, DC.

IMN Solutions Executive Vice President Brian Knapp said that associations can significantly bolster their positions by working through a network. "The network advantage is tied to volume buying, expertise in contract design, negotiation strategy, and relationships with the hotel industry," he said. "When you're working with a network that's doing more than $100 million in business annually and you're sending out thousands of RFPs a year, the hotel industry knows your expectations."

Knapp spoke about designing contracts for the future, highlighting areas where a powerful network makes a significant difference when it comes to customizing for individual association needs. He said that IMN Solutions targets results for:

  • Room block review/adjustments
  • Limited performance
  • Minimal cancellation liability
  • Audit clause
  • Rate integrity clause
  • Performance by hotel
  • No attrition
  • No minimum food and beverage guarantee
  • Complimentary meeting space
  • Construction and renovation
  • Force majeure

Knapp encouraged association executives to take advantage of a complimentary meetings audit provided by IMN Solutions, during which their existing contract would be reviewed, risks would be identified, details for improvements would be outlined, and a plan for working together would be created.

According to a recent survey by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), 50 percent of survey respondents indicated that paid attendance at their most recent conference was lower than in the previous year.

Just bringing attendees back to an annual meeting will be especially challenging, said Todd Charlebois, President of Attendance Marketing. “The game has changed. Your attendees have learned that they can do without you,” he said. “Loyalty is declining and today people want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’”

Charlebois added that individuals no longer come to an association for education because they can get education anywhere. “People come because they think the association is relevant, credible, and trustworthy,” he explained. Charlebois said that today associations need to see their annual meeting as a brand and market that brand year round, not just during a few months of the year.

Presenters told Focus Forum attendees that they also need to think outside the box to better assure the kind of results that are expected by their boards. IMN Solutions Vice President of Marketing Scott Lindley encouraged attendees to “go green. It’s the right thing to do. It also adds to your branding and increases the loyalty of your members who are looking for you to make this change.”

Lindley said that going green also can achieve significant cost savings. He encouraged attendees to join the Convene Green Alliance, a grassroots organization of more than 900 association members and 50 hospitality industry suppliers who are working together to reduce their collective impact on the environment. For more information about the Convene Green Alliance, visit www.convenegreen.com.

IMN Solutions President and CEO Jack Sammis said thinking outside the box also includes going global. "Five years ago, 7-8 percent of our association clients were scheduling meetings outside the United States," he said. "In the next five years, that number is projected to climb to 50 percent."

Sammis encouraged Focus Forum attendees to join the Alliance for International Meetings and Commerce (AIMC), an organization of more than 300 members that encourages partnerships in the development of meetings and commerce worldwide by bringing together industries and professional societies to expand global growth and business opportunities.

IMN Solutions recently opened new offices in New York City and Mougins, France to further support this organization. For more information about AIMC, visit www.aimcnetwork.com. For more information about IMN Solutions, call (703) 903-0707 or visit www.imnsolutions.com.