Connections - Winter 2018 - 13

annual conventions years in
advance. So imagine finding out at
the very last minute that you have
just two weeks to move everything
to a new venue more than 1,000
miles away.
Staff members at the National
Association of Elevator Contractors
(NAEC) faced that challenge in
September 2017. Just days before
its convention and exposition
at Orlando Convention Center,
Hurricane Irma began aiming
straight for the site.
The official convention start was
September 11th, but exhibitors
and attendees would start arriving
on September 9th, according to
NAEC Executive Director Teresa
Witham. In the days before the
storm's expected arrival, NAEC
staff constantly monitored the
weather and talked every day with
convention and hotel staff. But
they held off cancelling the event,
hoping the hurricane would change
Two things occurred to force
a decision. "The Hyatt Regency,
our primary hotel, told us that all
food outlets would be closed and
all guests' meals would be served
buffet style in banquet rooms.
While bars might stay open, a
curfew might be imposed so people
would have to stay in their rooms,"
said Witham. Then the airport
announced on September 8th that
it would be closing on the first
arrival day for NAEC's
meeting participants.
At that point there was little
choice; the NAEC Exhibitor
Advisory Group and the Board, led
by President Craig Zomchek, and
Witham determined the Orlando
convention could not go on.

Cancellation Not an Option
NAEC has approximately
750 members. They include
contractors who maintain, install
and modernize elevators and
lifts, elevator manufacturers,
consultants, inspectors and
universities with their own elevator

shops. While NAEC is best known
for its trade show, it also has
extensive educational offerings.
Education programs and
membership dues provide some
revenues, but the trade show serves
as NAEC's primary income source,
so cancelling the convention would
have been financially devastating.
In addition, many of NAEC's
members are small to mediumsized companies who depend on the
annual show to reach customers.
Many elevator companies also use
the continuing education options to
meet their licensing requirements.
Even before NAEC pulled the
plug on the Orlando meeting,
Witham had informally polled
exhibitors and convention
registrants to get their feedback
on possible rescheduling. "We
were flooded with support; it was
so overwhelmingly positive," said
Witham. "They told us 'This is
critical to our business-if you can
make this happen, we will
be there!'"

The Stars Aligned
Witham had communicated
constantly throughout this time
with Connie Bergeron, CMP
of Site Selection Solutions Inc.,
NAEC's long-time partner for
all association meetings. Since
Orlando had no availability for
2017, they contacted Atlantic City,
site of the 2018 NAEC convention,
to see if they had space for 2017.
Atlantic City was happy to help
since another organization had just
canceled an upcoming meeting.
This had opened up 2017 space in
the convention center and at four
hotels. However, the available
dates were September 22-26, which
gave association staff just two
weeks to readjust schedules, notify
the 1,900 exhibitors, speakers and
participants, and transport show
exhibits from Orlando to Atlantic
Several things made this
process possible. NAEC had
been to Atlantic City many times
before, so the association knew

the Atlantic City Convention &
Visitors Authority, and hotel
representatives were familiar with
NAEC's needs. Freeman, NAEC's
show decorator, had worked on
some of these Atlantic City shows,
and RCS, which had handled NAEC
registration for several years, could
accommodate the new schedule. In
addition, NAEC had just completed
the space draw for the 2018 Atlantic
City convention, so they used those
booth assignments for 2017 as a
starting point. All of these entities
worked together to move the freight
originally shipped to Orlando to
Atlantic City and to handle the
many convention details.
When the staff redid the fourday program schedule, they found
that only one of the dozen-plus
speakers wasn't able to attend
the rescheduled show. Exhibitors
also came through, with 145 (out
of a typical 190) participating.
Although a few downsized their
booths, several upsized them, since
Atlantic City is a big market for the
elevator industry.
"The stars were definitely in
alignment," said Witham.

Positive responses
NAEC staff members (eight
full-time and one part-time)
worked long hours prior to the
rescheduled meeting to ensure
everything went smoothly. It was
a trial by fire for the two new staff
members who had never attended
a NAEC convention.
Handling the flood of emails
that poured into the office
was challenging. After first
attempting personal responses,
staff members eventually
resorted to an autoresponder that
referred senders to the website
and assured them they would
be contacted after cancellation
and rescheduling decisions had
been made. Once the event was
rescheduled, the staff sent out
email blasts to alert the entire
industry of the changes.
"Those two weeks passed in a
blur," recalls Witham.
connections >



Connections - Winter 2018

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Connections - Winter 2018

GSAE News & Events
New Members
Living Legends: Jim Fowler, CAE; David Ellis, CAE; and Tara Morrison, CAE, CMP
Moving a Convention with Two Weeks’ Notice
What to Do First in an Active Security Threat
GSAE Presents Annual Awards
GSAE 100th Anniversary Gala & Holiday Luncheon
Meetings Tips & Tricks
Destination: Sandestin, Panama City, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Choices: Graduation Has Meaning
Index of Advertisers
Connections - Winter 2018 - Intro
Connections - Winter 2018 - cover1
Connections - Winter 2018 - cover2
Connections - Winter 2018 - 3
Connections - Winter 2018 - 4
Connections - Winter 2018 - 5
Connections - Winter 2018 - GSAE News & Events
Connections - Winter 2018 - 7
Connections - Winter 2018 - New Members
Connections - Winter 2018 - Living Legends: Jim Fowler, CAE; David Ellis, CAE; and Tara Morrison, CAE, CMP
Connections - Winter 2018 - 10
Connections - Winter 2018 - 11
Connections - Winter 2018 - Moving a Convention with Two Weeks’ Notice
Connections - Winter 2018 - 13
Connections - Winter 2018 - 14
Connections - Winter 2018 - 15
Connections - Winter 2018 - What to Do First in an Active Security Threat
Connections - Winter 2018 - 17
Connections - Winter 2018 - GSAE Presents Annual Awards
Connections - Winter 2018 - 19
Connections - Winter 2018 - 20
Connections - Winter 2018 - GSAE 100th Anniversary Gala & Holiday Luncheon
Connections - Winter 2018 - 22
Connections - Winter 2018 - 23
Connections - Winter 2018 - Meetings Tips & Tricks
Connections - Winter 2018 - 25
Connections - Winter 2018 - Destination: Sandestin, Panama City, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Connections - Winter 2018 - 27
Connections - Winter 2018 - Choices: Graduation Has Meaning
Connections - Winter 2018 - 29
Connections - Winter 2018 - Index of Advertisers
Connections - Winter 2018 - cover3
Connections - Winter 2018 - cover4