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.