Association Meetings and Keeping Your Sanity in an Environment of Extremes

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Association Meetings and Keeping Your Sanity in an Environment of Extremes

By Molly Marsh | Jul 15, 2022

Planning an association meeting with international attendees? Get the communications out early, because visa applications that used to take maybe a week are taking MONTHS according to Trudy Singh with NYC & Company. This is just one example of the extremes that meeting professionals face throughout the industry as we continue to recover from the global pandemic – and one of the reasons that the MPI Association Professionals Community hosted a Hot Topic chat to explore just these kinds of challenges.

On one hand, it’s great that the demand has returned for in-person meetings and events. As association professionals we are ready to bring memberships back together for the community-building that is the vitality of associations and that can only be done when we meet face to face. At the same time, the demand for association meetings is ramping up much more quickly than some sectors of the hospitality industry, leaving meeting organizers stuck between energized attendees with high expectations and venues or destinations still struggling with workforce shortages and supply-chain issues. And still, COVID is unpredictable. Registration patterns and historical data are out the window as attendees, planners, speakers, members, and leadership continue to navigate constant change.

Through discussion not only among association professional peers, but also with destination marketing organization partners like Trudy and Jay Cloutier with Discover Albany, the group explored some interesting issues and challenges, and shared great suggestions to keep things moving in this very challenging environment:

  • Rely on your CVB and DMO partners! They know their destinations inside and out, and they know what challenges are being faced right now. Sitting down in advance of meetings to talk with them about what is open in the city, what transportation or infrastructure may still be in recovery mode, and other atypical challenges can help educate us as planners about what to expect – and set appropriate expectations with our volunteer leadership and attendees.
  • Watch for unexpected changes in contracts or service agreements: things like “service on request” may pop up now, indicating meeting/guest rooms may only be refreshed if requested. If your groups rely on this kind of service with the hotel or venue, clear and up front communication about what your service needs are is likely needed now, when it might have been assumed previously.
  • Relational Contracting is the name of the game: it’s always been a relationship business, but especially right now treating negotiation or contracting as a battle is a losing proposition. No matter what, all sides are likely conceding something, so be open, lay your cards on the table, and ask for what you need. All parties will benefit in the end!

Perhaps most importantly, the daily challenges of this work can drain us as meeting professionals and the group spent some time talking about ways to build resilience and take care of wellbeing through the stress. Many folks shared success stories of the pandemic years giving them a chance to find better balance and really practice “unplugging,” so they don’t work 24/7.

The last few years also reminded everyone how lucky we are to be in the industry we’re in, traveling and experiencing new and different places. One that I am taking away for sure – I’m going to try and stay an extra day after an upcoming meeting and really soak in being in a new place. We need that energy now more than ever!



Molly Marsh
Molly Marsh

Molly Marsh has over 13 years of experience in association management, conferences, education and program development, and is a founding member of the MPI Association Planners Advisory Board. In her current capacity as AMR’s director of education and engagement design, she is responsible for innovating new approaches to conference education through design principles, adult learning, new technologies and engagement strategies. Her passion is rooted in designing educational experiences and organizational systems that elevate the professionalism of association members who strive to be the best at what they do!