Almost every ACEP chapter is involved from time to time in meeting planning - from board sessions at a local hotel or restaurant to full-scale continuing medical education (CME) meetings. This section is designed to help the chapter cover the bases when planning a chapter meeting - including program development, site selection, working with hotels, promotion, registration, evaluation, and more. It includes a detailed program planning calendar to use as a model. Many of the details are geared toward presenting a successful educational session - but the information can also be helpful for other types of chapter meetings.
Developing and offering high-quality educational courses at chapter meetings requires a commitment in hard work and chapter resources - but the chapter will reap the benefits in great registrant satisfaction and member retention. A complete planning schedule is included in Appendix Section 7.
Planning for a major educational meeting should begin at least one year before the planned meeting date.
The keys to successful planning are:
The committee or work group assigned to select topics, format, and speakers should gather information on past chapter meetings - location, attendance, evaluations, etc. The chapter should conduct an educational needs assessment - send chapter members a questionnaire or request feedback in the chapter newsletter. Information from an educational needs assessment will help meeting planners target topics members really want and will also help the chapter know if the proposed CME program will meet the members' and the chapter's goals. If AMA Category 1 credit is to be provided, a needs assessment is an essential component.
While selecting session topics, planners also suggest various course formats. Although the lecture format is most common, registrants find meetings more interesting when a variety of presentation styles are used. Consider round-table discussions, panels, breakout sessions, clinics, and possibly sessions focused on several very "hot" current issues.
Continuing Medical Education (CME)
Educational meetings are an important member service and a good source of revenue for many ACEP chapters. Due to economic pressures and time constraints, many emergency physicians attend local CME meetings. Formats vary from half-day sessions on a specific clinical or management skill to full chapter scientific assemblies offering a broad range of topics. Education is also one of the main reasons most people join associations.
With the advent of newer technology, interactive meetings can also be held via:
For busy lifestyles, meetings held in these formats can allow greater participation for members in rural and remote areas, can save on travel and hotel expenses, and can be offered at any time of the year.
Applying for ACEP Category I Credit
When a CME program has been developed, reviewed, and awarded AMA Category 1 credit by an organization accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), that program may be submitted for ACEP Category I credit review. The purpose of a review for ACEP Category I credit is to determine if the program content is directly focused to the CME needs of emergency physicians. The program is awarded ACEP Category I credit on the basis of one hour of credit for each hour of emergency medicine programming. If the chapter is jointly sponsoring the program with ACEP and ACEP is awarding both AMA and ACEP Category I credit, the chapter must follow the procedures for joint sponsorship of CME activities (as outlined in the ACEP CME Handbook).
ACEP Category I credit is granted by ACEP only to meritorious programs relevant to the practice of emergency medicine, and only to programs that have been awarded AMA Category 1 credit. Because each course approved for ACEP Category I credit undergoes detailed planning and review to have already received AMA credit, credit approval is a good sign of course quality for physicians who are considering attending. The planning and review process enhances the clinical content and educational design of programs.
Joint Sponsorship of Meetings with ACEP
As the chapter begins planning a meeting or other CME activity, contact your chapter's National Education Representative to participate in the planning and course development. This is critical and is a requirement if the chapter intends to jointly sponsor the program with ACEP and obtain AMA Category 1 credit through the College. Chapters that are not accredited by the ACCME cannot offer AMA Category 1 credit without planning the program jointly with ACEP through the national education representative, or with another accredited sponsor. The National Education Representative must be involved in all phases of course development in order to meet the criteria for joint sponsorship. Call the CME Approval Coordinator for information on contacting the National Education Representative for your chapter and the requirements for joint sponsorship. All necessary forms are available from the Educational & Professional Products Division. Samples of the forms are included in Appendix Section 7.
Each active ACEP member must complete 150 hours of CME every three years to retain active membership. Sixty of these hours must be earned in courses approved for ACEP Category I credit to ensure this education is in emergency medicine. Applying for and offering credit for the chapter's educational programs helps members meet these requirements. In addition, earning ACEP Category I credit enables members to qualify for the American Medical Association's (AMA) Physician's Recognition Award (PRA).
To have an educational program approved for ACEP Category I credit, it needs to meet specific criteria (see Appendix Section 7 for more information).
Faculty needs will depend on the objectives of the program and the topics to be covered. You may want to check with your chapter leaders for potential speakers within your state or local area. Other sources are your state and local medical societies and hospital organizations. ACEP can also provide information about potential speakers from its faculty profile database. For help in locating faculty for a specific clinical or management topic, contact the Educational & Professional Products Division. Another way to obtain faculty referrals is to check with other chapters.
After identifying potential speakers, send them invitation packages that include the following:
Include as much detail as possible in the letter of invitation about the meeting and who will attend, including:
Approximately two weeks before the meeting, send the speakers a reminder about the meeting, including a final schedule and details about special arrangements made for them. Include a contact and telephone number for any last-minute questions or emergencies.
When choosing a meeting location, look at all the options. Don't be bound by chapter tradition - consider resorts, state-of-the-art conference centers, suburban hotels with excellent recreational facilities, airport, and downtown convention hotels. Consider the fact that hotel and resort rates are generally less expensive during off-season times.
Evaluating Member Preference
Choosing the site that suits the chapter needs and budget requires collecting key information. First, consult the members informally or through a needs assessment survey.
Some questions to consider are:
Answers to these questions will provide general guidelines to get started.
Accurate records about past meetings are very helpful when selecting sites. With good data about past experience, the chapter can anticipate current meeting needs more accurately.
Keep the following information about chapter meetings:
With this historical information, and projections about needs for the upcoming meeting, write a list of anticipated meeting requirements.
With these specifications in hand, contact the convention bureaus in the areas being considered or the hotel sales managers at the hotel the chapter prefers to use. The convention bureau staff and the hotel, through its concierge, can provide information about tours, local holidays, and benefits of meeting off season.
Whether the decision about a meeting location is being made by chapter staff, an officer, or a committee, personal visits to the facilities under consideration are vital. If using a committee, outline each member's specific duties in as much detail as possible. Unless duties are spelled out, there may be duplicated arrangements and chaos.
For large meetings, a site inspection should be conducted at least one year in advance, perhaps two. When conducting a site inspection, assess everything in the hotel - from the general condition and décor to the attitudes of hotel personnel. Take notes during the inspection and ask questions. Ensure that the meeting facilities comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If you are planning a meeting in another state, please remember to check the Chapter and Related Meetings Calendar that ACEP maintains. This will help to avoid conflicts.
IMPORTANT: Please be aware of a policy approved by the Board of Directors as a result of a Council resolution that requires any chapter holding a meeting in another state to notify the chapter president and/or executive director in that state in advance about that meeting (see policy in Appendix section 7).
Getting the highest quality hotel for the most reasonable rate is the ultimate goal in site selection.
Before negotiating rates with hotels, however, there are several terms to know.
Begin negotiating for the best possible group rate. Also, ask about the hotel's complimentary room ("comp") policy. Some offer one "comp" per 50 rooms occupied, and others one per 100 rooms occupied. Some hotels base the number of complimentary rooms on the highest number of rooms occupied during the meeting. Other negotiable items are for extra hotel services and complimentary meeting space. Put all agreed upon details in writing.
The hotel executives from the properties under consideration should send a proposal that details all terms and conditions discussed and negotiated.
In the proposal, the chapter must request the hotel to provide:
When hammering out a final contract, the chapter and hotel must discuss detailed information such as identification of the organization, sleeping room requirements, billing procedures, facility specifications, food and beverage functions, and a section on miscellaneous items such as transportation.
This section specifies the names and addresses of the sponsoring organization and meeting facility, contact persons, arrival and departure dates, and the name of the meeting.
Items to be charged to the master account may be specified here. A master account is the easiest and most efficient way to handle meeting charges.
To ensure the master account is handled correctly, specify all the items to be charged to the account and the names of those authorized to sign items to the account. During the pre convention briefing, reconfirm the instructions given.
This includes the numbers and types of guest rooms reserved; confirmation details; complimentary room policy; reservation cut-off date; deposit requirement; check-in and check-out times; and the agreed on room rates for the group.
Facilities for Meetings/Exhibits
This section may include room rental or set-up charges, and details on services and equipment provided by the facility.
Food and Beverage Functions
This section may specify dates by which the group must confirm space to be used and the approximate attendance at functions; dates for confirmation of food and beverage service; dates by which the facility must guarantee food and beverage costs; and information on gratuities and taxes.
Items such as transportation, parking, and recreational fees may be included here.
Necessary Contract Additions
All contracts should include a paragraph that addresses safety, insurance, and indemnification. Recommended copy is listed below. It would also be helpful to find out who else has booked the hotel facilities to ensure other functions are not incompatible, such as a noisy social event scheduled next to a chapter meeting. The contract should also include a statement that the facility is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The following three paragraphs must be added to the contract:
Hotel shall indemnify and hold harmless Association against all loss, expense, or damage on account of any injury to the person or property of any registrant, guest, or member of Association staff arising out of the negligence or willful misconduct of Hotel, its agents, or employees.
Hotel shall carry liability, fire, burglary, and other insurance in such dollar amount as necessary to protect itself against any claims arising from any activities conducted in Hotel during the convention period and to indemnify Association as provided in this agreement.
Hotel represents and warrants that it complies and shall comply during the convention period with all local, state, and federal fire, safety, and building codes. Hotel further represents and warrants that it maintains procedures and policies concerning fire safety and other safety issues and Hotel shall make all such procedures and policies available to Association for inspection upon reasonable notice.
A good marketing plan should be developed well in advance of the meeting. After determining the number of registrants anticipated, explore all means that will generate the turnout.
Target markets might include the chapter's current membership, members from surrounding states, past members, and members of other targeted specialties. Depending on its content, the course may appeal to paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), nurses, management, and billing personnel.
Utilizing Outside Resources
The convention bureau or chamber of commerce in the city selected should be able to supply prepared literature about the city and special events scheduled during the meeting dates. Include this information in the promotional mailing. If there are deadlines for pre-registration and hotel arrangements, be sure the promotional materials are mailed in enough time for registrants to comply.
Printing Promotional Materials
Preliminary promotional efforts may be advertisements and calendar of events' listings in state medical journals or promotional mailings, such as brochures, flyers, or newsletters. It can also include electronic promotions such as: web sites, electronic mail, and broadcast fax.
Whatever format is used, be sure to include these details:
Remember that if your meeting is jointly sponsored with national ACEP, you must have a draft of your promotional pieces approved by the CME Approval Coordinator before it is printed or joint sponsorship can be denied.
If the chapter plans to create printed materials to promote the meeting, keep these three steps in mind - planning, printer selection, and production.
There are three basic steps in planning the promotional aspects of the meeting.
With the plans in hand, request bids from at least three reputable printers. Along with the bid, request the printer to prepare rough layouts for the meeting materials. Mention that suggestions on ways to reduce costs and improve quality would be a big help - the printers may provide some wonderful suggestions.
After selecting the printer, give him or her a schedule detailing the materials to be printed, when copy will be supplied, when printing samples will be ready for chapter approval, and the required completion date. Monitor these production schedules carefully to make sure mailing dates are met.
There are several allies for having a successful meeting, and one of them is keeping a log of people spoken with, dates discussed, and issues decided.
However, once the content is set, CME credit applied for, faculty selected, contract finalized, and promotional efforts under way, there are two other allies that focus attention outside the chapter to help make the meeting a success.
Convention bureaus can be valuable assets in planning and implementing a meeting. Services that many bureaus provide include registration clerks and other personnel; promotional items such as flyers, photos, maps, or brochures; and equipment such as copiers, bulletin boards, or typewriters. Some items may be free, while others may require a fee. The convention bureau also can provide assistance in selecting caterers, florists, photographers, and other services. Remember, convention bureaus are dedicated to helping conduct successful meetings.
The Convention Services Manager
After signing a contract with the hotel, the sales manager turns the meeting over to a convention services manager. This individual will be the chapter's main contact through final planning and implementation of its meeting. A typical convention services manger supervises set up crews, works closely with food service personnel, and writes and distributes instructions for hotel staff (meeting resumes).
Because each facility operates differently, be sure to ask the convention services manager the following questions:
Get all the pertinent phone numbers for personnel with whom you'll be working.
To have a successful working relationship with the convention services manager, develop open lines of communication. If discussing any details over the telephone, always follow up with a letter detailing the discussion.
Providing comfortable and efficient settings for learning can increase the value of the chapter's educational meeting to registrants. Each room should have adequate space, effective seating, and appropriate audiovisual equipment.
Function sheets are the complete staging guide for all aspects of the meeting. If completed properly, they eliminate many potential problems. These sheets should be completed and forwarded to the convention services manager three to four weeks prior to the meeting date.
Function rooms are the settings for the meeting's business, educational, and social activities - and extremely important to the overall success of the meeting. When confirming function rooms recommended by the hotel in its initial proposal, consider attendee comfort, audiovisual requirements, convenience of food and beverage service, and external noise.
The chair and table arrangements requested will depend on the event and the limitations of the function room.
Suitable for large sessions and short lectures that do not require extensive note-taking. Because chairs can be moved, this is a good set up to use before breaking into discussion or role-playing groups.
The most desirable set up for lectures is the schoolroom type, although it generally requires a large room. Tables provide attendees with space for spreading out materials and taking notes. Always provide at least three feet per person, more if the room is large enough. Most hotel convention brochures are based on two feet per person.
Appropriate for interactive discussions and note taking sessions for fewer than 25 people.
Appropriate for groups of fewer than 40 people with interaction with a leader seated at the head of the set up.
Generally used for meals and sessions involving small group discussions. A 5 foot round seats eight people comfortably; a 6 foot round seats 10 people comfortably.
Once the set up configuration is specified, give some thought to other details that will help create an effective meeting atmosphere:
Speaker support furniture placed on top of a table is a lectern. A podium is a taller piece of furniture that serves the same function, but is placed on the floor. Both pieces should have a light attached.
Platforms can be 6, 8, 12, or 16 inches high; 4, 6, and 8 inches long; and 4 to 6 inches wide. The size of the platform should be based on the room size, number of people in the room, and the ceiling height.
The first step in planning audiovisual support is to get a list of the specific equipment needs of the speakers.
Hotels usually will supply one free microphone per meeting room.
At least a month before the meeting, check with the convention services manager for shipping instructions. Then select the method and company that best suit the schedule and budget. Ask the company how long it will take to transport materials, and whether they have any special procedures that need to be followed.
Begin packing by making a list of all materials needed at the meeting. Never ship registration materials or anything else needed upon arrival at the meeting site or that could not be quickly replaced in a timely manner. Ship materials so they arrive at the facility at least 3 days prior to the meeting.
If a package gets lost, it may take a few days to locate it or replace it. Bring return labels for shipping materials back. The hotel does not always supply them.
Food and Beverage
Meals, breaks, and receptions serve as the main opportunities for registrants at the meeting to make new friends and renew old acquaintances. It doesn't take a lot of money to make these occasions memorable - only a lot of imagination.
Breaks, usually 15 to 20 minutes in length, give registrants a chance to refresh themselves and return to sessions more attentive. Coffee is the mainstay of the menu, but consider other beverages such as tea, hot chocolate, fruit juices, soft drinks, and decaffeinated coffee and tea. If snacks are in the budget, try using breads (croissants, nut breads, and muffins), yogurt, fruits, and puddings. Try to avoid per person charges by the hotel for breaks. It is more economical to purchase coffee by the gallon and pastries by the dozen.
Most breakfasts are limited to continental service - breads, fresh fruit, coffee, and tea. Try to stay away from sticky sweet rolls and other hard to handle items.
Luncheon menus should be kept light, since heavy food leads to drowsiness. Salads, sandwiches, soups, quiches, vegetarian platters, and broiled fish are popular choices. Limit desserts to sherbet or fruit.
With today's emphasis on health and fitness, the meat and potatoes menu is on its way out. Fish, poultry, and veal are good alternatives - and consider rice, noodles, or pasta in place of potatoes.
If the reception is to precede dinner, most people will eat lightly in anticipation of the meal. Expect hors d'oeuvres consumption to average 6 per person for each hour. If there is no meal following the reception, figure 12 hors d'oeuvres per person for each hour.
If offering liquor, count on it being one of the largest food and beverage expenditures. There are five ways to set up liquor purchases with the hotel.
By the head
The hotel charges a flat rate per guest and agrees to supply all the necessary liquor. This is the easiest method; however, it is also the most expensive.
By the drink
When liquor is purchased by the drink, this is considered an "open bar." When the
reception is over, there will be an itemized bill of the number and types of drinks consumed. When establishing the budget, assume people will consume an average of three drinks during a 1 to 1 ½ hour reception.
By the bottle
There is a charge for each bottle opened. Be sure to specify whether less expensive house brands or deluxe name brands are to be served. Find out if the chapter can keep any bottles that are not emptied.
Guests at the reception pay for their own drinks. If a cash bar is established, let registrants know in advance.
To limit drinks, provide a certain number of free drink tickets and then have a cash bar for additional drinks.
The pre-convention briefing (pre-con) is not the time to make arrangements. The purpose of this meeting is to reconfirm the meeting requirements. At this time, walk through the function areas. Ask the convention services manager how to control the temperature and lights in the function rooms. It is also important to have a briefing with the chapter members and staff who will help implement the meeting. Make sure they know who the convention services manager is and how to get in touch with that person if necessary. If a master account was established, reconfirm the instructions given.
Attendees get their first impression of a meeting during registration. Make it a good one! The atmosphere of the registration area is extremely important. The area should be large enough to handle a continuous flow of traffic. Here are some tips for a successful registration:
The benefits of thorough planning show up most clearly when the meeting is up and running. Remember, though, that even the best meeting can have its mishaps. The majority of problems occur when the set up crew does not follow the diagram.
Check each function room one hour before the event is scheduled to begin. This allows time to decide if the room can work the way it's set up or to have it changed.
If a master account was established, review the master account before leaving the hotel to avoid any major surprises when the chapter receives the bill.
A post meeting evaluation is the most important tool when planning for the next meeting. Areas to discuss are:
An essential element in determining the success of a meeting and to identify future improvements is through a conference evaluation. You may have individual course evaluations that measure the success of each speaker and his/her presentation as well as an overall evaluation to measure registrants' perception of the conference as a whole. You may also wish to ask faculty for recommendations for future improvements and topics. Lastly, your course director or education committee chair and staff should provide written feedback and an evaluation summary of their perceptions. Once all of the data from registrants has been received, staff must summarize the data and recommend future changes and improvements based on the data and future plans. A comprehensive evaluation is essential for CME programs and must be part of the CME activity file.
Putting on a chapter meeting can often seem like an overwhelming challenge. With careful planning and attention to detail, the chapter can offer meetings that meet member needs - and the chapter's budget. For more information and advice on successful meetings, contact the ACEP Educational Meetings Deparment.