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October 1993

Guide to Friendly International Meeting Centres

Proposal for a directory

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Background

The Union of International Associations has had long experience of the international meetings industry. In the 1950s it originated the conference series entitled International Congress on Congress Organization. This gave rise to a series of guidelines on the organization of international meetings. It also gave rise to a number of spin-off professional organizations, notably the International Association of Professional Congress Organizers. Most of the UIA Associated Members are active in the meetings industry.

Since that period the meeting industry has become big business, and is both highly commercialized and highly professional. Nevertheless meetings sponsored or organized by international associations (in the UIA Yearbooks) remain an important segment of the market.

Concept

There exist a number of commercial guides to conference centres which follow the well- known format of payment-for-entries, and payment-for-advertising. These are naturally oriented to draw attention to the larger conference centres.

There is a market niche for a more "congenial" guide to conference locations which would appeal to the more discerning in search of non-sterile meeting environments where their needs are taken to heart. The challenge is to define the nature of such a publication.

Some possible features:

(a) Basic technical details (seats, beds, etc), possibly with photo

(b) Meeting centres noted by one (or more) international associations as worth going back to

(c) Select list of international associations that have held meetinge there

(d) Selected comments on the centre as received from international associations

(e) Quotient of approval (as with the Michelin hotel/restaurant star system) based on average of international association comments

(f) General editorial comment "suitable for..." types of meeting, budget, etc

The intention of an entry in the guide would be to give users a better sense of the "feel" of the place than is obtainable from the glossy, high-pressure commercial advertising normally furnished by larger conference venues.

One objective would be to give international associations some ability to place pressure on conference venues to "care more" for international association meetings.

Consideration might be given to producing the publication with other bodies in the meeting industry provided this did not jeopardize the UlA's editorial freedom.

Selection criteria

Conference venues range from:

(a) Purpose-built conference centres (b) Multi-purpose buildings also used for conferences (c) Hotels specializing in conferences (d) "Non-commercial" conference buildings (eg universities, schools, notably during academic holidays) (e) Unusual places: palaces, chateaux, etc

There are many such conference venues. The art of the first edition, at least, would be to locate those preferentially "cited" by international associations.

Scope of entries

It would be very easy to reverse the usual procedure and give more space to the places most frequently cited, however small, and less to those less frequently cited, however large. A major "unpopular" venue might then only be listed with a minimal entry.

The editorial coverage would of course be influenced by the amount of cooperation that the venue was prepared to give in elaborating the entry.

A policy would have to be elaborated to deal appropriately with venues that put pressure on the editors to give undue space to their entry. This is of course related to the question as to how advertising, if any, is to be handled. One procedure would be to fix advertising rates in reverse proportion to the number of "stars". Namely a one-star pays much more than a five- star for advertising.

Format

One common format is one-entry-per page. It is however recommended that the format chosen be somewhat similar to the Yearbook type entries but with a much larger print. In this way entries could vary in size from several lines to a whole page. Illustrations would have to be thought about.

The publication might be 250-350 A4 pages in length.

Production

This would involve the following elements:

1. Mailing of a questionnaire to organizations (this could include an order form with pre-publication prices) 2. Entering and editing replies (with suitable provision for coding entries and holding some in reserve) 3. Mailing a separate questionnaire to priority conference venues (possibly inviting advertising and informing of "stars"; it could include a pre-publication order form) 4. Supplementing the edited entry on the basis of the replies 5. Consideration could be given to UIA production of camera ready pages - possibly with proof submission to the concerned venues. 6. A number of small indexes could be usefully generated.

Marketing

In addition to marketing the Saur, it is envisioned that as a "congenial" guide it would attract interesting reviews that would inform a broad potential market. The international associations are natural customers.

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