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What Would You Do?

By: Gloria Kermeen | Apr 1, 2019

I’m an association planner, and like many other associations, our bottom line depends largely on our annual conference. One bad conference year, and we tighten all the belts. One bad conference experience, and some of our attendees think twice about coming back.

And so, the year our attendees walked into major construction at a hotel we were familiar with, we were not surprised when the complaints came rolling in. Our attendees checked in at the front desk, but it shut down during the conference and they were sent to check out at a makeshift desk in one of the meeting rooms we were to use as a breakout. Other breakout rooms were tight because we had to give up that room for their “front desk.” There were backhoes, cranes, and jackhammers all working overtime during our meeting. Restaurants shut down. Our people walked long distances to circumvent the construction.

In addition to construction, the property was taken over by a major hotel chain. Long-time employees were let go, and our salesperson did not survive the cut. Neither did our convention services manager, with whom I had worked on two previous conferences. I was given a new CSM just a few weeks before the conference began. She did a fine job, but it was a shock to my system, as I had a great relationship with the former CSM, who knew instinctively what we needed.

We survived the conference and actually had a healthy bottom line that year, as I was not about to let so many inconveniences go without major financial concessions. But, registration numbers fell the next year (they have since rebounded and we’re experiencing growth).

Fast forward several years: Construction (and job-destruction) dust has settled. The renovated property is beautiful. They want to bring us back. They want to “make up for the issues we encountered.” They make offers that any planner would be foolish to pass up. Dream concessions, dream rates, significant food and beverage discounts, you name it.

We don’t hold grudges long, and the offer was so good that this property ended up being one of two finalists for a future conference. The other hotel was an independent property owned by a gentleman who makes philanthropy a priority. His community involvement has made such an impact that schools who previously had dismal graduation rates are now sending students proudly off to college, often at this philanthropist’s expense. Grateful for his rise from a meager upbringing, he knows the value and importance of sharing his wealth with those who are less fortunate.

The proposal from his property was not as attractive as the other finalist. The location of his property is not as attractive as the other finalist. The property itself is not as attractive, although it is a perfectly lovely place and well-suited for convention business.

Now, consider that the association I represent is comprised of individuals who work in a fundraising capacity for charities across the country. Philanthropy is in their blood – it is their livelihood.

What would you do?

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