When it comes to trade associations within the industry, one recurring topic is the annual meeting. For various legal reasons, such events need to be held so that votes can be cast both to sign off on what took place over the past year, and to approve the direction(s) the association should take in the year ahead.

There are educational, business, and social reasons for such meetings. Speakers talk about the latest trends. Manufacturers, wholesalers, contractors, and technicians talk one-on-one about topics of mutual interest. Cocktail parties, golf outings, and tours offer a chance to unwind with peers and vent concerns with someone next to you who shares your pain but isn’t a direct competitor.

Nevertheless, the double whammy of time and cost rears its head when every association announces its annual conference. Count up the number of associations that any one person or company might be affiliated with and those time and cost concerns increase. Even if the person or company is a member of only one association, there is the attendee’s expectation that there will be quality speakers and plenty of exhibitors (should the meeting include an expo). Meanwhile, meeting planners struggle to ensure a large enough turnout to draw quality speakers and exhibitors, who are not eager to speak or show wares if only a few folks attend.

Efforts have been taken over the years to deal with this complex issue. Long before the two major HVACR wholesaler groups in this country (NHRAW and ARWI) began their most recent, most serious consolidation talk, they had considered remaining separate organizations but holding their annual conferences in the same city, at the same hotel, at the same time.

Their business meetings and certain social events would be separate, but members of both groups would jointly attend keynote sessions, seminars, general social events, and booth displays. Speakers would be ensured larger audiences and exhibitors would have travel reduced while still meeting key wholesaling contacts.

The proposal didn’t materialize, but the current consolidation talk puts the groups on a similar course toward one annual meeting and the kind of turnout to make speakers and exhibitors happy.


On an even larger scale, a trade show planner from Germany, ISH, is trying to create a North American trade show that cuts across a number of building trades, including HVACR. The group hopes that the show will grow so big in the future, associations will opt to hold their own annual meetings in conjunction with the trade show in the host city. The associations would do their own business, but use the planners’ speakers, seminars, and expo for the benefit of that association’s members.

I’ve written about the ISH concept in more detail in the Feb. 11, 2002 Viewpoint. It will be interesting to see how the prototype plays out this October in Toronto.

A few months ago, there was an example of how two associations can combine annual meetings. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) has 17 regional associations, each of which is required to hold an annual meeting. When the RSES Canada group planned its annual meeting for Winnipeg, MB, it was decided to invite members of another regional association within RSES, the Upper Midwest Regional Association, to have its annual meeting at the same time and place.

Each group held its own business meetings throughout the four days of events. But all attendees sat in on general technical sessions and jointly took part in social events. It must have worked; several speakers from manufacturing companies were caught shorthanded with handouts, not expecting so many technicians to show up. That’s a pleasant problem.

The idea here is for HVACR associations to consider holding annual meetings at the same time and place as one or more of their sister groups. Contractors and/or technicians who might be a member of one of those groups could attend that group’s meetings and still benefit from a better mix of seminars and a larger turnout of exhibitors.

Contractors who might be members of more than one group holding annual meetings at the same location, could be busy dashing among business meetings, but certainly could consider those three or four days of the conference to be productive time.

Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260; 847-622-7266 (fax); or peterpowell@achrnews.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 07/01/2002