Leveraging Our Conference Dollars

African Americans are the convention industry's biggest customers–to the tune of $5.6 billion. it's time we flexed our collective muscle and cashed in on some benefits

convention center spends with local black-owned businesses, and what mentoring programs or job opportunities are in place for black youths. Further, the NAACP determines how the hotel fared in its economic reciprocity initiative, a special rating system the organization applies to the lodging industry. “You can use those factors as leverage to get a better deal or decide to look elsewhere,” advises Ana Aponte, director of event planning for the NAACP.

So before planning your group’s next annual convention, don’t just make your assessment by strolling through the malls or taking stock of the city’s special events. Instead, do your homework and stir up the creative juices. You’ll be able to land more perks than you ever imagined.

Top 10 Things To Do Prior To Final Conference Negotiation

  1. Develop an organization presentation for proposed cities highlighting the historical, financial, and promotional impact of your organization’s conference on past sites. Include data indicating the full impact of the proposed conference on the proposed city.
  2. Conduct a program of city convention and visitors bureau presentations to your organization for 2 to 3 years ahead of time.
  3. Accept “FAM” (familiarization visits) expense paid invitations from prospective city convention and visitors bureaus.
  4. Conduct extensive research on prospective cities to assess their financial and local services and community support.
  5. Seek national/local sponsors for cash/in-kind underwriting for the conference.
  6. Contact airline carriers to negotiate discounted rates.
  7. Contact local municipal, county and state government officials to identify and access financial support programs.
  8. Understand that contracts are negotiable. Don’t compromise the level of quality and service you may receive.
  9. Consider small and mid-sized cities in your convention planning.
  10. Establish organization affirmative action guidelines for prospective cities.


Conference Planning Timeline

Planning Phase (month 18 — 14)

  • Conduct research on conference locations
  • Select committee members and co-chairs
  • Set objectives and tasks
  • Set meeting schedules
  • Contact visitors and convention bureaus in desired cities
  • Develop conference budget
  • Establish registration, exhibit objectives
  • Develop workshops information and speakers list
  • Develop timelines
  • Determine city, and dates for conference
  • Establish public relations/promotion objectives

Site Selection (month 13 — 10)

  • Establish specifications for hotel bids
  • Request hotel proposals
  • Receive and review hotel bids
  • Conduct site visits
  • Organize a food tasting for key members
  • Conduct site negotiations
  • Visit local city, county, and state officials
  • Meet with local convention and visitors bureau
  • Finalize hotel and venue contracts

Program Planning (month 9–8)

  • Establish criteria for selection of resource people
  • Contact resource persons
  • Send confirmation letters to resource persons
  • Inventory needs of resource persons
  • Coordinate activities with public relations/ promotion committee
  • Distribute sponsor packages
Logistics (month 8 — 7)

  • Determine airline carrier
  • Establish audio visual needs
  • Develop diagrams for meeting room(s)
  • Determine signs and banners needed
  • Arrange food and beverage
  • Arrange VIP amenities

PR/Promotion (month 8 — 7)

  • Establish program book specifications
  • Determine advertising options
  • Determine public relations release schedule
  • Select graphic design & printing vendors
  • Develop mailing schedule
  • Set-up on-line registration

Registration/Exhibitor (month 8 — 7)

  • Develop pre-registration information forms
  • Determine on-site registration strategy
  • Determine exhibit area criteria
  • Develop exhibit floor diagram
  • Determine staffing needs
  • Distribute information to exhibitors
Pre-Conference Coordination (month 6 — 1)

  • Follow-up with exhibitors
  • Coordinate sponsor needs
  • Remind registrants of travel/lodging deadline
  • Determine payment schedules
  • Finalize hotel/vendor credit authorizations
  • Receive certificates of insurance
  • Monitor room registrations
  • Finalize audio/visual
  • Determine final food/beverage guarantees
  • Monitor hotel room attrition
  • Prepare program book
  • Prepare ID tags and registration kits

On-site Event Management

  • Manage registration
  • Supervise food and beverage staff
  • Monitor hotel
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