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The resort experience.

In 1948, following World War II, The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, reopened its doors as a resort. The Dry Color Manufacturers' Association (DCMA), Alexandria, Virginia, has held its annual meeting there every June since. What brings an association to the same property year after year? For DCMA, it is the sense of community that our members find there, being a part of that community, and continuing to receive outstanding service.

Ever since the discovery of health-restoring waters in the 18th century, The Greenbrier has had a varied history. It was used as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War, housed high-level German and Japanese diplomats at the beginning of World War II, and was converted to an army hospital for the duration of that war.

Association profile. DCMA is an industry trade association representing pigment color manufacturers throughout the United States and Canada, foreign pigment manufacturers with sales in North America, and suppliers to the pigments industry. Our full-time staff of five serves approximately 50 member companies.

As part of the chemical industry, DCMA has a very active legislative and regulatory agenda. In addition to the annual meeting, we hold bimonthly full-membership meetings that include board and committee meetings. These are one-to-two-day affairs held on a rotating basis primarily in New York City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Montreal, and Toronto.

The annual meeting is designed to be very different, with a heavy emphasis on education and peer interaction rather than only association business. It's primarily for those in leadership positions-the top management from member companies. About 100 people attend, of whom 40 are spouses.

Combining work and recreation. The annual meeting has historically been scheduled as a Sunday through Wednesday program in mid-June. It is structured for business and educational sessions in the mornings; golf, tennis, and other tournaments and recreational activities in the afternoons; and group social activities in the evenings. Because the meeting begins on a Sunday, we arrange with The Greenbrier for early arrivals to check in on Saturday to take advantage of the resort's amenities over the weekend. Although the board meets Sunday morning, the official opening function is an informal barbecue and reception Sunday evening. For those who do arrive early, we organize an early-bird tennis tournament for Sunday afternoon.

Because of the many board and committee meetings throughout the year, business activities can be kept to a minimum at the annual meeting. A full educational program includes workshops, general sessions, and outside speakers. To accomplish as much as possible and still let members and spouses take advantage of The Greenbrier, meetings start as early as 7:30 a.m. and conclude by noon.

The Greenbrier offers some very formal rooms, but more valuable for us is being able to set group functions in a rustic mountain lodge, outdoor pool and patio, indoor pool area, special function rooms in the golf club, and other areas outside of the formal main hotel. We find an informal buffet and reception the first night is ideal for getting people to mix well, letting people renew acquaintances, and bringing new members together. In fact, members feel they've come home, and that makes the experience especially memorable and successful.

Unusual accommodations. The hotel offers sleeping rooms in both the main building and well-appointed cottages within short walking distance of the hotel. DCMA always takes a row of cottages and makes them the center of activity. The living rooms and front porches of two cottages serve as hospitality centers. The board of 13 holds its main meeting in the parlor of one cottage, and many participants breakfast on the front porches when a formal meal is not planned.

With group dinners the opening night and last evening, members like some free time at least one evening. On Monday, we set a two-hour reception with light hors d'oeuvres, after which attendees can make dinner plans on their own at any of Greenbrier's three restaurants.

Site criteria. For DCMA, the site is a given. The one time staff suggested we look at rotating properties, it quickly became evident that the membership viewed The Greenbrier as home. Regardless, The Greenbrier would certainly be among the top sites on our list for these reasons:

* Location. Most of the membership is in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, with direct or connecting flights relatively convenient to the Lewisburg Airport, eight miles from the property. Driving is also an option for many.

* Sports. Most participants are golfers or tennis players, and the Greenbrier's three golf courses, five indoor courts, and 15 outdoor courts offer plenty of opportunities for play. During our annual meeting, Monday and Tuesday afternoons are devoted to the golf and tennis tournaments so people can play in both.

* Recreation. The only thing this mountain resort doesn't offer is a seashore. There is a large outdoor pool and one of the most inviting indoor pools anywhere. Other diversions include the spa, bowling alleys, deck tennis, horseback riding, carriage rides, hiking, and trap and skeet shooting.

* Spouse programs. Because of the many amenities available, spouses can choose to take part in tournaments or be completely on their own without feeling dependent on the association to keep them entertained (and that's helpful for a small staff).

* Climate. The Blue Ridge Mountains in mid-June are generally warm and sunny. In the past 16 years, the golf tournament has never been rained out, although the men's tournament did have to be moved from a Monday to a Tuesday one year.

* Food and meal functions. The resort has a modified American plan, and the food is outstanding.

* Meeting facilities. A state-of-the-art conference center offers a choice of room sizes and configurations, full audiovisual services, and completely flexible meeting setup.

* Small association service. Although DCMA's meeting uses only 12 percent of the Greenbrier's sleeping rooms, we never feel ignored or lost in a sea of bigger conventions.

Staff's challenge. From staffs point of view, having our annual meeting at the same resort every year provides some significant benefits--and poses a unique problem. On the plus side, we know the property intimately. We see changes in the physical plant and services, such as the installation of a croquet court three years ago that opened up a new tournament sport for the group. More important, we know the hotel staff, and our involvement with the property makes us feel almost as much a part of that staff as of our own. Convention services personnel, waiters, room attendants, doorkeepers, bellhops, management, and even the sales staff have been with The Greenbrier for years, and in some cases decades.

The members also get to know The Greenbrier staff, and the hotel staff gets to know the members and the flavor of the group. Even association members who attend the annual meeting for the first time are impressed when people who have been there before are recognized and greeted by name when they check in, or first visit the dining room, or sign up with the golf or tennis pro.

The biggest challenge of meeting at the same location is finding ways to make the meeting fresh and innovative. DCMA does this by changing the location and mix of formal and informal social functions.

Greenbrier historian Robert S. Conte, in The History of The Greenbrier, notes that "the word resort literally means a place to which people go for rest and relaxation, a pleasant escape from the demands of daily lives. It also connotes community, a gathering spot, and unique location." That's certainly true for DCMA: We've returned every June for more than four decades to this community, of which we feel very much a part.

J. Lawrence Robinson, CAE, is executive vice president of the Dry Color Manufacturers' Association, Alexandria, Virginia.

Resort Staff Make the Difference

By Jill Kitchin

Since I've joined the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), Washington, D.C., two of our best meetings have been at resorts. The common element of success was the presence of upper management on-site. At the Kiawah Island Inn, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, the resort's director of conference services knew our program better than I did. Each time we had a room change, she was there to direct staff. By contrast, we have experienced having no resort staff anywhere in sight. In that case, our total master account exceeded $30,000, yet I never saw the general manager. I had to ask if there was a general manager. Management presence makes a big difference.

Our other best meeting was last year at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Arizona. The general manager was on his toes at all times, starting when he participated in our preconference meeting. That told me our business was important to everyone in the hotel.

Choosing a site. Initially, NOIA staff developed a group of recommended properties with input from the incoming chair and other board members.

The number of committee sessions during our meetings makes breakout space a major factor in recommending a property to the board. Golf and tennis facilities on the property, group rate, and available dates are the next most weighted factors. We build a matrix for three properties looking at these and other factors such as accessibility by air, distance from airport, and possible spouse programs. The board has been known to choose a property not on. the list, and the process can be unpredictable for NOIA staff. However, resort properties are the more frequent choice.

Full schedule. Resort meetings begin on a Thursday with an early-morning golf tournament and late-morning tennis tournament. As an alternative to golf and tennis, we offer a half-day tour to give attendees a flavor of the area. In Tucson, for example, the tour went to the gallery and mission established by the late artist Ted DeGrazia and later took a tram ride through Sabino Canyon. Many couples play in the tournaments as well as take the half-day tour. Two or three committees meet in the afternoon, and a dinner, usually with a speaker, completes Thursday's program.

Friday is a full day of back-to-back committee meetings for attendees, and the spouse program runs off-site from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. In Tucson, the spouses toured Tubac, an artists' community south of Tucson; lunched at the Tubac Country Club; and on the return to Tucson, toured the San Xavier mission.

At Ventana Canyon, after that hectic Friday, we had planned a southwestern buffet on the resort's back terraces. When temperatures proved too cool to be outdoors that evening, we switched the dinner to the ballroom. The Loews staff made the change smoothly and did an excellent job decorating with sombreros, serapes, and pinatas to create a festive southwestern atmosphere.

The board of directors meets right after breakfast Saturday. This is a general session with an outside speaker and is open to members and spouses. Often afterwards a panel of members representing a segment of the ocean industries discusses an industry-related topic. The meeting generally adjourns about noon.

Resort advantages. The average attendance of our meetings is 200, including spouses. Generally, the members represent the senior executive level of NOIA member companies. Few children attend our meetings, but many members stay a few extra days at either end of the meeting.

Although many of our past meetings have been in resort areas, we haven't always used the facilities to our fullest advantage. The meeting schedule has been fairly aggressive, often running through lunch on Saturday with speakers at all meal functions. At Ventana Canyon, in response to member feedback, we began to loosen that schedule up and allow for more-relaxed gatherings, such as themed dinners. The reaction from members has been favorable and attendance seems to remain constant throughout the meeting's agenda.

Because the ambiance of resorts is relaxed, they offer a variety of locations for themed functions. If the function site is not close by the main facility, the property usually provides transportation. It's great to be able to offer attendees a change from another ballroom with minimum effort by association staff. Outdoor venues are especially nice, when weather permits. Resort staffs also seem to be more creative and less rigid about what can be done on the property. Certainly at Loews, where every time I turned around I found the general manager, events were fun and easy to plan.

Jill Kitchin is conference coordinator for the National Ocean Industries Association, Washington, D.C.

Counting on Service

By Ernest C. Cerino, Jr.

This month marks our 49th consecutive year at Marriott's Seaview Resort in Absecon, New Jersey. A decisive factor for the New Jersey Utilities Association (NJUA), Trenton, in selecting Seaview for the annual meeting year after year is the staffs knowledge of returning participants' likes and dislikes. Several members of Seaview's staff have worked with our annual meeting for more than 35 years.

The association. NJUA is the only trade association in the country that has electric, natural gas, telecommunication, and water utilities as its members. The three-day annual meeting unites some 300 people, including 20 board members, 13 standing committee chairs, core officers of member companies, and a diverse group of utility company representatives. Despite our diversity, member companies share a common goal: to enhance their ability to deliver high-quality services to customers.

Planning. Planning for the annual meeting begins in January. our choice of Marriott's Seaview Resort for 49 years is based in part on tradition but primarily on the superior quality of conference services and professional staff.

The resort's management and staff work in departmental teams coordinated through the director of sales and general manager. These teams work closely with NJUA's three staffers for several months preceding the annual meeting. In the initial months, we block out rooms and suites, establish budgets, and develop and mail customized registration materials. Association staff set the numerous meeting formats and times, coordinating registration, program, and dining activities.

When the association staff arrives at the resort, we have a final preconference meeting with Seaview's department heads. We review each department's responsibility to ensure each day's specific program and dining requirements are met.

Resort attractions--and golf. Marriott's Seaview Resort is easily accessible from all parts of New Jersey and an hour's drive from New York City and Philadelphia, which keeps our members' travel costs down. Seaview's location is free from distraction; the classic resort setting helps unburden attendees so they can get down to their business of decision making and planning. Seaview is also minutes from Atlantic City's entertainment. The resort has a five-star restaurant, but it is even more popular for golf. Seaview is home to two championship golf courses that easily help attract many NJUA attendees. The resort's well-known bay and pines courses challenge both high- and low-handicap golfers.

Member feedback. NJUA annual meeting participants rate the three days at Marriott's Seaview Resort very productive. Many members return throughout the year to hold individual company workshops, seminars, and meetings. Seaview offers executives space for intensive sessions and time to get away and think. The resort's tradition of service excellence and flexible meeting arrangements is key for us, and NJUA is certain to keep coming back to Seaview for our annual meeting.

Ernest C. Cerino, Jr., is the associate director of the New Jersey Utilities Association, Trenton, and co-author of a recently published book on public budgeting and financial management.

The Right Space and the Righ Time

By Patricia Couhig

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Warrendale, Pennsylvania, has held the Noise & Vibration Conference & Exposition biennially since it began as a small workshop in 1974. We set each of the last four events at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City, Michigan.

As the name suggests, the attendees at this conference are all specialists in vehicle noise and vibration control. They talk about the latest developments in materials to reduce the noise and/or vibration within a vehicle (car, truck, airplane, railroad car), instruments more precise and reliable than last year's model, design changes to engines, engine components, measurement techniques, and so forth.

Meeting needs. Why the resort, and why Traverse City? A conference resort is built to serve meetings, and that's an attractive frame for our conference picture. This meeting started at a Chicagoarea resort and in 1985 moved to Traverse City, where larger facilities were within driving distance of Detroit, home to nearly 70 percent of the attendees.

The conference is now a moderate-size meeting with more than 600 specialists at the May 1991 event.

This year we selected the Grand Traverse Resort again because of the size and quality of its facilities, accessibility for the majority of the meeting attendees. and financial considerations.

Negotiating. Staff identified our specific needs as two large general session rooms; an exhibit hall for up to 40 8-foot by 10-foot booths; at least three individual seminar rooms each day; and another room for our seated luncheon on one day. This booked up a good deal of Traverse's meeting space, and the resort negotiated for additional revenue from another SAE activity to offset a potential loss in meeting room rental fees. We agreed to run a golf tournament on Monday, which required additional sleeping rooms for Sunday evening and involved a dinner for the golfers.

Flexibility on the part of resort staff was also critical to the conference's success. A few months before the conference, one of our planning groups told us that space for 10 tabletop displays would be needed. We hadn't anticipated that, yet we were able to satisfy the request through some rearrangements with the resort.

Meet off-season. This conference is held off-season, which is good for the budget but means it's a given the weather may not be totally favorable. However, since the attendees are in meeting rooms all day, weather is not an issue. In fact, since the automotive industry is not in the best economic condition, supervisors are less likely to approve travel to a location that could be construed as frivolous. This conference has earned support from supervisors because they know it's an intensive work time; there is little free time before 6 p.m. for socializing.

Be sure the fit is right. We find resorts operate at a slower pace than hotels. Service is usually good but sometimes not as rapid as might be expected. Here are a few situations to ask about:

* Can they accommodate your last-minute audiovisual changes right away? Do they have extra lamps for slide projectors? What happens if designated hotel staff is on break and can't be found to move some tables around?

* If the resort's photocopier doesn't work and there is no nearby print shop, the copies someone wants to hand out now probably won't be made on time. Prepare a default plan.

* Will the restaurants and shops near or in the resort be open if you meet offseason? If only one small restaurant is open to serve breakfast to your 500 people between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., make other catering arrangements in advance.

Balance out those and the specific answers to your meeting requirements to determine if a resort is for you.

Patricia Couhig is specialty conference administrator for the Society of Automotive Engineers, Warrendale, Pennsylvania.
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Title Annotation:choosing the right resort for business conferences
Author:Couhig, Patricia
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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