The Annual Meeting Needs...

In combing through the 2012 evaluations, the Meeting Model Subgroup of the Annual Meeting Task Force found that you, the membership, consider the following features essential for a positive experience at the meeting site.

  1. 1.  Availability of quick lunch and snack options nearby

 

                                       2.   Hotels available nearby at multiple price points

3.  Wifi available, whether free or available for purchase

4.  Location is a travel hub:  attendees may choose from multiple transportation modes (air, bus, train, car)

 

While we prepare our report to SAA Council, we would greatly appreciate your opinions on these four points.

 

  • What are the most important of the four listed?
  • Do you agree that these are the four most important features?
  • If not, what other features should we consider?
  • Would you prefer a shorter meeting?
  • Would you prefer a longer meeting?

Your input is appreciated and we look forward to the conversation!

The AMTF Meeting Model Subcommittee is the group charged with reviewing the rationale behind the current meeting model (conference events centered at one hotel) and coming up with different model options for future meetings. NOTE:  A different group is charged with looking at meeting content.

 

Methodology

This summer our members surveyed a small number of organizations about how they run their own associational meetings.  Questions included: number of attendees, location of meeting, recent change in meeting model and why, etc.  The surveys provided good ideas for our group to consider.

We also reviewed what your feedback from SAA 2012 San Diego meeting evaluations along with the comments you contributed to the white paper at the AMTF table (the one near the registration desk).

 

Please contact any member of our subcommittee, or leave a comment on this blog post.

 

Ardys Kozbial

Berlin Loa

Christie Peterson

Lynn Eaton (sub-committee chair)

Shari Christy

Stev1084a says:
Ranking order

 

In order of importance:

 

  1. Hotels with different price points
  2. Reasonable places nearby for meals
  3. Transportation hub
  4. wifi

 

Hotels and transportation take up a lot of expense. The idea mentioned of a convention center with a shuttle back and forth to the hotel(s) or short walking distance is an option worth exploring.  This may open up site locations not seriously considered because of the expense.   

 

I did not go the San Diego and read on the blog that one of the issues was that the hotel was far from downtown.  A preference for many members would probably be able to walk out the front door of the hotel to local restaurants / events as in Chicago.  Local transportation was right around the corner, a great location. This may conflict with my comment about having a convention center and hotels with different price points. It would be great if some locals gathered up a group of members to take them to their favorite restaurant.  Thanks to the Sub Group of the Annual Task Force for addressing these issues.   

 

pleather says:
Ranking...

If I had to rank these four points, it would be:

1) Hotels available at various price points

2) Travel hub

3) Food options

4) Wifi

Of more importance to me than either food options or availabilty of Wifi is the cultural factor / attractions available at the destination - not to mention the conference theme and sessions being offered. Yes, we go to a conference to learn, but we all have free time at the conference, so there has to be a good mixture of culture in the city. The sessions being offered at the conference and the host city as a destination itself are factors I consider when deciding whether or not to attend the annual meeting. 

tgchute says:
Just a comment on time of

Just a comment on time of year.  From the point of view of a parent, mid to late August is difficult with school starting.  If we keep to August, I'd love it if we could consider the first 2 weeks.  That helps with C&U archivists as well.

marqu897 says:
early to mid-August is actually where we're heading!

I just looked at the dates for the past decade of meetings dates.  You might be surprised to see that most of them are in early-to-mid August.  You should see almost all of our future dates in that time frame, too:

 

August 10, 2014 - August 16, 2014

August 11, 2013 - August 17, 2013

August 6, 2012 - August 11, 2012

August 22, 2011 - August 27, 2011

August 10, 2010 - August 15, 2010

August 11-16, 2009

August 26–30, 2008

August 26 - September 2, 2007

July 31 - August 5, 2006

August 14 - 21, 2005

 August 2–8, 2004

-- Kathy Marquis, Annual Meeting Task Force co-chair

 

 

nbeaumont says:
In preparation for a Council

In preparation for a Council discussion item at its January 23-26 meeting, I've been working with our logistics team to identify a variety of possible venues in the West and Midwest that would allow us to meet in a "second-tier" city using a convention center and several hotels with different price points. Our most urgent need is to consider venues for 2015. On Monday, December 17, we will be issuing an RFP to (in alphabetical order by region): Anaheim/Orange County, Denver, Long Beach, Portland, and Seattle in the West and Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis in the Midwest. The region that isn't scheduled for 2015 will be scheduled for 2016. Proposals are due by January 15 so that we have some data to discuss with the Council.  Please note that each of these destinations has been suggested by one or more members and we're *always* interested in hearing other ideas -- from members!  The cities that we've identified thus far are by no means the only options....  If you'd like to contact me with a suggestion, respond via this medium, call me at 866-722-7858, or send an email to nbeaumont@archivists.org.

And by the way: The RFP requires proposers to address a variety of "Special Considerations" in addition to the standard information about sleeping rooms and meeting space, including social responsibility (and particularly fair labor practices), green initiatives, accessibility, cultural diversity, non-discrimination/equal employment opportunity, attendee safety, and affordability of the local area (particularly access to good and inexpensive food).

We welcome the opportunity to take new approaches to the Annual Meeting -- and we welcome your input!

Nancy Beaumont, SAA Executive Director

terryx says:
  In order of importance: 1.

 

In order of importance:

1. Multiple price points for lodging

2. transportation hub

3. wifi

4. snacks and stuff

 

The first is the most necessary by a wide margin. A consideration of something other than the “everything in one location model”  certainly opens up the meeting to a number of other cities (like the beautiful PNW jewel, Portland).  I’d also like to see the availability of low cost university housing with shuttle service made available. A number of regionals and other larger organizations have used this to provide very low cost (ie <$50 a night lodging). This would significantly reduce total costs, even with increased registration costs due to use of a convention center. 

 

D'Ent2918 says:
Hotel & Hub

A variety of hotel price points and transportation hub rank well above the other two for me.  And if you are near a transportation hub, there will probably be snacks and Starbucks/public library with free WiFi nearby.  We need to admit that we have outgrown the "everything has to be in one location" model.  This really limits the number of cities we can use, and those cities tend to be expensive.  Whether the new model is a convention center, multiple hotels, or something else, it will be helpful to have more cities to choose from.  It will allow for more venues that are cheaper and a greater variety of people being able to attend over several years because the meeting is more likely to be in close proximity.  As an added bonus, attendees will get to explore cities they may never thought of visiting.  We had a great time in Scranton, PA, despite all the jokes people make about it, when MARAC was there.  That city had a lot of unexpected gems.

I understand a previous poster's preference for October.  However, for those of us living in the Northeast, it seems that every single event under the sun is held in either October or May (don't know why people who live in snow country are so afraid of it).  It will be difficult to get away during those two months, and prices in the Northeast are very high.  No matter what time of year is chosen, it will be hard for some people, but August has the benefit of not conflicting with regional archives meetings or the Jewish holidays.

vagtsrac says:
Hidden gems

I agree with you about finding hidden gems.  I wonder if one possibility would be to have local groups initiate the site selection process--put in a bid, if you will.  They would be the ones that might know about places like Scranton that would meet our needs that might not be a conventional choice.

We would still have to work with our site selection and logistics teams, but perhaps there could be a process for groups of archivists to make nominations with some supporting information to expand the process and make it more open to the membership.

Rachel Vagts

(I am a member of the AMTF, but offer this opinion as an individual rather than as a member of the task force.)

jallibunn says:
You're closing in on it...

Yes, these are four very important points. I'd arange them in the following order of importance:

1. Multiple cost-level hotel options available

2. Travel hub

3. Availability of meals/snacks nearby--also if possible some type of grocery

4. Wifi available, included in meeting fee

The meeting length is good--core activities are Thurs-Sat with lots of other things hitched on both ends.

But let's not forget about meeting timing: Please move it (back) to October. Having it in August is disruptive to family life and makes me less likely to attend unless 1. I have to and 2. It's in a non-gross location (e.g. in Denver or San Francisco rather than Chicago, DC, New York or other sweaty locales)

Gallo6585 says:
scheduling

Shorter meeting, earlier in August. Otherwise, convenient, affordable are good. But from the responses I wonder if you have any control over my own personal worst nightmare: the scheduling, which seems to have the goal of scheduling opposite one another all the sessions about the same topic--and way too many of them!

guariche says:
Convention model, travel hub, virtual conference options...

These are all great ideas that have came up in this discussion already. I think exploring other travel hub for new conference options may open new places that most of us have never thought about visiting. Other good ideas so far is recondering the timing of the meeting too. I can't attend anymore meetings in late August or I have to shorten my stay. But the whole idea of re-thinking the hotel/conference model is the best idea so far that have come from this discussion. I really don't want a repeat with the labor union issue in Chicago two conferences ago and you can avoid that by finding a good convention center and allowing archivists to pick their own hotel.

I can't wait to hear about virtual conference options, so I will wait to hear from that committee. But, I am glad that it is recognize that this is an alternative for some of us that may have to choose not to attend the conference because of funding. I know ALA has been doing a virtual conference parallel with their Summer Conference for the last 3-4 years. Here is the program of the 2011 ALA virtual conference, http://www.learningtimes.net/ala11/program/

Also, although San Diego was a beutiful location, the hotel was so far from the downtown area and the food choices so limited that it really detract from the experience. Affordability is key for more archivists to attend SAA. Travel funding is getting smaller and smaller and I am not sure how long I can afford attending SAA. These are all tough decisions but I think the fact we are talking about this and brainstorming for new ideas to tackle this challenge make me very hopeful of the future.

 

Thanks,
Marisol Ramos
elawrimo says:
San Diego & Meeting Model

My biggest issue with the hotel in San Diego was a lack of a quick place to grab a bite to eat (for all meals). Not only were the hotel eateries overpriced (as they usually are), but most were sit-down restaurants. And when 1000+ people need to eat in a one-hour time span (or less), it's just not going to work.

I would also love to see us basically axe the notion that the meeting location has to have "cultural resources." This is my biggest issue with Nancy's article in AO a few years ago. Apparently Atlanta - a travel hub - isn't "cultural" enough, but San Diego is? It's such a subjective criteria...

jordon says:
Re: cost of hotel rooms

On the topic of the cost of lodging, I've found Air BnB to be a good option for finding affordable lodging in cities. https://www.airbnb.com/ Since these are places owned by regular people, they have no idea a conference is going on and so they don't jack up the rates.  In San Diego one could have rented a house boat for 50 bucks a night--ahoy, matey!

shepa2641 says:
Annual Meeting

To me, when deciding on whether I can attend a given annual meeting the location and the cost are the two main factors.  I have a limited budget given to me by my employer for conferences each year.  The cost of the hotels, transportation, and the conference fee itself can all be too expensive.  I would like to hear more about the convention center model with perhaps several local hotels nearby having discounted rates for attendees.  You did not list the conference fee in your top four but I would add that over the wi fi.  

jordon says:
Location, location, location

A major transit hub is key since this keeps the cost down. Generally if it's a major hub all of the other choices mentioned fall into place--i.e. it's unlikely that a major transit hub wouldn't have nice restaurants, lots of hotels, and wifi. I know this limits us to maybe 10 or so cities in the country but I want to go to a conference to learn, not tour. If I want to go to Martha's Vineyard, I'll take a vacation.

tiffanyarchives says:
Less Expensive Cities

For me the most important thing is the price of the hotel. Our model of meeting needs to be different.  It isn't just about the cost of the hotel though, usually the cities we are meeting in are also expensive.  That means food is expensive. It can also mean flights are expensive. I know the choice of city has been because of the hotel meeting model, so we need to find a different model.  I believe the convention center route is the way to go. 

The other items on the list are important.  It would be great if wifi in the hotel was free, but if we could get a discounted rate, I would probably pay for it.  Having public transport at least to the hotel and meeting area is really helpful.  In San Diego, it wasn't too much of an issue for me because the Super Shuttle was so cheap, but that isn't always the case.  Having food nearby is important because some breaks are short or there are lunch meetings.  Maybe the hotel could sell sandwiches and drinks in the meeting area, which might be a cheaper option for lunch. 

I want to second what Alison said about the timing of the meeting.  I am not a College or University Archivist, but my budget year ends in September, which means I have to push to get funding.  Since I work at a non-profit, if numbers are tight, our budgets get cut in July.  The first thing cut is travel.  I would prefer to have this meeting earlier in the summer or in the winter break.  I know that August has been chosen because it is a cheaper time of year, but we might get more attendance if the meeting was at a different time.

elawrimo says:
Timing

But, on the other hand, the budget cycle at my university starts July 1st -- meaning *I* usually have an easier time getting funded for SAA than many of the librarians do for ALA in June. That doesn't mean that other times can't be considered. But, in many academic settings, August (especially early August before classes start) is optimal for securing funding.

BTurner says:
Something is missing!

I agree that the points highlighted are important. They cover issues that are critical to all of us who are already able to attend the annual meeting, but I'm still not seeing as much focus on the issue of those who can't attend.

Clearly there are cost issues involved, as represented by the list above. Those cost issues presumably have the potential to reduce the number of people able to attend, and there are already many who would like to participate but cannot attend due to cost among other issues.

Recognition of the fact that any one of us may be unable to physically attend an annual meeting seems prudent, and (to me) an increased focus on virtual participation seems obvious. This is a logical topic to discuss when evaluating the meeting model, and the absence of this issue may be cause for concern.

Although the points above have merit (and of those choices, I think free wifi for guests, meeting attendees, all meeting rooms, and public spaces is probably the most pressing, followed by anything that will reduce lodging/travel costs), exploring additional options for meaningful virtual participation is paramount.

jmdooley says:
Virtual participation

The task force has four subgroups, and one of the others is dealing with issues relating to online accessibility of content--we'll probably see a message from that group before too long. Don't worry, we know that's a huge area of interest!

Baird29278 says:
Annual Meeting Sites

I am in agreement that we need to look into different locations which will be more affordable and thus more accessible to more of the membership. As with so many of us, our employers are unable to sponsor our attendance at these conventions so $200/night hotels just aren't doable, especially in places where they up your rate if you're trying to save by sharing a room. Looking into other options would give everyone more flexibility. So, of the above features I would say cost overall is going to be the most important factor.

astankra says:
Location and Timing of the SAA Annual Meeting

 

Thanks for this opportunity to comment on - and thus shape - the annual meeting of our professional organization.

To me, all four of these (main) considerations are key - and important.

Perhaps first and foremost is *place*. As noted - the need for the location of the annual meeting to be in a location that is a hub for different modes of transport is important. As per the previous poster's comments, I also think that SAA really ought to consider a model where the meeting occurs *not necessarily* in a hotel itself - but that locations that have conference centers/convention centers that fit our size - and other - needs - should be strongly considered. It would go a long way to widen our options in venues. And I second the assertion that this will help to bring meeting costs down - and make the meeting available to more of us in the profession. Who knows - it might help to bring *up* attendance numbers! Also - it may potentially allow people to avoid any labor disputes that might be happening at the time of the meeting, as people would have more options of just where to stay.

One point that I'd like to put forward is the 'When' part of the annual meeting. I know that this has been discussed in the past - but putting the annual meeting at the end of August is prohibitive - or at least inconvenient - to the majority of college and university archivists. And of course, the membership of SAA is heavily populated with C&U archivists. To this end: in preparing for the College and University Archives Section's annual recommendations to Council, we've put forward a survey to the entire C&U membership - part of which asks *when* is the most convenient/wished-for time for the annual meeting.

Thank You!

Alison Stankrauff

SAA College and University Archives Section Chair

 

Alison Stankrauff

Archivist and Associate Librarian

Franklin D. Schurz Library

Indiana University South Bend

P.O. Box 7111

South Bend, Indiana  46634
(574) 520-4392

astankra@iusb.edu

 

jderidder says:
cost issues first

Cost is increasingly an issue for most of us.  With that in mind, I think the most important issues are access to low-cost nearby hotels and alternative travel options.  Secondly, connection is extremely important;  many of us have to have online access for work reasons, and almost all of us want it for personal and professional connection;  hence the wifi access rates highly as well.  Again, due to funding issues, it would be helpful if a grocery store is within short walking distance.  This goes beyond just snacks, to the fact that many cannot afford to eat out for every meal on current travel funding restrictions.

Along these lines, a shorter meeting reduces travel costs. 

I am concerned with access to information for members who cannot attend the annual meeting due to travel restrictions.  I am aware that some access to specific presentations is available for a fee after the fact, but am not certain that this helps reach this audience. Additionally, policies in place reduce or forbid their participation as SAA leaders, which increasingly means only those from well-funded institutions or those with enough discretionary income can help lead SAA;  is that the intent?  If not, these policies need to be reconsidered.  It may be helpful if we can find ways to increase information sharing and participation virtually in the coming years, and reduce our dependence on the annual meeting. 

I'm concerned that the cost of attendance is getting further and further out of reach of much of the SAA membership.

cdibella says:
convention center

I want all of these things, so most important to me is that we stop trying to hold the conference in a hotel. Clinging to that model seems to prevent progress on many fronts because, as Nancy Beaumont's article in AO from a few years ago demonstrated, it basically limits us to a few very expensive hotels in a few cities. By moving to a convention center model and meeting at places geared exclusively to hosting conferences all of these items would be taken care of in one fell swoop, with the significant bonus that the meeting would be within financial and/or geographic reach more often for a wider swath of the profession.

stasia_k says:
re: convention center

I completely agree! In addition, I would prefer a slightly shorter meeting - though location is tied to that, because the greater distance someone travels can mean an extra hotel night. I would hope that more variety in locations equals more attendance over a five year average. Should SAA stick to the hotel model, I will continue to not stay at the conference hotel, if only because I prefer a place with continental breakfast (which is related to the issue of not having nearby food options).