Royalty among meeting planners in town for annual bash
By Paola Iuspa
Thousands of convention and meeting planners will stroll the streets of Miami Beach and enjoy the downtown Miami skyline this weekend as they attend the Professional Convention Management Association's annual meeting.
William Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said many of the industry delegates coming to town are the ones who decide where conventions, meetings and expositions are held.
"This is the royalty of meeting planners," Mr. Talbert said.
About 3,000 participants are expected for the four-day convention Jan. 12-15 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Representatives from the National Education Association and JW Marriott in Washington, DC; the March of Dimes in New York, and the American College of Surgeons in Chicago are among the many who will hear speakers, receive hands-on computer training and learn about new technology available to run conventions, say meeting organizers.
"We are going because we are trying to learn how to be in the cutting age of conference planning," said Stephen M. Rosman, who co-founded with Marilyn R. Natchez a firm called My Conference Planners in Michigan. She said the 8-month-old company organizes annual genealogical conventions.
"People in the genealogy industry may be good companies but they don't know how to run a conference," he said. "That's why we got into this business."
Mr. Rosman said he decided to hold the 2004 genealogy annual meeting in Miami Beach after realizing the Professional Convention Management Association, a Chicago-based group, was going to be here.
"Because of the conference we focused on Miami as the site for the 2004 convention," he said. "I will go down there two days before to inspect the convention center."
The Loews Miami Beach and the Fontainebleau Hilton hotels will be the Professional Convention Management Association's headquarters and sites for some social events related to the meeting.
Other events underwritten by sponsors such as Royal Caribbean International, American Airlines and the Doral Golf Resort & Spa will be staged in Bayfront Park and in the Beach.
For many delegates, said Stuart Blumberg, president and CEO of Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association, this will be a chance to see Miami after its many changes and maybe add it to their preferred destination list.
"Many of them have not been to Miami since the last time the PCMA was here," he said. He said the group last met in Miami in 1965.
Mr. Blumberg, chairman of a local host committee, said the city is ready to look and act its best.
"We have been coordinating this event for about a year," he said. "We made arrangements with elected officials, the police. We put together a transportation system to pick them up from the hotels and the airport. We worked with the shuttle, taxi and bus industries. It took a lot of detail coordination."
Being able to secure Miami for the 45th annual Professional Convention Management Association convention was not easy, say bureau officials, who started bidding for the job in 1995 and got the green light in 1997.
Mr. Talbert said playing host to the event would help many planners who were thinking about Miami as a convention site make up their minds.
"Those who never thought of Miami now may give it a thought," he said.
Mr. Talbert, citing a National Spending Standard report, said the convention will have a $2.8 million impact on the local economy.
Meeting managers and members of the Professional Convention Management Association book more than 300,000 meetings a year, a bureau report says.
Direct spending on meetings, conventions, expositions and incentive travel by the organization's members exceeds $100 billion, said a report from the Convention Liaison Council's Economic Impact Study in 1995, the last year for which the council has figures.
According to a 2000 Meeting Market Survey, 31% of all small association parleys are committee meetings, followed by seminars at 30%. Also, the survey found, 46.1% are held in downtown hotels, 16.2% at resorts and 15% in suburban hotels, while 14.8% use airport hotels and 7.9% use conference centers.