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In this Wednesday, May 13, 2015 photo, tourists line the beaches in Gulf Shores, Ala., a prime spot along the Gulf of Mexico for conventions. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Trade groups book conventions early to get wishes

By LISA MONTI 

Trade association annual conventions typically are a blend of business meetings, networking sessions and vendor expos mixed with a round of golf or other diversions.

The locations for these meetings are generally decided by the group’s board of directors with deference to what the membership favors. For some groups, when the association finds a spot its members are happy with, they tend to stick with it.

At least that’s the case with the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, which leans toward the state’s Gulf Coast for meeting facilities, golf courses and charter fishing. “Typically we have planned two years out because facilities are booked in advance,” said Debra Stumpf, director of administration at the MMA. “So we are currently booked for next year for Beau Rivage in Biloxi. Later this summer or early fall we will make the decision for 2017,” Stumpf said.

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Attendance at MMA’s annual meeting is usually between 400 and 450 including spouses and vendors who exhibit during the event. The meetings start on Wednesday morning and end by noon on Friday.

A group of members volunteer to discuss possible locations and they make suggestions to the executive committee which in turn makes a recommendation to the board of directors who ultimately make the decision. The MMA board believes strongly in having the convention in the state, Stumpf said.

The routine is the similar for at least two other state associations. A spokesperson for the Mississippi Trucking Association emailed that its 2015 meeting was held at the Sandestin Hilton in Florida, where next year’s convention also will be held. In 2014 the meeting was in Orange Beach, Ala., and 2017’s location has not be voted on by the association’s board of directors.

The Mississippi Health Care Association held its 2015 convention at the Hilton in Jackson and the 2014 convention was held at Beau Rivage in Biloxi.  “Since we have to schedule out several years in advance, we are contracted at the Beau Rivage for 2016 and 2017.  The MHCA Board drives the decision making process for the location of the annual convention,” Vanessa Phipps Henderson, MHCA’s executive director, wrote in an email.

One thing that Stumpf has seen change at the annual meetings is how technology is used. “This year we launched our mobile app and for the first time we had all of the convention information on the app so people could look at the schedule on their mobile device and keep up with what’s going on.”

Next year, she said, technology may drive another big change.

“We’re talking about not having printed programs or other materials and moving everything to the app.”

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About Lisa Monti

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