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Members sustain association meetings.

Association members like to get together ... at meetings, at trade shows, at receptions. It's a way of doing business that in boom times may be a privilege of association but in tough times becomes a necessity. During a recession, association executives quite naturally turn to each other for solutions, empathy, and networking, and what better place to make those crucial connections than at association meetings.

So we are only just slightly surprised at the strength of the association meeting industry during the past two years. The findings of Association Meeting Trends 1992, the survey of a sample of ASAE members conducted by Readex, Inc., St. Paul, Minnesota (see sidebar, "How the Survey Was Conducted"), indicate that association members have maintained their use of the meetings forum to conduct business. In the years 1990 and 1991 the number of association meetings (conventions, educational seminars, and board and committee meetings) increased since 1988 and 1989. (For ease of citation in the remainder of this article, the 1990-1991 data and the 1988-1989 data are referred to as 1991 and 1989 data, respectively.)

Here's what the Association Meeting Trends 1992 results indicate: *The average number of meetings (conventions, educational seminars, and board and committee meetings) held by associations actually went up in 1991, rising from 13.9 held by the average association in 1989 to 16.7 in 1991. * Total delegate attendance at all meetings (based on averages) also went up, from 35.7 million in 1989 to 37.5 million in 1991. * Total room nights went up correspondingly, from 29.3 million in 1989 to 34.6 million in 1991.

Snapshots of the meetings industry are captured by a variety of surveys, each offering a distinct perspective. One such picture is provided by the "1992 Meetings Market Report." This survey was conducted by Market Probe International, Inc., Secaucus, New Jersey, for Meetings & Conventions/Reed Travel Group and published in the March 1992 issue of Meetings & Conventions. M&C reports expenditures of the meetings industry to be $38.7 billion, of which 68 percent is attributed to association meetings.

Just as described in "The Lion's Share of Meetings Business" in the February 1989 issue of Association Management, association meetings continue to dominate the meetings industry. The data reported here shed light on the many dimensions of that trend.


The number of association membership-wide conventions increased by 4 percent from 1989 to 1991, from an average of 1.3 per year to an average of 1.35 a year. And 83 percent of the respondents indicated that their associations held conventions or annual meetings in 1990-1991. About one fourth (27 percent) of the respondents indicated they held four or more conventions each year, a slightly higher figure than in the previous survey. Associations represented by ASAE members held a total of 12,428 conventions in 1991.

If association meetings were up in 1991, why did we keep hearing that the meetings industry was soft? M&C's "1992 Meetings Market Report" indicated that the number of corporate meetings had declined since last year. What other studies don't measure is attendance by members at association meetings. Only ASAE makes this distinction with its data.

Attendance by members increased 10 percent in 1991 to an average of 813, up from 736 in 1989. Nonmember attendance (exhibitors, prospects, guests, spouses, and others) fell by 32 percent, resulting in an overall 10 percent drop in convention attendance - from an average of 1,428 in 1989 to 1,282 in 1991. This drop was also reflected in the number of room nights required, which slipped from an average of 1,865 in 1989 to an average of 1,617 in 1991.

The trouble with using averages to describe a point in time is they often don't reflect the volatility of the times. As my college professor liked to point out, if a man is standing with one foot in it bucket of extremely hot water and the other in ice water, his average surface skin temperature would register as comfortable. It's easy to see the folly of assuming the average to be the midpoint of two extremes. Respondents to the ASAE survey showed how the recession affected attendance at their largest 1990-1991 convention: * 39 percent indicated an increase in total convention attendance; * 36 percent said there was no real change; * 19 percent reported drops (mostly from 1 to 10 percent) in total attendance; and * 6 percent chose not to answer.

Expositions and trade shows

Other surveys by ASAE (e.g., Association Operating Ratio Report, eighth edition, 1989) show how, in general, associations break even on their educational offerings, and in many instances use the proceeds of their expositions and trade shows to subsidize programs and activities that aren't self-funding. The percentage of ASAE members' associations holding expositions and trade shows grew another 4 percent in 1991; 47 percent are now hosting them.

On average, each held 1.5 shows, up from 1 in 1989. The shows are almost always in conjunction with a convention and on average last 2.5 days. For those holding expositions, 84 percent contract with a company for decorating and freight services.

Educational seminars

The Value of Associations to American Society, the 1990 Hudson Institute, Indianapolis, study conducted for ASAE, underscored that education is at the core of 90 percent of all associations' missions. Association Meeting Trends 1992 confirms that point with ASAE member associations holding an average of 21.9 educational seminars during the survey period, up 42 percent from the 1989 survey number of 15.4.

Spring and fall were the most popular seasons for seminars, with the South Atlantic region (which includes Washington, D.C.) edging out East, North, Central, and Pacific regions as the most popular of the nine regions.

City hotels were again the most popular facilities, with 64 percent of the respondents selecting hotels for their seminars, followed by 41 percent using suburban hotels, 28 percent airport hotels, and 28 percent conference centers (multiple answers were permitted).

Attendance by members at educational seminars averaged 89.8 in 1991, up 7 percent from 83.9 in 1989, again reflecting the willingness of members to attend meetings. Nonmember attendance fell 34 percent from 21.6 in 1989 to 16.1 in 1991. The registration fee for most seminars in 1990-1991 averaged $110.

Room nights required by seminars leaped 77 percent from 74.7 in 1989 to 132.2 in 1991.

Leadership meetings

Not surprisingly, almost all (94 percent) of ASAE members' associations have boards and executive committees. Survey respondents reported holding on average 4.4 board and executive committee meetings per year in 1991 compared to 4.9 in 1989. The most common locations for those meetings were city hotels (56 percent) and resorts (33 percent).

Board and executive committee meetings usually begin mid-week and on average last one to two days, are attended by 31.7 people, and require five room nights.

International meetings

The propensity to meet outside the United States is increasing. Thirteen percent of the respondents, compared to 10 percent in the last survey, indicated they have held a convention outside of the United States in the last two years. Of those, most went to Canada (53 percent), although 25 percent went to the Caribbean. European conventions fell from 38 percent in 1989 to 19 percent in 1991, presumably because of tensions from the Gulf War.

Eleven percent of the respondents indicated they have held an educational seminar outside the United States, again with Canada being the most popular site (59 percent), followed by Europe (24 percent).

Meetings matter

Despite the recession, meeting attendance by association members held strong while nonmember attendance fell. Perhaps this reflects better communication by associations to their members on the value of their meetings. Perhaps the very act of joining an association demonstrates an understanding of the value of the synergism of group dynamics. Perhaps associations are succeeding in conducting meetings that provide the right mix of information and opportunity for their members.

Whatever the explanation, association members saw a reason to attend their association meetings, which accounted for rises in the average income realized by associations and the number of room nights devoted to conventions and seminars. Meetings have historically been among the top three nondues revenue producers, according to ASAE's Association Operating Ratio Report, and it is safe to assume they will continue as such.

When asked about the number of conventions anticipated for 1992, 1993, and 1994, respondents reported that they are on average planning four conventions over the next three years. A little more than one fourth (27 percent) indicated they are planning an average of two or more conventions in each of the next three years.

The evidence mounts: Nothing improves the exchange of information better than a face-to-face meeting.

Convention Patterns and Practices at a Glance

For ASAE members whose associations held conventions during 1990-1991 * The South Atlantic and Pacific states were the most popular locations. * City hotels (61 percent), resorts (38 percent), and convention centers (25 percent) were the most popular facility types. (Percentages total more than 100 because multiple answers were allowed.) * Forty-five percent named an official air carrier for at least one convention, booking an average of 242 tickets. * Twenty-one percent named an official rental car agency, reserving an average of 45 cars. * Twenty-six percent sponsored a tour before or after their conventions. * Fifty-seven percent offered programs for guests, spouses, and/or children.

Respondents estimate the typical attendee spent about $166 per day at their conventions, including hotel, meals, tips, and personal items.

Respondents were asked to describe their largest convention held in 1990-1991, and they provided this picture: * Most began on either Wednesday (23 percent), Thursday (22 percent), or Sunday (20 percent). * The typical convention lasted three days, with 13 percent lasting five days or more. * Attendance by members averaged 813 and by nonmembers, 469, for a total average attendance of 1,282. * On average, each convention required 1,617 room nights. * Fifty-nine percent employed professional speakers or celebrities for their general sessions, paying an average of $3,025 for each. * On average each association spent $98,100 an site for this convention, including items such as hall rental, entertainment, security, food and beverage, and hotel rooms for VIPs. * The typical registration fee for regular members was $179, which included three meal or hors d'oeuvre receptions. Source: Associations Meetings Trends 1992, American Society of Association Executives, Washington, D.C.


Patterns and

Practices at a


For those ASAE members whose associations held educational seminars during 1990-1991 * Most began mid-week: 20 percent on Thursday, 19 percent on Wednesday, 18 percent on Tuesday. * The typical seminar lasted 1.6 days, with only 5 percent lasting four or more days. * Typical member attendance was 89.8, with an additional 16.1 nonmembers, for total average attendance of 105.9. * Forty-four percent employed professional speakers or celebrities for this typical seminar, paying an average of $1,175 for each. Source: Association Meeting Trends 1992, American Society of Association Executives, Washington, D.C.
Number, Annual Attendance, and
Annual Room Nights
 Total no. of
 Average Total no. of room nights
Type of no. per delegates used per
meeting year per year(*) year(*)
Convention 1.35 15,932,824 20,096,238
Educational seminar 10.95 20,362,751 13,326,514
Board and
executive committee 4.4 1,284,053 1,223,293
Total 1992: 16.7 37,579,628 34,646,045
Total 1990: 13.9 35,750,351 29,383,991
Total 1989: 19.4 31,348,579 28,017,288
* Based on 8,000 associations represented by ASAE members for the 1989
study; 9,300 associations for the 1990 study; and 9,206 associations for the
1992 study.
Source: Association Meeting Trends 1989 [1986-1988 data], Association
Meeting Trends 1990 [1988-1989 data], and Association Meeting Trends
1992 [1990-1991 data], published by the American Society of Association
Executives, Washington, D.C.

How the Survey

Was Conducted

The ASAE Meetings Trends Survey is conducted every two years. The survey sample of 650 associations was systematically from ASAE's 9,206 U.S. associations represented by the 20,406 individual members of ASAE.

The survey was designed by both ASAE and Readex, Inc., a research firm in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was mailed to members in February 1992. A 50 percent response rate was achieved in line with accepted standards for representative survey response. Maximum sampling error for percentages based on 325 responses is [+ or -] 5.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

The full survey, Association Meeting Trends 1992, will be available in August., To order, send $35 (member) or $60 (nonmember) plus $5.25 shipping and handling to ASAE Publications, 1575 Eye St., N.W., Washington, DC 20005-1168.

Tom Gorski is ASAE vice president of public relations and market research.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related articles; association meeting industry does well in recession
Author:Gorski, Tom
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:The advertising edge.
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