There I sat, amongst a sea of empty chairs. There weresupposedto be 60 people at this convention session, but only about 30 attended.

And this particular convention was being held in Las Vegas, NV, one of the biggest tourist towns in the United States. Who wouldn’t want to be here?

Apparently, quite a few.

Now, before jumping to conclusions, I know that not everyone can attend a national association convention. I know:

  • Many hvacr contractors run small shops so they just can’t get away for a few days.
  • Some contractors believe they get enough product information and training materials from their local distributors.
  • The Internet has created an “instant marketplace” for business owners to browse for products, product updates and information, training seminars, government regulations, and even association news.
  • Smaller, regional shows have become just as important — if not more important — as one large national show.
  • Associations of independent and “consolidated” groups encourage — no, strongly recommend — members to attend their national meeting, leaving little time and/or little budgetary “wiggle room” to attend a second large national show.
  • Hmmm. Where does this leave national association meetings?


    I spent a little time at a few association meetings recently and got a very good perspective on this subject.

    In a two-week span, I sat in a Construction Contractors Alliance (CCA) meeting in Orlando and simultaneously ran between Dis-ney World hotels to drop in on the annual American Residential Services (ARS) meeting. The next week I attended the Air Condi-tioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA’s) National Conference in Las Vegas. The following week I took in the Arkansas hvacr state convention in Little Rock and followed the next day by visiting the Midwest Contractors Expo 2001 in Wichita, sponsored jointly by the Kansas PHCC, ACCA, SMACNA, and ASHRAE chapters.


    Here are some conclusions I drew:

  • The winner of the “Best Attended and Most Enthusiastic” award goes to ARS, which had over 350 general managers in attendance.
  • A close second was the Midwest Expo in Wichita.
  • The CCA meeting was small, but so is the group. Thus, it was well attended.
  • The Arkansas convention was smaller than hoped for, partly because of a Carrier dealer meeting, which was being held at almost the same time.
  • The ACCA National Confer-ence had over 1,000 attendees, but the figure was lower than the 1999 meeting in Orlando and about only 100 more than the 2000 meeting in Albuquerque.
  • I am mostly concerned with the ACCA totals.

    ACCA had a good lineup of seminars and prominent speakers, plus plenty of free-time activities for attendees. Yet, people stayed away.


    I like the analogy made by David Finley, executive director of the Kansas PHCC. He said his father worked in the automobile trade back in the days when businesses thought nothing of spending thousands of dollars on a national show and almost insisted that employees attend. It was just something everybody did.

    But that was then and this is now. The national shows may go the way of the dinosaurs. Or, they may not. What do you think?

    Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-543-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail)

    Publication date: 03/19/2001