Been there…done that

The past year was a tough year–that is one thing we can all agree on.  For the most part, 2010 is already shaping up to be just as challenging, with hints of good news sprinkled in.  

Many people are currently planning for 2010, and we have been getting e-mails about pricing for the 2010 conference in New Orleans.  Rates can be found on the conference Web site.  The early-bird rate is $445 until 2 April.  Hotel rates range from $102 to $194 per night.  This information should help most of you get an idea of what the costs will be this year.  

When I post or talk about our rates for conference, I often receive emails from members telling me they can’t afford our conference. I know some of you will say that the conference rate is too high, but for the same number of days, sessions, exhibitors and similar formats, my own professional conference cost $795 for registration in 2010.  I made the decision to pay my own way as I see the value and benefit of attending my professional association conference. Recently, Nancy Sansalone, SLA COO/CFO, added a posting about the rising cost of registration and why the association was forced to increase fees this year. 

In an effort to stretch dues even further for members, SLA suspended virtually all professional development and training opportunities for SLA staff in 2009 and 2010.  SLA does pay for a membership in ASAE, an organization for association professionals, and staff has access to some educational opportunities.  But for the most part, I’ve had to take my professional development into my own hands.  For example, in August 2009, I paid my own travel expenses to attend ASAE’s annual meeting, and in January 2010, I paid my own membership dues, conference registration, and travel expenses for PCMA, the Professional Convention Management Association.  I guess you could say that’s my SLA.  

Like you, I find the networking and educational sessions at an annual conference to be invaluable.  I go to PCMA to learn how I can make the SLA conference better each year.  I don’t feel like I can be away from conference industry events for  more than a year and still plan an  SLA conference that is of value to you, and that will keep you coming back.  So, I pay for professional development myself.

How do I do this? Obviously, it’s not cheap.  For the ASAE meeting, between airfare, hotel, food and incidentals, I spent around $1,000.  For PCMA, from which I just returned, I spent $1400 for registration, hotel, airfare and incidentals.  I also paid membership dues in PCMA for $360.00.

Based on the SLA Annual Salary Survey, I don’t make more than you do, nor do I have an unlimited amount of personal funds to fall back on.  I decided to make my professional development a priority, and must make some sacrifices to make that happen.  My husband and I set aside money each month for education (he’s in IT and has to maintain certifications), and know that it’s a good investment.

I also sometimes share a room at conferences, but I never stay outside the official conference hotels. Why is this important? As a meeting planner, I know that associations (like SLA) have to commit to filling a certain number of hotel rooms in order to get the best price for both those rooms and for the convention center facilities.  The larger the block committed to, the better the pricing overall.  If the rooms do not fill, the association loses in two ways:  it pays a penalty for the unfilled rooms, and it pays higher prices overall in the next conference site—meaning higher registration fees and higher hotel room costs.  Fortunately, we have some very reasonably priced hotel rooms in New Orleans. Find out more about the wide array of housing options here.

I eat at receptions, as we all do.  Sure, by the end of four days, I am tired of crudités and cheese.  But it does help with my budget.  If breakfast isn’t being served, I pack protein bars.  I set up alerts for airfares, and wait for the best prices.  (Check out Orbitz or Kayak for airfare alerts.)  It’s a game, for sure, but well worth it to me.  

Use Twitter to find colleagues traveling when you are, and share a cab from the airport.  Do a bit of research; cabs can be cheaper and easier than a shuttle service.  (And don’t forget to follow @sla2010 for conference updates!)

The registration fee for a conference is usually not negotiable.  But think about saving monthly to ease the burden a bit…and be sure to take advantage of the early-bird rates if you can.  And, the month you get back, start saving for the following year.  Most of us can find a few bucks each week to save, if we give up those few cups of coffee, that fast food lunch, or a few iPod downloads.  Feed the Pig offers tips for saving money.  

Professional development and growth are important to all of us.  And I wanted you to know that when I ask you to try to find a way to pay for it yourself if your employer can’t, it’s not just an idle directive.  I’ve been there, and done that, myself.  

— Kristin Foldvivk, CMP, Events Director for SLA (kfoldvik@sla.org)

Our team is always focused on the most successful marketing campaigns, for example, if someone wants to buy cialis online, he knows where to do it because of the quality product and a strong brand.

2 responses to “Been there…done that”

  1. Tom Rink says:

    Kristin, I too have had to pay my own membership dues and conference registrations and expenses from time to time. But it is an investment in MY professional development and it is worth every penny. Planning ahead and budgeting are obviously critical components, but these meetings are just too valuable to miss. Thanks.

  2. John Crosby says:

    Well said, Kristin. Your post may be the most logical but passionate response to the question. I’ve copied the link so that I can refer back to it when I get questions like this from my employer!

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