February 28, 2013
PRSA’s International Conference is one of our marquee events — and not just for attendees. International Conference anchors our Assembly, where we conduct the business of PRSA; helps us discover speakers for our year-round professional development sessions; and provides a forum for PRSA communities.
As a result, people often ask me how PRSA National decides where to hold the International Conference.
We start with a list of requirements. Throughout the years, we’ve learned what we need and what our members value.
A physical requirement for the venue is at the top of the list: Without the right facility, we could never successfully present an event for 3,000 people. But there is much more to choosing a city, including:
There are also some things that we avoid. For example, based on feedback from our members in prior years, the PRSA Board of Directors made a policy decision not to hold Conferences in convention centers, which tend to have cold, cavernous spaces and long concrete halls that don’t provide the community-based experience our members want. These considerations make it challenging to select a location — but wait, there’s more.
While many individual hotels are interested in hosting a single PRSA Conference, some hotel chains offer major concessions to obtain our business for multiple years — think of it as a “volume discount.” Some of these concessions — like free Wi-Fi and lower room rates — directly benefit our attendees, while others help keep PRSA’s costs down and can be passed along to attendees through lower registration fees.
Given all of these considerations, there are limited hotel chains that are capable of meeting our needs for multiple years. Fortunately, some hard bargaining at the right time enabled us to secure venues through 2018. In return for making a multiyear commitment, we were able to receive more than $1 million worth of concessions that help us offer the best possible value, benefits such as free Internet for attendees.
Of course, host Chapters play a critically important role in the Conference’s success. Chapter members recommend local venues for social events, help generate publicity and connect us to local sponsors. With annual changes in Chapter leadership, we typically reach out to a Chapter about two years in advance to discuss planning.
While we might not always be able to predict where we will end up, we do know what our members need, so that when they arrive at the International Conference (wherever it may be), they have an unforgettable experience.