Hey! I'm new here, but was the convention treasurer for Columbus' 97 Nationals, and will be the Registration/Webmaster for the 09 Columbus convention. So, I have a pretty good idea what happens to make a Nationals run. First off, you're right, that the IPMS/USA doesn't provide financial support (other than $2000 in seed money), but they do provide some other assistance, including breakdowns of every past convention, and every convention does an after-action report listing what went well, what went wrong, what to watch out for, etc. We went to school extensively on those after-action reports before bidding for the 97 convention, and it helped a great deal. It certainly doesn't hurt to have someone who's done a conference before (in our chapter, we have one person who had put on 6 international conferences (me) and another with pretty extensive experience negotiating contracts and that was a HUGE help).
And yes, the big nightmare is the up-front commitment - I think we're on the hook for something like $185K if no one shows up in 2009. But none of that is up-front money, and unless literally NOBODY comes, we will not have a problem. Most of that cost is showroom rental fees -- we get the convention center for free if we fill up the required number of "room nights" (ie, x rooms for y nights). So, if you are careful about the number of rooms you commit to fill, you can be fine. In our case in 97, we committed for something like 1200 room nights (essentially 300 rooms for 4 nights) in 97, and actually ended up filling ~1650 room nights, not including those guys who didn't register through the convention hotels. Depending on how well you negotiate, you can get comp rooms, and other free services if you do it right.
National certainly CAN help with the negotiations, but the chapters considering a bid need to get in touch with the 2nd VP (coincidentally, Ron Bell, one of
our Chapter Members) BEFORE putting together a bid, and he can help you get it all set up, advise you on negotiating, etc. I think we spent 2 years planning,
including a year before we made our first bid. Ron was our convention chairman in 97, and I *know* he's always willing to assist, and willing to listen to new ideas.
But yes, it *IS* a huge risk that the local chapter is responsible for, and if they overcommit, or if attendance drops severely from past conventions, it would be a real nightmare scenario. Many chapters won't want to even think about taking that kind of a risk.
So, I think a lot of times the same chapters do the conventions because they have experience, and are comfortable with the risk, and their venue partners are at least somewhat easy to work with. I would imagine it's MUCH harder for Va Beach than for us, because they probably have a lot of other demand for those hotels, so it's not as easy to negotiate, though Columbus is a big convention site, but we don't have the "vacation draw" that Va Beach does, for example.
Fortunately for us, we're easy driving distance from 1/2 of the US population, and relatively inexpensive as large venue's go.
The room-night commitment is why the conventions push you to go to the convention hotel... if everybody came, but stayed in non-convention hotels, you could have a "wildly successful" convention, that lost it's shirt. That is a big problem, and something that IPMS will have to address somehow.
As for "profit's" supporting future bids, not gonna happen... I think (don't remember now for sure) the profit for the 97 convention was around $10K, with
IPMS getting $5K, and our chapter $5K. That's not even close to enough to fund another convention. It's nice to have, though we donated almost all of our profits to local deserving charities.
Don: If you want to be involved in a Nationals, drop me a line and I'll put you to work on the 2009 team - I've always got room for more volunteers.
IPMS Eddie Rickenbacker
Home of the 2009 IPMS National Convention