Opinion: 15 Parking Events Crowd Fall Calendar
John Van Horn
As sure as the birds fly south for the winter, as sure as the weather begins to cool, as sure as the leaves turn in New England, fall brings an opinion from Parking Today concerning the scheduling of regional and state association general meetings and trade shows. As of this writing there are 15, count 'em, 15 parking events between September 17 and November 19 -- an eight-week period.
To further stir up the mix, there are 10 meetings between October 17 and November 19, two sets of which are on the SAME DATES. Not smart planning, guys.
Two of the largest events, the New Jersey and California meetings, are being held at exactly the same time as are the Florida and New York events. I'm certain the meeting planners say, "Who cares?" Why should I care if someone in Florida and someone in New York plan meetings at the same time? Heck, those of us in New Jersey have always had our meeting in conjunction with another statewide meeting in Atlantic City, why should we take into consideration what our counterparts in California, nearly 3,000 miles away, are doing?
Well, your activities don't only affect your state organization. There are many support groups and services that would like to attend and participate in your meetings. Vendors come to mind. They spend a lot of money to attend your events and support your organizations. They don't complain, but you gotta believe that beginning in mid-September they say "goodbye" to their offices and families and hopefully will be back around Thanksgiving.
They come to your events, bring equipment and staff, and offer support and technical input. They spend a lot of money. Heck, you say, we only charge $500 for a booth. Well add to that airfare for one or two people (let's say $700), two or three nights for two in a hotel including food ($800), equipment shipping and set up ($500 to $2000 or more) and suddenly that $500 doesn't sound so small. The total above is $2,500 and climbing, not counting payroll and lost time in the office.
Now don't get me wrong. The vendors want to be there. Many have told me that they get more leads from the regional events than from some of the large national shows. However, from time to time, these events, particularly those NOT held in the larger metropolitan areas, can be a bit short on attendance. I know of one event where there were more vendors present than attendees.
These companies don't attend your events for their health. Sure they want to support you, but they also want to get exposure for their products and services in return.
They are happy to show up, staff a booth or tabletop, and show their backing for your organization. And don't get me wrong, they readily admit that the time spent with buyers at these small events is invaluable, some say of more value than they find elsewhere. But they give you their support. Why not consider the possibility of thinking of the issues from their point of view.
Having 15 events (and yes those in Canada and the UK draw our vendors, too) within two months is a lot of stress on the industry.
So what is the solution?
First, perhaps one could spread out the events a bit. I know that fall is a good time to hold such events, but it's also the time when many of our parking folks are the most busy. New school years have started, budgets need to be prepared for the new year, large events (football is a big one) are rampant, and if you have begun a construction project, you are rushing to get it to a certain point before the snow flies.
If you are having your event at a resort anyway, why not hold a winter meeting? Things quiet down in January and February. Wanna play golf? Hold the golf tournament at a different time, when it fits better into the schedule and the weather.
The other alternative is, dare we say it, hold a combined meeting. The Middle Atlantic Parking Association and the Parking Association of the Virginias have been doing this to great success for years. The Parking Association of Georgia and the Carolinas Parking Association began joint conferences a couple of years ago and have had great meetings.
I know, I know, you want to have the meeting in your own state. But then you can simply move it around, change hosts each year, and have a great regional event. Bigger isn't always better, but it can be.
I know I'm whistling in the wind. The NPA and IPI couldn't make it happen. The egos were just too great. Why should I think that state associations are any different?
One more thing. Many of the state groups complain that they simply don't have enough volunteers to put on these events and the same people do it over and over. I see the same names on the list of contacts and "committee chairs" every year. Wouldn't having someone else put on the event every other year be a great relief to your already overworked volunteer staff? 'Nuff said.
Side Bar 1
For contact information see the calendar on Page 54
September 17-21, 2003
National Parking Enforcement Association
September 21-24, 2003
National Parking Association 52nd Annual
Convention and Exposition
October 1-3, 2003
European Parking Association 11th Parking
Congress and Parkex 2003
October 1-3, 2003
Pennsylvania Parking Association
October 5-8, 2003
Canadian Parking Association Convention
and Trade Show
October 8-10, 2003
Michigan Parking Association Fall Conference
October 19-22, 2003
Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute's 49th
Annual Convention & Exhibition
October 23-26, 2003
International Road Safety Exhibition
October 26-28, 2003
MAPA/PAV Annual Workshop and trade show
November 2-4, 2003
The Midwest Campus Parking Association
November 4-6, 2003
T2 User Conference
November 5-7, 2003
Florida Parking Association 24th Annual
Convention and Trade Show
November 5-7, 2003
The New York State Parking Association's 11th Annual Conference
November 12-14, 2003
3rd Annual Parking Association of Georgia &
Carolinas Parking Association jointly held
November 18-20, 2003
California Public Parking Association Annual
Conference and Trade Show
November 19-21, 2003
New Jersey Parking Institute
Article Abstract from September, 2003