Tuesday, August 1, 2017

OTAC Annual Conference FAQs

As we launch registration for OTAC’s 41st Annual Conference, I thought this would be a befitting time to share with our greater OT community some frequently asked questions about Conference.

Where’s the coffee? The absence of free coffee at Conference elicits some passionate inquiries from attendees and comments on the Conference evaluation forms. While the Conference Committee appreciates this global ritual, they and the OTAC Board of Directors are more committed to their mission of providing quality continuing education at cost effective rates. To compare extremes, McDonald’s sells a decent cup of black coffee for $1.00 while Starbuck’s cup of black coffee is priced at more than double. An even greater extreme comparison is the cost of coffee in hotels for event planners. The cost of a gallon of coffee in hotels for event planners ranges in general from $65 to $150 a gallon. Add to that the sales tax and the service fee (which ranges from 20% to 24%) and conferences such as OTAC’s pay from $6.00 to $12.00 for a cup of coffee. Hence, on the low side, we could very well pay more than $40,000 for coffee for providing two cups of coffee per day to each attendee. What also adds to the cost of coffee is the hotel policies/agreements with its coffee suppliers and routine habits of coffee drinkers. For example, there is a well-known coffee brand that requires that a hotel toss out any coffee that has been sitting in the urns for two hours as they feel the ‘diminished’ quality of the coffee doesn’t well represent their brand. What also adds to the amount of coffee that is served is Conference attendees that arrive with their own travel mug and pour 12 oz. or more instead of the ‘allotted’ 8 oz. in a hotel coffee cup. The basic $40,000 can increase significantly with just these two factors. Tip: OTAC staff researches outlets near our hotel/convention center that offer coffee/breakfast items and provides that information on our website and at the OTAC hospitality table.

How do Annual Conference registration fees compare? Going back to the Association’s mission to provide high quality continuing education for a good value, many in the OT community aren’t aware of how conscientious the Association has been in managing its funds as well as registration fees for attendees. Did you know that the registration fees for the core three days of Conference in 2007 was $359? And that the Board reduced the fee to $299 in 2009 in its mindfulness about how the Great Recession was impacting members? The registration fees in 2017 ($309) are 16% less than 10 years ago ($359), plus there are nearly 50% more session options (37 sessions versus 70 sessions). For additional consideration of the value of this 16% fee reduction over the course of the past 10 years is that all of the Conference related costs increase annually – meeting space, audio visual services, printing, food and beverage, presenter expenses, etc. --- and still the Association has held down the cost to attendees. In comparing value to the OT community compared to another allied health profession, one association offers a selection of just 23 sessions for $250. Tip: Register by the early bird deadline (September 7) to take advantage of these ‘rolled back’ prices.

Why don’t you hold the Annual Conference in my city? Since 2008, attendance at the Annual Conference has increased 200%. (Spring Symposium has also grown; it has greater attendance than the 2008 Annual Conference.) Consequently there aren’t many venues around the state that can accommodate our need for meeting space (to afford attendees the many session options I referred to earlier). Securing a venue with adequate meeting space in an area where there is a sizeable OT community are just two parts of the equation. Other factors that we negotiate/consider are 1) how much will the hotel reduce their sleeping room rates?, 2) how many sleeping rooms is the hotel willing to block out for our group?, 3) is there adequate exhibit hall space?, 4) what is the minimum food and beverage spending that we must guarantee?, 5) what is the availability of nearby parking and the rates?, 6) how far in advance is the hotel/center willing to sign a contract?, 7) how flexible does the hotel/venue appear to be in its willingness to serve the association and the attendees?, 8) is the city a destination that attendees would find of interest?, etc. In considering their meeting proposals, the hotels and convention centers set annual revenue goals and they review and analyze those goals against all of these factors and more (such has how much they anticipate that attendees will utilize the hotel restaurants, lounge, and gift shop) as well as against other organizations looking at the same space and what those organizations are willing to commit to/spend. Tip: Staying at the Conference hotel and visiting its restaurants support the ‘whole picture’ of the value of OTAC to the hotel/center and thus helps us to negotiate the most favorable agreements possible, which ultimately benefits Conference attendees.

Looking forward to seeing in Sacramento, October 19-22, to celebration 100 years of OT!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

FAQ: How did you come to work for OTAC? What is your background to do this kind of work?



I’ve been asked these questions enough times that I thought it would be worthwhile to share via the executive director’s blog.

How did I come to work for OTAC? I was employed by Association Resource Center (ARC), which is the association management company umbrella where OTAC is housed. Soon to retire (June 2008) OTAC executive director, Chuck Strauch, negotiated to move OTAC to ARC the year before he retired in preparation of his succession planning. In April (two months before Chuck’s retirement as the executive director), he and president-elect Shawn Phipps attended a CEO / CEO (chief elected officer / chief executive officer) association governance training conducted by senior executive directors employed by ARC. I was one of the trainers, which is how I met Shawn Phipps. From that training session, Shawn started a dialogue with me about the OTAC opportunity. While I was an executive director for another association, I was interested in learning more about OTAC based on observing OTAC operations through Chuck, Shawn’s vision for the association, and an opportunity to return to again serving in health care. I was interviewed by an OTAC committee for the position along with several other candidates and was offered the position. Shawn and I took over our positions (president and executive director, respectively) just as the Great Recession of 2008 hit. Needless to say the next four years were extremely challenging and exponentially rewarding as we successfully navigated with the OTAC Board of Directors this unique time period in our country’s and OTAC’s history.. I have been serving OTAC since 2008 and it continues to be professionally challenging as well as rewarding.

What is my background to do this kind of work? I hold a BS in Business Administration with concentrations in accounting and marketing. My IOM represents a professional development program, Institute of Organizational Management, conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce for chamber and association senior staff. It’s a 128-hour program covering all nine domains of association management. I am also a long-time member of both the California and American societies for association executives. Most of my adult career has been in senior association management positions, performing or overseeing all domains – membership, professional development/conferences, governance and leadership, administration, government affairs, marketing/communications/public relations, strategic management, and products/programs . My background also includes working with several mental health focused associations as well as at Sutter Health in its marketing/public relations/patient relations department, and the second largest chamber of commerce on the west coast as director of communications/events/leadership. My for profit management background includes: director of operations for an international certified public accounting firm, director of finance and administration for a publishing company, and co-director of a commercial construction company. As I mentioned before, I am an ARC trainer for association leaders. In addition I serve on two nonprofit charitable organizations (one since 2009) in the role of elected vice president.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Executive Director’s Blog: What to Expect

Greetings all! Welcome to the first OTAC Executive Director Message blog posting in collaboration with the 100 Stories of OT blog. While the OTAC office team doesn’t provide OT client services, we want to share with you our own 100 stories about the OTAC headquarters and staff; OTAC activities, operations, and policies; and other information to address frequently asked questions (or maybe frequently un-asked questions). You will also read on occasion about the world of associations in relation to OTAC. You are welcomed to submit topics that you would like hear more about as well.

A Day in the Life of Your OTAC Professional Association Management Team
I am kicking off the first blog with a bird’s eye view of our ‘typical’ day serving OTAC members. Typical is in quotes because we don’t have a typical day. While every day is different (and we love that!), we do have one constant. We come to work every day with a mantra ‘make every day count on behalf of the members.’ When I was recruited in 2008 as the OTAC executive director, following in the very big shoes of Chuck Strauch, my inauguration presentation at the Annual Conference was about this very mantra. I am proud to say that we are as dedicated to it today as we were nine years ago.

So, here are a few highlights from today, in no particular order: attended the CBOT special board meeting on CBOT’s sunset review / provided an overview to the OTAC president and comments to the advocacy committee, set up a template for a survey going out next week on behalf of the OTAC subcommittee on OT school credentialing, collected more letters from members opposing AB 1510 (athletic trainers’ bill), created an OTAC NEWS about the 100 Stories of OT blog, updated the website, interacted with a few potential presenters for the Annual Conference, communicated with the Annual Conference and Professional Development and Leadership Committee, checked on status of CFPs for the Annual Conference, mailed more than 400 dues renewals notices, created dues stuffers: a ‘save the date’ for Annual Conference and Vision/Mission/Core Values leave behind, reached out to several new vendors for the Annual Conference exhibit hall, created administrative instructions for OTAC Region events, updated the OT Centennial Float donor roster and website thermometer, added a check button in the customer management database to track members interested in the OT school credentialing initiative, provided assistance to various Board members, answered a nonmember question on how to obtain advanced practice for a course they are sponsoring, directed several callers to the CBOT website for answers to their questions, processed registrations for OTAC Advocacy Day and other OTAC activities, and processed dues renewals and responded to various related communications from members.

Warm regards,




Karen C. Polastri, IOM

OTAC Executive Director

OTAC Annual Conference FAQs

As we launch registration for OTAC’s 41 st Annual Conference, I thought this would be a befitting time to share with our greater OT commun...