TCI Convention Committee Handbook

Copyright 1997 - 1999 by Jan and Susan Huffman. All rights reserved.

Foreword

The annual convention of Tall Clubs International is held in a different host city every year, with members of the host club serving as committee members. Specific clubs normally host the convention no more frequently than once every ten years. The combination of a different committee every year and personnel who work on a convention being no longer active in their clubs results in every convention committee having minimal, if any, experience in running a convention.

Many clubs hold an annual weekend party, often at a hotel, and these parties can provide some experience in managing a project similar to, but much smaller than, a TCI convention. The experience of having attended previous conventions also can help committee members to know what to plan for the attendees.

We are writing this document to share some of what we learned from running TCI Convention 1993 and from attending, advising, and assisting other conventions. We hope that it can help clubs planning future conventions.


About The Authors

Jan was general chairman of the 1993 TCI convention in Boston, and Susan served as director of the 1993 Miss Tall International pageant.

Table of Contents

Foreword. ii

So You Want It 1

How it All Starts. 1

Recruit a Chairman. 1

The Commitment 1

Court Your Own Club. 1

Court TCI 1

Go And Get It 2

The Ground Work. 2

Theme. 2

Scheduling. 2

Pre-Convention. 2

Value. 3

Expectations. 3

Activities. 4

Hotel 4

Rooms and Bedding. 4

Space for Activities. 4

Registration. 4

Miss Tall International pageant 5

Delegates’ Meeting. 5

Workshops. 5

Club and Award Photos. 5

Historian’s Photo Albums. 5

Hospitality Hours. 5

After-Hours Parties. 5

Assembling Flier Packs. 6

Indoor Sports. 6

Awards Banquet 6

Meals. 6

Dances. 6

Babysitting. 6

Other Activities. 6

Meals. 6

Amenities. 7

Pricing. 7

Contract 7

Tips. 8

Budget 8

Pricing. 8

Schedule. 8

Advice to the Chairman (and Others) 8

Now You’ve Got It — Make It Happen. 10

Hotel 10

Marketing. 10

T-Shirts. 10

Flier 10

Previous Convention Attendees. 11

European. 11

Publicity. 11

Mugs and Goodie Bags. 12

Pageant 12

Registration. 13

Initial Contact 13

Confirmation. 13

Informational Mailings. 13

Mug Labels. 13

Badges. 14

Tickets. 14

Attendee Lists. 14

Door Checks. 14

Payments. 14

Bounced Checks. 15

Refunds. 15

Business and Finance. 15

Corporate Organization. 15

Treasurer 16

Secretary. 16

Services. 16

Banking. 16

Printing. 16

Stationery. 16

Food and Drink. 16

Hotel-Provided Food and Drink. 16

Food and Beverages on Trips. 17

Hospitality Hours. 17

After-Hours Food. 17

After-Hours Bartenders. 17

Security. 17

Transportation. 17

Arrival and Departure. 17

Day Trips. 18

Motor Coaches. 19

Awards. 19

Activities. 19

Sports. 19

Day Trips. 19

Dances. 19

Charity Fundraiser 19

Entertainment 20

After-hours Fun and Games. 20

Day Chairmen. 20

Communications. 20

Registration Area. 20

Personalized Registration Envelope. 20

Attendee List 21

Detailed Itinerary. 21

General Information. 21

Goodie Bags. 21

Mugs and Mug Labels. 21

First Daily Newsletter Edition. 21

Daily Newsletter 21

News and Information. 21

Example: Up-to-the-Minuteman. 21

Sunday. 22

Monday. 22

Tuesday. 22

Wednesday. 22

Thursday. 22

Friday. 22

Saturday. 22

Sunday. 22

Flier Packet Assembly. 22

Awards Banquet 23

Decorations. 23

Clean-Up. 23

More Advice to the Chairman. 23

The Party’s Over 24

The Hotel Bill 24

Accounts Receivable. 24

Remaining Bills to be Paid. 24

Accounting to TCI 24

Government Filings. 24

Disbursement of Funds. 24

Past Mistakes. 25

Bibliography. 28

 

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the members of the Boston Beanstalks Tall Club, without whose efforts the 1993 TCI convention would not have been the great success that we have been told that it was.

Glossary

Auditorium-style. A seating arrangement with chairs in rows, facing front, with no tables in the general seating area.

Classroom-style. A seating arrangement with chairs in rows, facing front, with long tables in front of each row of chairs.

Comp. Complimentary. Something given for free. To provide at no charge.

Conference-style. A seating arrangement with long table arranged in a U or rectangular shape, with chairs pulled up to the outside edge of the tables (and possibly the inside edge if a U shape).

Head table. A table at the front of the room with seating behind it, facing the audience.

Partial. A convention attended who is not purchasing a full convention package.

PPDO. Per person — double occupancy. You should price your convention on a “per person” basis. Double occupancy means two people sharing a room. This is the most common rooming arrangement at TCI conventions, and is the price that is most commonly considered to be the “price of convention.”

Pre-convention. A weekend party held by a nearby tall club or the host club itself on the weekend immediately preceding the annual TCI convention.

Rack rate. The price that an individual walking in off the street will be asked to pay for a room.

ROH. Run of the hotel. No differentiation is made as to room type.

TCI. Tall Clubs International. An organization of tall clubs and their members in the United States and Canada. This social club includes over sixty independent local chapters and over 5,000 individual members.

Weekend. A party hosted by a tall club normally lasting from Friday evening through around Sunday noon. Many clubs hold weekends annually. The host club invites all members of TCI to the weekend. Attendance at a normal (not pre-convention) weekend ranges from around thirty to occasionally two hundred. Typical attendance is around sixty full-time attendees, with more local people coming in for the customary Saturday night dance.


So You Want It

How it All Starts

A convention starts as the idea of an individual. That individual has to sell his ideas about hosting a convention to his fellow club members. In many cases, that individual also becomes the convention chairman. In other cases, the person wants the club to host a convention, but does not want to chair it. This chapter is addressed to the individual with the passion to see a convention happen in his hometown.

Recruit a Chairman

So you want to host a convention! Wonderful! You should plan on running it no less than two years from now. There is lots of work to be done, and it takes a long time to do all of it. You had better have lots of enthusiastic workers available. This is a big task. If you have good leadership and organizational skills, the time (this is a commitment for two years before convention and many months after convention), and the motivation, volunteer to chair the convention. Otherwise, identify (perhaps with the help of politically powerful club members) a fellow club member ready to dedicate a year of his free time to doing the job. Do not consider recruiting a chairman who has not attended conventions in the past. Your chairman will have enough to do without trying to learn what conventions are all about.

The Commitment

How big a job is running convention? The 1993 convention had gross income of around $200,000 for one week. That’s equivalent to the business done in one week by a company with $10 million in annual sales. How big a company is that? Assuming an annual productivity of $150,000 in sales per employee, such a company would have 67 full-time employees. You will, of course, hire much of the work out to others (hotels, restaurants, etc.), and you have more than a week in which to do the work, but you will still need a lot of people spending a lot of time to organize and run the convention.

Court Your Own Club

Court your own members. Get agreement that the effort will be worthwhile. Get commitments from club members to help. Get the board of directors or the general membership to appoint a committee chairman. That’s your ticket to going ahead with your plans.

Court TCI

Court the general membership of TCI. At the 1991 convention in Santa Rosa, California, Jan got up in front of the entire group and asked what they would think of a convention in Boston. This was meant to accomplish two things. First, it was the initial step in the marketing effort. And second, it was a take-out move meant to put everybody on notice that Boston intended to hold the 1993 convention, in case there were other clubs that might decide to bid on it also. They now knew that they would have to compete with Boston for it.

Go And Get It

The Ground Work

The next milestone in preparing for the convention is getting the bid from the TCI directors in the delegates’ meeting a year before the planned convention date. You have a lot of work to do to prepare the bid. Distribute the TCI bylaws and resolutions to all committee members. The convention chairman should read them completely and memorize the sections related to convention, and other members should be aware of all requirements relative to their functions. Plan to work according to these rules.

There are lots of unwritten rules embodied in the expectations of convention attendees. Try to provide at least the things that they are used to having at a convention. We’ll tell you about many of these here, but there is nothing like experiencing several conventions to familiarize you with what conventions are all about.

Theme

The theme is what determines just about everything about the convention. Ask yourself, why would anybody want to come to the place where I want to hold this convention? Perhaps it would help to ask people who are not native. They have a better idea as to what the TCI membership might expect from a convention in your area.

We asked: What would people expect to experience when they come to Boston? What are their perceptions of the city and the area? What can we offer that would motivate them to spend this year’s vacation here?

The answer was overwhelmingly the history of the area. The Shot Heard ’Round the World, Old Ironsides, Plymouth Rock, the Salem Witchcraft Trials. This guided us to our activity plans, our hotel location, our logo (Paul Revere on his horse, the Bunker Hill Monument, and Faneuil Hall), the Miss Tall International Pageant name (Revolutionary Romp), the design of the pageant program cover (the Old North Church, the North Bridge in Concord, and a horse and rider), and our convention title, The Convention Heard ’Round The World.

The convention theme should not be just a title. Think about the titles of conventions you have attended or known about. How many of them were really themes pervading the convention, and how many told you nothing more than what city or state the convention was being held in? If you can chose a theme that the entire convention can be built around, you will find the convention easier to market, and the prospective attendees will be able to understand what the convention is about. The results of a good theme will be maximized attendance, your personal satisfaction, and financial benefit to the convention from having many participants.

Scheduling

Convention is usually held on the week in which the July 4th holiday falls. This allows attendees to use one day less of vacation time at work. Unfortunately, it also means traveling on frequent-flier blackout days. Conventions have also been held the week following July 4th. This has been because the hotels in the area were very busy on July 4th, and room availability would be tight and rooms would be expensive that week. If you plan to use a hotel catering primarily to business travelers, you may find the hotel anxious for you to come over the holiday, as business travelers often avoid traveling that week.

Convention arrival day is normally Monday, and departure day is Sunday, yielding a six-day (roughly noon to noon) convention.  July 4th fell on a Sunday in 1993. One of Boston’s major events is the Independence Day concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra featuring fireworks on the Esplanade and church bells ringing during the 1812 Overture. We scheduled a seven-day convention starting on Sunday so that our attendees could experience this. This meant that pre-convention was only two days (Friday through Sunday) rather than the usual three, which our pre-convention host club readily consented to.

Pre-Convention

You should line up your pre-convention host club in time for them to plan this weekend party. The geographically nearest club normally runs the pre-convention, although in several cases the host club has run its own pre-convention. It provides a moneymaking opportunity for that club and warms up the conventioneers before the convention itself.

Although there should be no financial arrangements between your club and the pre-convention hosts, it is your responsibility to choose the host club. You should work closely with them to achieve maximum synergy.

The pre-convention is normally held from Friday night before convention week through the morning of the convention arrival day. Although it is normally held in the vicinity of the host club, it has at least once been held at the convention site. This seems to us to provide less incentive for conventioneers to attend pre-convention, however. It is generally considered to be the responsibility of the pre-convention host club to pick up their attendees at a convenient major airport before pre-convention and at the end to transport them to convention. Because the Miss Tall International pageant contestants may need to arrive at convention before the normal arrival time, you must notify the pre-convention hosts as to who they must arrange transportation for, to get them to convention early. Perhaps some of your members can help with this contestant transportation. The cost of transportation between pre-convention and convention should be built into the pre-convention package price.

Plan to include pre-convention as part of your proposal to the TCI directors when you present your bid. You should plan to have one of the organizers of the pre-convention describe their plans. Just as you will have your flier ready to pass out to conventioneers a year before your convention date, the pre-convention committee should have their flier ready, too.

It is important that you work with the pre-convention committee. You should arrange for air transportation that will allow attendees to economically attend both the pre-convention and the convention. The themes of the two events can complement each other. You should plan to share registration lists. The registrants for one event should be solicited for the other if they have not registered. For the convenience of foreign attendees, you should provide a convenient way for them to register for and pay for both events together.

It’s also important that you do not duplicate activities. Too often in the past we have gone someplace during pre-convention only to repeat the experience during the convention itself. It is important for pre-convention to be able to offer an experience unique from convention, yet hopefully complementary to it.

We selected the Tri-County Talls of New York and Connecticut as the pre-convention hosts for the 1993 convention. Ellen Freedman and Laurie McFadden served as co-chairs. They held the event in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, just down the road from Old Sturbridge Village, a re-created colonial village. Of course, one of their major draws was a visit to the site. We, therefore, avoided not only going to the same attraction, but we eliminated Plimoth Plantation, another colonial village, from consideration in planning our convention trips. We arranged with our official airline for attendees to be able to fly into Hartford’s Bradley Field, not far from Sturbridge, and then return home from Boston’s Logan International Airport for no additional charge. On our international flier we listed a package price which included the cost of pre-convention, and we included the pre-convention deposit in the requested deposit amount. We took in the money with the registrations. For accounting purposes, pre-convention was listed as a ledger item like any other event we sold. We then sent the deposits and additional pre-convention payments to the pre-convention host club, accounting for these disbursements in our computerized books.

Value

This is the most important word when you make financial decisions. Our primary goal was to provide our convention attendees a good value for their money. This criterion was indispensable in weighing alternatives.

There are certain expectations as to what a convention should cost. We tried to keep our per-day cost in line with the previous year’s convention (remember, our convention was seven days, while most are six). We targeted a price of $649 PPDO for the seven days for those making an early commitment. Then the decisions came down to how we could provide the most value for that price. It is important to not contribute to the upward spiral of TCI convention costs. We have many members who simply cannot afford an expensive vacation. We believe that one of the reasons why the average age of convention attendees appears to be increasing is that many of our younger members don’t have the thousand dollars (including airfare) that it costs to spend less than a week at convention.

If you want your bid to succeed in the delegates’ meeting, keep the price in line with previous years and offer a good value.

There’s nothing like work on the part of your club members to keep the costs down. You can prepare after-hours food for 50 to 75 per person. You can hire the hotel to serve it for about ten times this cost. If you are serving box lunches off-site, you can pick up sandwiches (or even have them delivered) from Subway for half the cost of buying them from the hotel. Members can make them even less expensively. You can add your own fruit from the supermarket cheaper than getting it as part of a prepared lunch. Having some of your members provide off-peak airport transportation can hold down its cost.

You have to decide what your personnel resources are and how you can best deploy them. Don’t over-commit your membership, or you’ll be in real trouble if they don’t deliver. Don’t forget, we all do this for fun. Make sure that the work is fun. Plan cooking parties a week or two before convention (select some after-hours food that you can freeze). Don’t ask people to miss major events to work.

Expectations

This word vies for importance with value. It is essential that you fulfill your guests’ expectations. These are formed primarily from two sources: past experiences at convention and what you have communicated (including by implication) to your prospective attendees. Guests whose expectations are met are happy guests.

Make sure any marketing aligns with what you will deliver. As you make decisions as to what will happen at convention, always keep in mind the expectations of your attendees.

Make sure that when prospective attendees ask questions of your committee they receive accurate answers. Jan remembers one convention he was ambivalent about attending. He asked whether sailing (which was advertised on the flier) was included for free. The convention chairman assured him that it was. When we got there we discovered that she had given Jan misinformation. He was not a happy conventioneer. Make sure that you all know whom to ask for answers and say, “I will find out for you” instead of giving wrong answers.

The 1991 TCI convention was split into two parts. The first was promoted as the “San Francisco portion.” We were sorely disappointed when we spent only a few hours in the city.

Activities

Only a few activities are prescribed by TCI. You must have a Miss Tall International pageant (normally Tuesday night or Wednesday night if Independence Day is Tuesday), a delegates’ meeting (normally all day Tuesday), workshops (usually at the end of the week), sports (not on delegates’ meeting day), an awards banquet the final night of convention, and club and award winners’ photos. Club photos are normally taken before dinner on dress-up nights, usually Tuesday (pageant night) for clubs without queens and Saturday (awards night) for clubs with queens. Look to your theme to decide what other activities are appropriate.

Plan an after-hours party every night unless you have an extremely good reason not to. Serve food at the beginning of the party (some of us older folks may eat and then go to bed) and have an open bar with bartenders and a DJ for dancing.

If Independence Day is during convention week, plan on watching fireworks.

You should plan on two or three day trips by coach to area attractions. We remember one convention that had no off-site trips. Jan considers himself very fortunate to have had a car at convention that year, while Susan didn’t mind hanging around the hotel talking all week.

Plan dances on the two dress-up nights, normally Tuesday and Saturday. Another dance between them (Thursday, perhaps) would be nice.

Hotel

Rooms and Bedding

Most hotels will quote you a price based on run of the hotel. In some hotels, certain rooms are much nicer than others, and the hotel may quote you prices by room category. A differential pricing structure will result in a more complex flier and more work for your registration committee. If the hotel has enough rooms in one or two acceptable categories, you could consider limiting your offerings to these categories.

Find out up front how many rooms have king-size beds. You should have a mix of king-size and double-double rooms (rooms with two double or queen-size beds) if you can get them. Couples and singles will opt for king-size, while others sharing will prefer rooms with two double or queen-size beds.

A pull-out couch is wonderful for rooms sleeping more than two roommates. Try to assign rooms with a pull-out couch in addition to two beds as triples or quads.

Although a few attendees will demand it, don’t encourage triple or quad occupancy. It doesn’t work out well for most people.

Try to get the hotel to assign your attendees to one area in the hotel. This will make it easy for them to visit each other and will keep us from disturbing other hotel guests. If you can assign the Miss Tall International pageant contestants rooms near one another, they will be better able to share their unique experience.

Advertise that rooms will be assigned in the order in which registrations are received. That way, if you cannot accommodate everyone’s wishes, you will have a basis for your assignment decisions.

Space for Activities

The hotel should give you the use of public rooms for all your events at no charge. You will need rooms for the following:

Registration

Optimally, you should have a room for registration that you can keep all week. This will provide you with a convention office, where attendees can come to ask questions, make requests, and transact business. We also published our daily newspaper in this room and kept our registration computer permanently set up here. Because we had a lot of publicity during the convention, we handled many phone calls from the public in this room. The room has to be large, though, to handle the crowd on arrival day. You’ll need room for several long tables for collecting money, signing up for optional activities, and selling souvenirs. You may have to move the bulk of registration activity to a larger area on arrival day if your registration room isn’t big enough.

We had our registration room in a prime location, between the after-hours people’s room and our room, with interconnecting doors. This allowed us to deal with things in the registration room easily just about anytime. We could also hear the phone ringing, so we could answer it. The only negative aspect to this was that we used our bedroom for secure storage of such things as awards, so we had quite a bit of traffic in and out of our room. When late registrants showed up mid-week after all four hundred goodie bags had been given away, one of the registration helpers gave away our bags, since they were in our room with other storage. At one time the TCI President needed to find Jan and opened the door, only to find him emerging from the shower with only a towel on his head.

Miss Tall International pageant

If the hotel has a room other than the one in which you will have dinner before the pageant large enough to accommodate the pageant with auditorium-style seating, try to use it. We have been to too many pageants held in the dinner room with the rounds still in place. Those with the bad luck of sitting far from the stage almost need binoculars to see.

You must have a stage and some backstage area for props. You will also need a dressing room (or several dressing rooms) large enough to accommodate the contestants and their paraphernalia. If the hotel does not have a room with a stage, you or the hotel will have to get sufficient staging and some sort of curtain or backdrop behind the stage. It is essential that you include your pageant director in early site visits to hotels that seem appropriate. You’ll need lights, both for general stage lighting (such as light trees) and one or preferably two spotlights. You will also need a sound system including a podium microphone for the master of ceremonies and a corded or cordless hand-held mike plus two cordless lavaliere microphones for the contestants. You must be able to play cassette tapes and compact discs. Several contestants have included a slide show as part of their New Dimensions presentations, so check into the availability of a slide projector and a screen.

Delegates’ Meeting

The room for the delegates’ meeting should be large enough to hold seventy delegates and alternates classroom-style plus a head table for the Executive Board. There should be a microphone on the podium, and outlets for a video camera. There should also be a table in the back of the room for coffee, water, and lunches.

Workshops

The workshops are normally run serially in a single room. This room should be set up conference-style (the tables in a rectangle with seating around the outside. If necessary, you can use auditorium-style or classroom-style seating, but the conference-style arrangement is more conducive to the interactive nature of the workshops. You will not need a public address system for the workshops. If there is to be an on-line presentation at any workshop, you will need a telephone line to connect to an Internet service provider.

Club and Award Photos

Look for either a segregated room or an isolated area. A plain background is important, perhaps a plain wall, white curtains, or even a giant motion picture screen. This area will be used four times, two evenings for club pictures before the dress-up events, and after the pageant and after the awards banquet. Make sure there is room for the largest groups to be photographed along with at least two other groups assembling to be photographed.

Historian’s Photo Albums

The TCI photo historian (Irene Ignatz) brings large photo albums from the past ten conventions for perusal by the attendees. You should provide a safe area for storage of the albums plus space for people to sit at tables and look at the albums. This room should be available many times during the convention, while there are no major events happening.

Hospitality Hours

A before-dinner cocktail hour hosted by convention is appropriate any evening when there is time before dinner. You may choose to hold this event in the after-hours room. You will need a bar for about an hour of service each evening.

After-Hours Parties

Unless there is an extraordinary reason, you should plan an after-hours party every night. We highly recommend using a large room with space enough for a bar, food service, a DJ setup, dancing, and sitting. You may also want a stage if you are going to feature contests such as the Miss Tall Transvestite International competition. We’ve seen only one occasion where a guest suite worked well for the after-hours party. That particular suite was a separate two-story building. You will need to use a room considerably larger than even the largest suite in most hotels.

If you are serving after-hours food prepared by your own members, you will need the use of a walk-in cooler for storing the food throughout the convention. Make sure that you will have access to the cooler during after-hours. You will also need an area to use for preparing the food. See whether there is an unused kitchen near your after-hours room (at least unused late at night). You will have to heat the food. Does the hotel have any facilities, or will your members have to donate the use of microwave ovens and crock pots?  Make sure that there is plenty of electricity for your electrical heating equipment, as it uses a lot of power.

Assembling Flier Packs

Rather than having fliers spread out all over the tables during the awards banquet, several conventions have assembled flier packs. This should be done near the end of the week, giving clubs an opportunity to copy their fliers if they have not brought enough. You will need a room for two or three hours. This could be the registration room or the photo album room.

Indoor Sports

We’re talking about things like darts here. Several of the older attendees had a good time with darts throughout the week at the 1992 Houston convention. If you are planning any such activities, find a place for them. Houston had a room off the main after-hours room. We used a corridor that was exclusively ours for the convention week.

Awards Banquet

This will probably be held in the hotel ballroom. You’ll need a head-table setup for the Executive Board and a few invited guests such as the convention chairman. Plan to accommodate twelve at the head table.

Meals

The hotel ballroom is usually the spot for the evening meals that you eat in the hotel. For breakfast you can use the hotel coffee shop or your own breakfast room (perhaps again the hotel ballroom).

Dances

Take a look at the size of the room where you will be eating dinner. Is there a dance floor that won’t be covered with tables? Perhaps you will want to use a different room for your dances. If your pageant is in a different room from dinner, there will be time to clear away the dinner seating during the pageant and set up for the Coronation Ball in the dinner room. Consider the logistics of getting a DJ’s or bands equipment set up before the dance.

Babysitting

In the event that TCI ever changes its bylaws and allows members to bring their children of various ages, you may want to offer babysitting facilities. There was one German couple who wanted to bring their two-year-old son with them, as they didn’t want to leave him with relatives for that long of a trip. Another German wanted to bring his 13-year-old son. As it turned out, neither child was able to attend for personal reasons, but we were ready for them in case they had been able to make it. We had potential babysitters lined up with age appropriate activities planned, and a room supplied by the hotel to accommodate this. Our babysitters were older teen-age children and friends of our members who scheduled that week to be available for us. This service was to have been paid for directly by the parents at the prevailing local babysitting rates.

Other Activities

Think about what other activities you would like to have at the hotel. One might be a Marfan fund-raiser such as a carnival or an auction. You’ll need an appropriate room with time to set up and tear down.

Meals

You should include three meals a day in your convention package, from the evening meal on arrival day through breakfast of departure day. The three meals are normally breakfast, dinner, and after-hours. Plan for some opportunity for those wanting lunch to get it (usually at their own expense) mid-day.

We recommend that all meals be buffets. They take less time than plated meals and are easier for you, because you don’t have to worry about how many of each type of meal to order. Furthermore, the variety you can provide on a buffet will satisfy people better than a plated dinner, and you won’t over-feed those with small appetites or starve those of us who really like to eat.

One of the more creative ways of handling breakfast was when the 1988 Los Angeles convention gave attendees chits that they could use in the hotel coffee shop for breakfast or spend in any shop in the hotel in any way they pleased. After stuffing ourselves at after-hours and then sleeping, we really weren’t hungry for breakfast, so we appreciated the option of using our credit elsewhere.

An alternative is to provide chits and having the hotel charge the convention only for those actually used. This can save the convention quite a bit of money. You have to assess the ability of the hotel coffee shop to serve quickly, as people will have to eat and be ready for your daily activities. Sometimes the coffee shop can offer a buffet, so your guests can eat quickly.

If you use chits, make certain that they cover the cost of an entire meal including tax and tip, and make the attendees aware that the tip is included.

You should expect that the hotel will want to cater any event that is using their facilities. Specifically, you should expect the hotel to serve lunch for the delegates’ meeting and to provide coffee and sodas for morning and afternoon breaks.

If you want to use box lunches off-site, you can have the hotel cater them or go to a local sandwich shop. We used Subway (the submarine sandwich people), who delivered our lunches to us before each bus trip. Get a quote from the hotel, but you will probably find more economical prices elsewhere.

You ask lunches? Yes, this was an amenity that we added (with no advertising) at the last minute when our budget showed registration high enough that we could afford to provide lunches on the buses and still meet our profit goal.

You should plan for the hotel to serve breakfast every day, cater the delegates’ meeting, and serve at least three dinners, probably including the pageant dinner (unless you hold it off-site) and the awards banquet.

Amenities

What facilities does the hotel provide? Swimming pool? Hot tub? Sports? Are they available when your attendees will be there (not just open while you are off on your day trips)? Can they be made available to your group late at night? If you find the amenities lacking, can you supplement them yourselves? We rented two hot tubs that we positioned just outside the after-hours room door for late night dipping. The hotel provided us a place to hook up the electrical power for the hot tubs, water to fill them, and facilities for draining them. Is the hotel willing to commit in your contract that the facilities they promise will be available to your group and not closed for renovations?

The Miss Tall International pageant requires some services. Is there a hairdresser in the hotel? How about a florist? Are they willing to work with you?

Pricing

The room pricing that you will be offered should be considerably discounted from rack rates. The hotel should also offer you complementary use of all the public rooms you need for your activities. Don’t accept any proposal that specifies that you will pay for public rooms if attendance goals aren’t met. Instead, offer to use a smaller room if your attendance doesn’t justify the use of the planned facilities.

The hotel should also offer you one free sleeping room for each fifty to twenty rooms used. This is effectively a bonus of two to five percent. Ask that this be based on total room nights, not total rooms, in other words one room night free with every fifty, twenty, or whatever the hotel offers. Also, depending on your circumstances, you may need a few of your people at the hotel the night before convention opens, such as your convention chairman, your registration head(s), and your pageant directors. Explain that these people are volunteers and why you need them there, and ask for the hotel to comp rooms for them.

Contract

Explain to the hotel sales people that you will not get authorization to host the convention until after you present your bid. This is a good negotiating point, as it lets the hotel people know that they are not just in competition with other hotels in your local area, but after you have chosen them, they are still in competition with other cities. Let them know that even if you are in an expensive city, they must be competitive with other bids, which could come from less expensive geographic areas. You will not be able to sign a contract until you have gotten the bid. The best you can do is to commit to the hotel that they will be part of your bid. They may be able to provide you with sales brochures to help you in your bid presentation.

Make sure that you have firm price commitments for the convention date from all your contractors, including the hotel. What you can commit to is that as soon as you get the bid, you will sign a contract. A letter of intent stating this fact is appropriate, if anybody should ask for it.

It is essential that all understandings appear in the contract. Our hotel told us that the contract they had with us was the most detailed contract they had ever written. Jan was glad to hear this. It meant that everybody has the same expectations, and that we had taken the time to articulate them to each other. The contract is not inscribed in concrete. You can adjust it by mutual consent with the hotel at any time all the way through the convention week. Always keep the hotel appraised of any changes in your plans so that they can make adjustments accordingly. In many ways you should think of them as partners. Keep in mind how they will make their profit from the convention, and consider how any changes you propose may impact that profit. Don’t keep asking them for things that will reduce their profit. Think instead how mutually beneficial changes can be made.

We remember a pre-convention not too long ago where the chairman had arranged to serve after-hours food in a public room where the DJ was playing. A hotel employee ran for the shift manager, who told the chairman that this was not allowed. They ended up serving their food and beverage in a suite two connected buildings away, and the DJ ended up playing to an empty room. A contract ready at hand to show to the shift manager spelling out the agreement would have saved the entire pre-convention’s after-hours parties.

Hotel employees change jobs frequently. It’s the policy of hotel chains to rotate their management personnel through various properties. Hotels are bought and sold. All this explains why many of the people you plan your convention with may not be the ones who actually provide the services during convention week. This is another reason why it is essential to have all agreements in writing as part of the contract. At more than one weekend hotel management or ownership has changed between writing the original contract and the event itself. In every case, the new people have honored everything in the contract, even though hotel policies may have changed. Lots of things we do at our conventions are against the policies of many hotels. Make sure everything is agreed to in the contract, and change the contract as you make changes to your plans. It’s the only way you can protect yourself from these personnel and policy changes.

Tips

You should plan to pay for all tips. These may relate to baggage service, bus drivers, guides, parcel delivery, food and beverage service and delivery, and technical assistance at the pageant. As you make arrangements, routinely ask what tips might be expected.

Budget

Your primary planning document will be your budget. Set up a spreadsheet with columns for various numbers of attendees (for example, 150, 200, 250, 300. List your expense categories down the page, followed by income (attendees times price). Add mark-up to each appropriate expense as dictated by the TCI bylaws, and after your net income row (income minus expenses) add a row for target net income. This budget is an essential working document. Keep it constantly updated. When actual costs are available, replace the estimated ones.

Entries for fixed-cost items will be the same in all columns. You can put items on your budget that you can afford to do only if your attendance is high enough. As it becomes more obvious over time from registrations what your actual attendance will be, you can commit to those optional items. Items to be added above the minimum attendance level that you reasonably expect should not be mentioned in your proposal, however.

In order to present your proposal you must have a good idea as to what all your expenses will be. Review the rest of this document for ideas as to what you should provide in your convention package. Contact potential suppliers to get cost estimates, and insert them into your budget.

Pricing

Using your budget, you can determine what price you have to charge in able to deliver the items that you want to put in your proposal based on your minimum reasonably expected attendance. You should propose full package prices based on single, double, triple, and quad occupancy. These should be included in your proposal. Later you can distribute partial package prices and individual event prices. Prices normally vary over time to encourage early registration (accompanied by a deposit of typically $100).

Look at the double-occupancy price for the past three years’ conventions to determine what is a reasonable price. Try to keep your per-day charge in line with what these previous conventions have charged. If you find that you cannot match the average price of the past three conventions within a few percent, rethink what is costing you so much.

Use the net income formula from the TCI bylaws to calculate your overall net income target. Do not misinterpret the bylaws with respect to individual event pricing. They do not specify what items can be marked up for individual pricing. Markups should include not only net income but also a distribution of overhead expenses such as publicity. Use reason in marking up individual items. Make sure that the total of individual item and/or partial package prices is more than the highest equivalent full-package price.

Schedule

The convention schedule is second only to your budget as a planning tool. Keep it constantly updated. List everything you plan to do at the convention by date and time. Be as detailed as possible. Your committee members should be able to rely on this schedule to plan their activities. List every time. Include such details as when the buses are scheduled to arrive to pick people up and when the dance band will need to set up. Print the location next to the time. That way you can be sure that facilities are available and that there are no conflicts. In some cases, you will have more than one thing going on at a time, for example, a pageant rehearsal or a delegates’ meeting along with a recreational event.

Advice to the Chairman (and Others)

Here are some miscellaneous thoughts that we believe are important in having a successful convention. Most of them don’t fit elsewhere in this document. A few we consider so important that we are repeating them here.

Don’t ever forget that this is an international organization. Remove the word “national” from your vocabulary for the next two years. Repeat, international, international. This is an international convention. TCI is made up of clubs in both the United States and Canada. If you have one country’s flag, also have the other. Make sure payment is easy for people from the other country. Avoid using your country’s colors (like having the queens wear red, white, and blue for publicity), except for what is clearly an Independence Day celebration.

Communication is essential. Make sure that you know everything that is going on and that you coordinate the different committees. Make sure they know as much as possible, too.

Don’t have a club weekend party within twelve months before or nine months after the convention. People will think “I was just there” or “I’m going there,” and the effect on attendance at both events will be disastrous. Moreover, you need to focus the efforts of your volunteers (which should be everybody in the club willing to work) on the convention. After convention they will be so burned out that they won’t want to run anything for a while.

Don’t think that it is over when it is over. Two months of auditing our hotel bill resulted in about half of our overall profit, and our issues with the Internal Revenue Service dragged on for two and a half years. You, your registration chairman, and your treasurer must plan to spend quite a bit of time together after convention.

Plan a weekend party between twenty-one and fourteen months before convention. As far as practical, have your committee personnel perform the duties they will have at convention. Hold it at the hotel you plan to use for convention. You can assess your people’s performance and get to know the hotel personnel and facility and learn how to work with them. Replace anybody who seems unable to do his job effectively. If you discover a fatal flaw with the hotel, you will have a chance to resolve the problem or substitute another venue.

The success of hundreds of people’s vacation for the year is in your hands. Being a “nice guy” to one person can adversely affect lots of other people. You have an awesome responsibility to your guests. You must do what it takes to see that everything is done right.

Make sure everything is written down. Specifically, all contracts should spell out all agreements. Insist on complete contracts from the hotel and all entertainers. Document everything in your monthly meeting minutes and distribute them to all committee heads, other active workers, the TCI President and the TCI Written Historian. Create “to do before the next meeting” lists at every meeting and document them in every set of minutes. Get reports at every meeting as to whether these goals have been accomplished.

Buy a plastic box for hanging file folders with a handle on the top and organize your records in it. Keep copies of all minutes, proposals, contracts, corporate documents, TCI bylaws, the latest registration list, and any other documents you may want to refer to in it. Take it to every meeting.

Now You’ve Got It — Make It Happen

Now that the TCI directors have given you the green light, you can finalize arrangements that previously had to be tentative.

What have been abstract concepts (we’ll have a live band) will turn into specific plans (Night School will play from 8:00 to 12:00).

Suddenly your registrar’s phone will be ringing with calls from people outside the club.

Your committee chairmen should begin recruiting their sub-committee heads and individual workers.

But if you’ve been doing things right, much will be unchanged. Your monthly meetings will proceed pretty much the same as before.

Hotel

As soon as you get authorization from TCI to host the convention, you should carry through on your promise to sign the contract. Remember that the contract can be changed, but at any time it should reflect the plans of both the convention committee and the hotel.

So far, you have probably worked primarily with the sales department. If you have not already done so, you should meet the people with whom you will be working in preparation for and during convention week. These include the reservation manager and front desk manager for reservations and check-in, the comptroller for financial issues and payment plans, the banquet manager for food and beverage service and public room set-up, the technical director (if they have one) for pageant planning, the chief engineer for power and any other engineering requirements, and anybody else you and the sales person agree would be good to meet. This might include the night shift desk manager, your assigned banquet coordinator (if there is one), the housekeeping manager (although our requirements of housekeeping are unremarkable) and the chief of security. Your committee people should establish a rapport with the hotel people with whom they will be working. For example, your treasurer should talk about payment terms with the hotel’s comptroller, and your registrar should work out many details with the front desk and/or reservations manager.

Plan on going over with these people what you have already planned with your salesperson. They will be interested in knowing what you expect of them and what they can expect from our group. Don’t be demanding. Instead be understanding and willing to ask them for recommendations. They have been through a lot. They probably will come up with many worthwhile suggestions. Use them. They are professionals, and they know what works in their facility. Let them know that you respect their knowledge and are willing to learn from it and to make plans taking their suggestions into account.

These are the people who will be supplying your services or supervising those who will. Make them your friends. Show them the respect that they deserve. Too often hotel patrons treat them otherwise. You will need unanticipated favors from these people. Include them in your plans. Invite them to join the group (as your guests) for some of the activities that you think they might enjoy, and which won’t cost you anything.

Marketing

T-Shirts

T-shirt sales traditionally provide the host club an opportunity to enhance its treasury without running into convention profit limits and the necessity of sharing the profits with TCI. In other words, the T-shirts and other convention paraphernalia are bought by the host club and sold at convention by the host club.

The convention itself can use T-shirts as a marketing tool. We were confident that we had no competition for the 1993 convention bid, so we printed fifty shirts with our convention logo and the dates and location of convention to wear at the 1992 European tall club convention and to sell there. We printed an additional fifty overprinted with the phrase “I’ll Be There.” We gave these to the first fifty registrants (primarily at the 1992 TCI convention). These shirts advertised our convention at the previous year’s convention and throughout the year.

Flier

You will need multiple versions of the convention flier. Each should be complete on a single page, so that club newsletters can print it conveniently.

Your main flier is the one that you will distribute to everybody at convention. You can use it to sell your convention to the attendees, both for their attendance and to help you win the bid. The flier should feature your convention name and logo, present reasons for attendance at your convention including your primary events, and list complete per-person package prices for each room type and occupancy (single, double, etc.), and deadline dates for early-deposit discounts. If you are offering an incentive for early registrants (a T-shirt to the first fifty, for example), put this on the flier. There should be a registration form at the bottom of the flier.

A second flier should list partial packages and individual event prices in place of the complete package price. You’ll need more room for this, so you can delete the list of primary events (they’re listed with their prices) and the early-registration incentive. You can format this flier as a registration form so the registrant can check off the items he is registering for. Give this flier only to people who ask about partial prices.

As time goes by, you should revise your main flier by deleting the early-registration incentive and discounts as their dates are passed.

Mail the main flier to all newsletter editors. You may want to send your revised flier (with expired discounts deleted) again about three months before convention. When your club members attend out-of-town weekend parties, give them the latest fliers to distribute to weekend attendees.

Club newsletters come in two sizes, 8 11 and 5 8. You should format your flier for both sizes. Don’t just reduce the larger one. The aspect ratios are different, so you won’t be using space efficiently. If you just reduce the larger page, the type on the smaller page will be too small. Use an appropriate type size for each of the page sizes. In other words, customize the contents of each page size.

Previous Convention Attendees

Convention is no different from most ventures, which rely on repeat business. Sell your convention at the previous year’s convention. If you provide an incentive such as a free T-shirt you should get between forty and fifty registrations at the convention. Ask the registrar or convention chairman for a registration list, and mail a flier and any other promotional material to everybody on the list, excluding those already registered for your convention and partial registrants from the host club.

European

The European convention is held annually in May. This timing is unfortunate, because by May most people have decided how they will spend their summer holiday (as they say in Europe). That means that you should sell your convention at the previous year’s European convention, held before you have officially gotten the bid.

Because we were confident that we would get the bid (we had checked and were aware of no competition), ten of our club members went to Vienna in 1992 to invite the Europeans to Boston, telling them simply that we were going to host the convention. That we didn’t have the bid was an insignificant detail, which we omitted.

We arrived with fifty T-shirts that we both wore and sold and with two-sided fliers prepared specifically for the Europeans. One side was in English, and the other side was in German. We had arranged with pre-convention to collect deposits for them, so we presented two packages, one including and one omitting pre-convention. All registrations were directed to us. We highlighted our ability to accept credit card payments, so monetary exchange would pose no problem. We listed Uwe Seyler as a European contact person, so people could get information in both German and English without having to call the United States. Uwe can also arrange transportation, and we directed transportation questions to him. A German native, Uwe recently moved to New York City.

For the 1988 fiftieth anniversary convention, Uwe led a bus tour throughout the United States and Canada for fifty tall people from Europe. The highlight was the convention in Los Angeles.

Uwe has also arranged bus tours for Americans and Canadians following some European Conventions, and he can help you make your European convention arrangements. We enjoyed a wonderful trip through Alpine Austria, Germany, and Switzerland following the 1992 convention, where he chose a very nice hotel for us and played host all week.

You should definitely speak with Uwe about your convention plans and how he can help you have a truly international convention.

As a result of our efforts at recruiting European participation, we had twenty-five European attendees at the 1993 convention. As a special thank-you to them, Toby Brown directed a flag presentation at our awards banquet including carrying the flag of every attendee’s country and announcing in the native language of that country and in English how many attendees were present.

Publicity

We are differentiating publicity from marketing. What we refer to as marketing is selling the convention to prospective attendees. The convention provides an opportunity to increase public awareness of TCI and of the host club. Thus, the convention can help TCI and the host club accomplish their goal of increasing tall awareness.

Use your pageant contestants and your new Miss Tall International for publicity. Arrange with the pageant committee for the contestants to dress alike and go someplace where they can meet the press and be seen by lots of people. By TCI rules, the contestants’ time belongs to the pageant committee until after the pageant is over, and the new Miss Tall International and the first and second runner-up must be available all week. Have your club queen and king travel with Miss Tall International for press opportunities.

Because the convention is usually held during Independence Day week, see whether there is a parade going on nearby where either all the contestants or at least Miss Tall International and your club queen and king can participate.

Look around for other local events that the press might be covering. Talk with their organizers and see if there is a way for you to do something with them that will get you publicity.

Are any of your own activities newsworthy? The pageant should be. If anything else is, write press releases announcing the activity. Invite the press to attend. List your events that are open to the public in the activities calendar of the area’s major as well as local newspapers. Be sure to get your announcements out before press deadlines.

Be prepared to handle the press if your promotion really works. The people running your events won’t have time to host the press. Make sure that you have a publicity person available at all times to handle press contacts. You may receive telephone calls from the press or from the public at the convention site as a result of your publicity. Notify hotel desk personnel as to how to handle calls. Have your host club membership chairman bring membership information to all public events.

Mugs and Goodie Bags

Tradition demands that you include a mug and a goodie bag as part of any multi-day package. The mugs are used at all events where the convention (rather than the hotel) provides open bar service. This will reduce your usage of disposable beverage cups. Most conventions supply 20-ounce covered Aladdin mugs silk-screen printed with the convention logo, although cash-strapped conventions can provide something as simple as a twenty-five cent plastic cup from K-Mart. Your registration committee should provide a mug label with each attendee’s name for distribution with the mugs. This is most easily printed on transparent adhesive labels by the computer from the registration list. Your helpers will be plenty busy without having to make Dymo labels for every attendee. Another way to save money (although certainly the result is not as nice as printed Aladdin mugs) is to get plain mugs and print the convention logo along with each attendee’s name on a clear adhesive label to be applied to the mug. Make sure that the mug surface is not textured or shaped in a way that keeps the label from adhering properly. Also make sure that the labels will fit on the mug.

Goodie bags should include small useful things such as pens, pencils, note pads, condoms, and information about your locality. You should solicit donations of these items from local businesses. You can even use plastic goodie bags that are themselves donated. Insurance companies often give away pens and pencils printed with their advertising, and printers can sometimes provide note pads with their ads printed on them. Check with your local Planned Parenthood office to see whether they will donate condoms or sell them to you at a favorable price. Keep an eye out for merchants giving out promotional items during the year. CVS has given us potato chip bag clips and bottle openers. Check with your chamber of commerce and convention and visitors’ bureau for literature about the local area that might be useful to your attendees. You might want to include some product or memento of your town, such as a sample of locally made candy. You may be able to get this donated, too.

We used cloth tote bags imprinted with the convention logo on one side and the TCI logo on the other as goodie bags for the 1993 convention. We still see these bags in use by attendees at every convention. They were a bonus that we provided to increase the value of our convention package only after our registration reached a level that indicated that we could afford them. They were particularly appropriate for our convention because we spent so much time away from the hotel.

You should expect pricing from your supplier of mugs and any other custom-printed items such as tote bags to be based on a screen or set-up charge plus a per-piece charge, which may decrease as your quantities increase. This is the same kind of pricing that you probably have encountered when ordering custom-printed shirts.

Pageant

The Miss Tall International pageant is a required feature of convention. Technically, it is not the responsibility of the convention committee, but an independent committee of the host club runs it for TCI. Its books must be maintained separately; however, its primary source of income is normally the convention.

The pageant provides the entertainment for the convention-goers on one night, normally Tuesday. Therefore, the convention should pay the pageant committee for each convention attendee. The pageant committee has additional sources of revenue through program advertising, contestant registration fees, TCI contributions, and door receipts.

Neither the convention corporation nor the pageant committee is allowed to make a profit, as any revenues above expenses must be distributed to TCI and to the host club. The TCI by-laws do not provide for the pageant to lose money. If pageant has more receipts than expenses, seventy percent must be paid to TCI and thirty percent to the host club. Sixty percent of net convention receipts must be paid to TCI and forty percent to the host club. Thus, it is most advantageous to the host club for the pageant’s receipts to equal expenses. This maximizes the amount that will be paid to the host club at the forty percent rate. The easiest way to accomplish this is for the convention committee to agree to pay the pageant the necessary amount to make its receipts equal its expenses, to be calculated after all expenses and other receipts are accounted for.

The pageant and the convention are interdependent. Convention, through negotiating for a pageant room and dressing rooms, provides the facilities for the pageant. The pageant contestants may serve the convention as models for a fashion show. The pageant and its contestants normally provide the bulk of publicity opportunities for the convention, especially if celebrity judges are recruited.

At our convention, the pageant contestants dressed in matching outfits and rode a bus together to our Monday activities. The outgoing Miss Tall International was presented a key to the city that we visited. We promoted their visits and had a lot of press coverage. One of our judges was Dave Cowens, a professional basketball star and national Marfan spokesman. As a result of his involvement, the Boston Globe featured our convention on the front page, with a photo from the Monday outing. A photo crew from the television program Entertainment Tonight covered the pageant itself. Later in the week, keys to two additional cities were presented to the newly crowned Miss Tall International, with attendant press coverage.

The pageant chairman (and other pageant committee members who want to) should be at your monthly convention meetings. The functions of the two committees are so closely intertwined that each committee needs to know what the other is planning.

The convention is paying the bulk of the cost of the pageant. It is being held for the convention attendees, not the queens’ parents. Do not allow your pageant committee to give preferential seating to contestants’ families. If this happens, your full-time attendees will be ordered to the worst seats, and folks coming in (and paying) for only the one event will have the prime views.

We refer you to Debbie Rethemeyer’s TCI Pageant Handbook for detailed information as to how to run the pageant. We also recommend that your pageant chairman use a past pageant chairman as an advisor. This can be done either by frequent consulting by phone or preferably, if the advisor is nearby, having the advisor also visit the site, work closely with the committee people (perhaps even taking some responsibility as associate pageant director), and help out during the pageant rehearsals and the pageant itself.

Registration

Initial Contact

You are usually the initial contact with the participants. While most of the attendees will have made their own arrangements for who they would like to share their room with, some of the newer members will not have done so.  It is the job of registration to match these people up with someone who is hopefully compatible with them. You will need to find out if registrants are smokers, snore unusually loudly, or have any other habits that may make it difficult to place them with roommates. When it comes time to assign the actual roommates, it will help to get someone else on the committee who has been to other conventions and hopefully knows some of these people to help with this task.

You should plan on having some double rooms half occupied on some nights. At most, you should plan on being unable to sell a maximum of four rooms per night, as you may be unable to match a smoker or non-smoker man or woman with somebody compatible. However, if you work at it, you may find somebody willing to share with an “incompatible” roommate to avoid having half-occupied rooms.

Confirmation

You should mail a confirmation to each registered attendee including a statement of account and a copy of the registration information as you have recorded it. This information should also include their roommate’s name in case any questions arise about that. Also it will be helpful for them to contact the roommate ahead of time, as they may wish to coordinate items that they are bringing from home. Include instructions as to how to submit corrections or missing information.

Informational Mailings

You should mail information two or three weeks before convention to registered attendees that is more detailed than that in the flier. Include the following:

Detailed itinerary

Airport and Train Arrival Information

Hotel address for shipping

Hotel telephone number for contact during convention week

What to bring

How many weekend fliers to bring

Official florist contact information

Expected weather conditions

Environmental health information

Brochures about destinations

List (with prices) of optional events

Individual statement of account

Registration information as you have recorded it

Instructions as to how to submit corrections or missing information

Mug Labels

You should provide an adhesive label to be applied to each multi-day attendee’s mug. Make sure that your label material will adhere to the mug, and that it will fit. If you are using silk-screen printed mugs, you will need only the registrant’s name on the label. If your mugs are not printed, you may want the label to also include the convention logo. Clear plastic labels are generally the most attractive. You can use a Dymo label maker to produce the labels. Dymo labels adhere to most mug surfaces, but they take a long time to produce, and the people making them can easily make mistakes. Computer-printed labels are easier and less error-prone.

Badges

There are two badge styles that you should consider. The first is a card that fits into a plastic holder that pins onto clothing. The primary advantage of this style is that the badge holder provides a place for tickets to be carried along with the badge so that the attendee doesn’t misplace them. Its disadvantages are that it has to be pinned through the clothing (there is a version with a clip), and it’s easy for the badge to fall out of the holder.

The other style is the plastic-laminated badge. You print about ten individualized badges on a sheet of plain paper and then cut them apart. You then laminate them into a luggage-tag pouch. The luggage-tag pouch has a slot for a strap with a clip, which most people prefer to a pin, since it is less likely to damage clothing. This style looks nicer than the badge holder. You can print emergency information to appear on the back of the badge, either on the back of the sheet of paper that the badges are print on or on a second sheet of paper to be placed behind the individualized badge in the pouch before lamination. You’ll need a laminating machine to make these badges.

The emergency information should include the name and address of your hotel and the main telephone number. It should also list telephone numbers that can be used to contact people who can help out attendees in need of assistance, such as day chairmen and the transportation chairman.

Badges can be color coded or otherwise marked to identify whether the attendee has purchased a full package or is a partial registrant. Some conventions have used colored dots to specify which days the registrant has purchased. This way, the badge can serve as an admission ticket to individual events.

Tickets

Try to keep the use of tickets to a minimum. Attendees are always forgetting them, and you’ll have to spend your time making exceptions for attendees who have left their tickets at home. Collecting tickets keeps your workers from enjoying the event themselves.

Tickets are most likely necessary for public events such as the Miss Tall International pageant, although you can issue tickets only to partial registrants and allow those with badges marked “full” to use their badges for admission.

Tickets also provide a means for keeping track of meal selections, in case you are having meals for which your guests must let you know in advance what they want to eat. The attendees should present these tickets to the servers, relieving your workers of the task of collecting them.

Attendee Lists

You should give each attendee upon arrival a list of all registrants. You should include contact information and primary club affiliation. This can be sorted alphabetically or by club. At the 1993 convention we provided an alphabetic list and a cross-reference of who was there by club.

Door Checks

Checking attendees’ credentials at every event will consume too much of your workers’ time. Do this selectively and unannounced. The need for door checks varies with the event and your convention venue. Any event announced to the public such as the pageant requires a door check. At the other end of the scale are workshops, which should not even have a price associated with them. In-between, consider the probability of local club members or the public coming to the event. Don’t tie up your workers doing door checks where your only concern is partial registrants attending without buying the event. Your registration chairman will know who are partial registrants and can check the registration records in case one shows up at an event for which he is not registered. If you do want to have someone at the door, try to get a club member who has not contributed in other ways to the convention. This will allow some relief to your committee, and will allow other members to feel involved and a part of it all. There are usually some members who want to help but are unable to contribute time before the actual event. These people will fill this role nicely.

Payments

Make a copy of every check you receive before the convention and keep it in a manila folder marked with the registrant’s name, along with the registration form itself and any other written communication. In case the attendee’s recollection of what money he paid differs from yours, a copy of the check will serve as evidence of what was really paid.

You should give or mail all checks to your treasurer, who should also make a back-up copy to keep with the deposit record. The registration chairman can deposit cash directly to the account if it is not convenient to give it to the treasurer, and then send the treasurer the deposit receipt along with copies of the checks, a list of registrants and the amounts deposited for them.

You should FAX a list of credit card payments to the hotel no more than five days after they are given to you. Ask the hotel desk manager to FAX or e-mail (or even snail mail) you a list of approved credit card payments. Have him call you with any declined charges so you can call the registrant and get a different (or more accurate) credit card number.

Be sure to process check and credit card payments quickly. People like to have their checks clear so that they can easily reconcile their checkbooks. If you don’t process credit card charges quickly, the attendee may think he has more credit than he does and use it elsewhere, resulting in a declined charge for you. If you hold onto checks, you may find that the registrant has even closed the account on which your check was written.

Occasionally a registrant will ask you to hold a check, perhaps because he didn’t have the money to meet a deposit deadline, but wants to get registered at the lower rate. We recommend that as a matter of courtesy to a fellow member, we agree to hold a check for up to two weeks, as long as it is mailed by the deadline. This will avoid having to potentially deal with a bounced check that the registrant is scurrying to cover. It’s likely that on occasion between the registrar and the treasurer, you may hold a check that long, anyway. All you’re doing is making certain that you are doing this for a specific person. At convention, however, you must make sure that all money paid on arrival day is available by the close of the week in order to make your hotel payment. You can certainly hold a check for deposit later in the week, but you will not be able to wait for the money until after convention is over.

You should keep a chronological list of all checks sent to the treasurer, all cash deposits you have made (including their sources), and all charges you have processed through the hotel. You will be handling a lot of money, and there is no profit built into the convention budget to make up for clerical mishaps.

Bounced Checks

Expect to have a couple of checks bounce. You will probably encounter a bank charge. You should charge this cost back to the registrant. Because these are our fellow members, you should not consider charging a penalty for your inconvenience.

Refunds

Your refund policy should be simple: Refund the full payment for any events that an attendee cancels in advance, less any actual costs that you incur on behalf of the attendee. Try to replace this attendee with another if you can so that you will have no cost and can refund the full amount paid. Make refunds promptly. Think about it as the attendee having allowed you to use his money for awhile. It’s discouraging to lose an attendee, but at least his heart was in the right place.

Business and Finance

Corporate Organization

TCI bylaws recommend that the convention be incorporated separately from the host club. You should operate as an IRS Section 501(c)(7) social club, not for profit, with a membership of all the regular members of TCI (or at a minimum, all the attendees of your convention). incorporators, directors, and officers of the corporation can be held personally liable for certain acts and omissions of the corporation, so you should keep the number of these to the legal minimum, to minimize the exposure of your committee members. You should also look at the net assets of the people you are considering for these positions. Avoid having anybody with a significant net worth hold these positions. Lawyers are interested in pursuing cases only if there is worthwhile potential return.

You will have two primary expenses in setting up the corporation: the filing of the incorporation papers themselves and the IRS exemption. The cost of incorporation varies by state. It is now around $200 in Massachusetts. To be completely safe from IRS liability, you should also file for income tax exemption. This costs over $400. Many clubs can legally avoid this, because they are given a statutory exemption if their normal annual gross income is less than $5000. Yours will be a lot greater. Most conventions in the past have ignored getting the exemption. It could be argued that the convention never makes money, as it is required to turn over all receipts in excess of expenses to TCI and to the host club. This view has never been presented in tax court, and you cannot feel safe in relying on it. You can take the risk of an IRS audit determining that you did make money and that you owe taxes on it. This could happen long after you have distributed all the money from the convention account, and the IRS can look to the convention officers for its payment.

By IRS rules, no more than thirty percent of your income can come from non-members if you want to be exempt from income taxes. This is why it is essential that you include most convention attendees among your members. Making all regular TCI members be members of the convention corporation will accomplish this.

Some conventions in the past have failed to incorporate. This is really a bad idea. Having the host club get income from all the non-members attending the convention will compromise its tax-exempt status. Without a convention corporation, there is no clearly identifiable corporate shield to protect the committee members from personal liability in case the convention loses money or some disaster occurs. You may even have trouble setting up a bank account in the name of the convention without a corporation. We found a visit to the Secretary of State’s office most helpful in properly setting up the corporation. We also discovered that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts notified the IRS of our status as a new corporation, and the IRS sent us an Employer ID number without our initiating any contact with them.

TCI Convention 1993 was registered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts having the purpose of running the 1993 TCI convention. We went through the expense and painful process of obtaining our tax-exempt certification (painful because our membership had been defined incorrectly). In 1996 we changed the name of the corporation to TCI Conventions Inc., its purpose to that of running TCI conventions, and its membership to all the regular members of TCI. This is the corporation that ran TCI Convention 1996 in Monticello, New York and will run TCI Convention 1997 in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Massachusetts law requires that either the clerk of the corporation be domiciled in Massachusetts, or that there be an agent in the Commonwealth. Susan is serving as clerk to comply with this requirement. She has volunteered to continue in that capacity for any future convention committee that would like to take over the other officer and director positions of this corporation. This can keep the costs associated with your corporate structure down to registering as a foreign corporation in your state and possibly filing a doing-business-as (DBA) certificate if you would like to be known as TCI Convention (year). These requirements vary by state. Check with the office of your Secretary of State.

Treasurer

Your treasurer must be completely trustworthy, both in the stewardship of the money and in attending to his responsibilities completely and in a timely manner. There is no requirement for bonding, and it is an expense that the convention should not have to bear.

The treasurer should keep the convention books, accounting in detail for all revenue and expenses. Don’t set up elaborate approval procedures. You should be working from a budget, and as long as bills are presented with paperwork complete (like receipts) and they are for authorized items and within the budget, the treasurer should pay them as quickly as possible. The treasurer, along with the president and secretary or clerk should be one of your corporate officers.

After convention there will be bills to be reconciled and paid, probably a few outstanding receivables, financial reports to be completed and filed with both TCI and the state, and payments to TCI and the host club. The treasurer’s work will not be done until several months after convention week.

Secretary

The convention secretary performs one of the most important jobs during the two years leading up to convention week, documenting ideas to be explored, decisions made, and tasks to be accomplished. The minutes should include reports from all committees and a to-do list for each committee member of goals to be accomplished before the next monthly meeting.

The secretary should mail the minutes, along with an updated budget, to every sub-committee chairman, to the host club president and historian, and to the TCI president and written historian. This is the best way to make sure that both the host club and the TCI Executive Board are aware of everything that is going on.

The secretary need not be a corporate officer if you already have a corporate clerk. The secretary is the person who will support the committee continually, while the corporate clerk will file reports with the state and serve as legal representative for accepting correspondence from the state.

Services

Banking

As soon as you have a federal tax ID number, you can open a bank account. If you intend to have a corporation set up to run previous conventions run yours, just ask for the ID number from the present officers. Find a bank that is convenient for making deposits and that will charge you minimal or no fees for your account (it helps that you are a not-for-profit organization). Do not intermingle convention funds with club funds. You will start getting deposits at the previous year’s convention, so as soon as you get home you should open an account if you haven’t already done so.

Printing

You will have lots of printing to do. Find a printer who will be both economical and convenient to work with. Among the items to be printed will be your fliers, information sheets to be mailed and to be handed out at registration, delegates’ books (if the Executive Board wants you to print them), pageant programs, attendee contact lists, your daily newspaper (you may need a printer with wee-hours service for this), and awards banquet programs (if the Executive Board wants you to print them).

Stationery

Several of your committee members will need letterhead and envelopes. It is most economical to laser print them on demand. Set up your convention logo and name to be used on envelopes and on letterhead and fill in one return address. Then make copies of these documents with the return address changed for each person who will need them. Your registrar and publicity chairman will need a quantity of stationery, while other committee members may need a few letterheads and envelopes.

If your letter writers can laser print the stationery format onto their correspondence as they write it, just give them the format electronically for inclusion on their letters and envelopes.

Food and Drink

Hotel-Provided Food and Drink

The hotel makes its money from room rental, meals served, and drinks served. However, the hotel should not expect to cater every meal and serve every drink.

We found that our hotel was quite happy with our plans to have them serve us every breakfast and three dinners, plus box lunches for one additional dinner and for the delegates’ meeting. We also had the hotel provide bar service at our evening dances (which were open to the public) and at the pageant.

Make sure that tips and tax are included in all prices the hotel quotes you. These are a significant portion of the cost. Factor tax and tip into the prices as you compare on-site and off-site alternatives.

Food and Beverages on Trips

Convention normally supplies breakfast, dinner, and after-hours food, providing three meals a day. This means that it is perfectly acceptable to schedule an on-your-own lunch break. At our convention, our attendance was sufficiently large that we were able to add items shortly before convention began. One of those items was sandwiches and fruit, which we took on the buses and ate during all our day trips, as were near the buses at lunchtime. We did not advertise these lunches as part of the convention package. They were just an extra surprise for the attendees. The Subway sandwich shop near our hotel made up our sandwich order and delivered it to the buses in front of the hotel each morning at a discount from their menu prices. We provided our own fruit.

When bus trips last more than an hour one-way, try to plan for beverages to be drunk on the buses. Buy some big coolers, fill them with soft drinks and ice before you leave for your day trips, and sell the coolers to club members at a reduced price after the convention. Plan on at least half diet beverages, more if the bus carries the group of Miss Tall International pageant contestants. Look for soda in twelve-ounce cans on sale. No-name brands are certainly acceptable; however, if you keep monitoring supermarket sales, you may be able to get name brands for prices as low as store brands. Have a minimum of one drink per person each way, and if the trip is especially long, provide more. Make sure that the bus company OK’s bringing your cooler on-board. Get it in the written contract.

Hospitality Hours

The alcohol we served at the events we hosted (happy hours and after-hours) presented our greatest problem, and has been the greatest problem for many conventions. We solved the problem by accepting the hotel’s offer of selling us beer and hard liquor at a small percentage over liquor store prices. We could restock our bar every couple of days, and we didn’t have a problem of leftover inventory from over-buying.

After-Hours Food

You will be providing your attendees one of their three meals a day at after-hours. Pretzels and potato chips won’t do. Sloppy Joe’s, pizza, or lasagna will. Vary the menu nightly. Include at least one hot entree. You can have the hotel supply this meal, but the cost will be many times what it will cost you for members to prepare the meal. If you don’t have enough members willing to help or the hotel flatly refuses to allow you to bring in your own food, you will have little choice (except perhaps to choose another hotel). Your after-hours food chairman can plan cooking parties a week or two in advance of the convention and freeze the results. At the 1993 convention we arranged for the use of a hotel cooler to store our food. We had several food-preparation parties before the convention. Our after-hours food chairman teamed up with a professional chef in the club to serve some of the best after-hours food at any convention.

You must make certain that the cooler you use to store your food is available to you before after-hours. You will need a food preparation area. We were able to get an unused kitchen just off our after-hours party area. If you need recipes, ask the food chairman from a past convention. Our after-hours food chairman, Anne Gardulski, consulted with Judy Everett, the after-hours food chairman from the Santa Rosa convention, which had outstanding food.

After-Hours Bartenders

The host club does not have to provide bartenders for after-hours parties. Make a sign-up sheet available at check-in in the registration area. Clubs will volunteer to tend bar various nights. You can also solicit clubs to help out. Traditionally, the Miss Tall International contestants have tended bar one night, and the host club for the following year’s convention has tended bar on Saturday night.

Security

Hotel security normally gets involved with our convention in two ways. We may need to call on them to discourage would-be gate crashers. We also notify them of any real or imagined missing articles. It is fair to tell the hotel security head that our own people are not unruly and that should there be any problem with an attendee, you as chairman want to be notified.

Transportation

Arrival and Departure

It’s your responsibility on arrival day to get your guests from a major airport to the convention site and on departure day to get them back to the airport, both for no charge. If they are attending pre-convention, the pre-convention hosts should deliver them to convention. It is also your responsibility to get the Miss Tall International pageant contestants from the airport if they have been asked to arrive early. You should offer to handle arrivals and departures at local train and bus stations. You do not have to provide transportation for those arriving on other days. If the airport is local, find out whether there is a hotel shuttle, limousine service, or taxi available, and provide this information to your guest. If your convention site is really remote, you may arrange transportation with a club member or your van as a courtesy. Don’t compromise your ability to run the convention to do this, though.

If you have a large number of attendees arriving or departing at the same time, you may want to charter a bus. Individuals and smaller groups can be transported in members’ cars or a rented van. You may be able get a van economically for the week and use it for airport runs and day trips throughout the week. You’ll need to have a driver. Check the rental company’s policy about additional drivers. If you rent it in the name of the convention, the rental company may allow any convention worker to drive it. If an individual rents it, only that individual or specifically designated drivers may be able to drive it, and there may be an additional charge for additional drivers. An auto dealer or no-name rental place may offer better rates than a national company, but get bids from both.

Your registrar should give your transportation chairman a list of arrivals sorted by location and time.

Departure information can also be collected at registration time, and your registrar can print out an up-to-date list of departures, sorted by location and time for your transportation chairman. As an alternative, you can use a sign-up sheet, but you’ll not know easily who has failed to sign up. If you use the sign-up sheet, you should list departure times from the hotel, with a notice of the minimum time before flight time one should leave the hotel. Collecting the information at registration will allow you more lead time in planning airport trip timing and capacity. Then you can just print out the list, and the transportation chairman can mark on it when each group should meet to leave.

Day Trips

Two or three day trips will give your guests an opportunity to see your local attractions and will provide some variety in the convention experience. Because the convention package should include some activity at nearly all times, you should charge for optional trips only when no-charge events are offered concurrently. Hanging out at the pool doesn’t count!

Look to your theme for guidance as to what trips are appropriate. Also consider what your attendees will expect to see on a visit to your area.

Make sure that your convention itinerary describes what the attendees can expect to do on the trip, appropriate dress, and whether they should bring anything along (such as swimming attire or a camera).

If the trip will last for more than one hour one-way, take a cooler of beverages to be distributed at no charge among the passengers. More than half the beverages should be diet drinks. Soda is a lot less expensive than fruit juice.

Appoint a bus captain for each bus to answer questions and to make announcements. The bus captain should describe the site being visited and the schedule of events while you are there. The bus captain should be somewhat loquacious, someone who knows a little of the area you are going to, and should stand while talking. It makes the people on the tour pay more attention. It also allows the bus captain to see if anyone has any questions.

The bus trip itself can be entertaining and educational. Ask the bus company whether the driver can provide a narrative on the journey. If not, try to put together a script for the bus captains to use, calling attention to points of interest and historical facts along the way. If you’ve ever been on a Gray Line Tour, you should know what to do.

Plan for the buses to leave at the announced time. People have to be on time for airplanes and trains. Make it clear that they must be on time to leave on your trips, too. Then respect their time by actually leaving on time. Of course, if you are aware of a problem, such as the hotel elevators being incapable of delivering people to the departure area or people being unable to leave breakfast on time, hold the buses until the people are assembled. Then make sure the problem doesn’t happen again and announce that buses will not be held in the future. Don’t inconvenience all those who made the effort to be on time for one or two inconsiderate people.

Before the bus stops to drop off its passengers at your destination, make sure that the bus captain announces (accurately) when and where the passengers should present themselves for the return trip. Make it clear that the bus will not wait for latecomers. They will be on their own.

If after the event you are returning to the hotel, you can have each bus leave as it fills up. Make sure you arrange this with the bus drivers and with the bus company. Be sure to tell people that they may be able to return early if they want to by getting on the first bus in line. In no case may the last bus leave before the announced departure time, however. Don’t rely on a count to determine that you have everybody. Somebody may have gotten a ride to your site privately, and may return on the bus, increasing your count unexpectedly. Once again, make sure that the last bus waits until the announced departure time before it leaves.

Although for publicity or scheduling reasons you may need the Miss Tall International pageant contestants to travel together, don’t insist that the general populace always use the same bus. They will meet friends that they will want to sit with. We’re all adults, and we should know that we are responsible for getting to the bus on time. If somebody hasn’t gotten back to the announced departure location by the announced departure time, the most you need do is suggest alternate ways to get back to the hotel. Don’t inconvenience fifty people because of the thoughtlessness of one person.

Don’t worry about what may have happened to your guests if they don’t show up on the bus. They may have chosen a different way to get home. Perhaps they’re having a drink with an old friend who will drive them back to the hotel. Should a mishap have befallen them, there is really nothing you can do about it at departure time. The most you can do is on the way home contact the other buses to determine whether the person is really missing, and then when you get back to the hotel ask for messages. Perhaps a traveling companion can assess the probability of an actual mishap. Ask your guests to wear their badges on all trips. Make sure your contact information is on the badge. Then the person or whoever may be helping him can call you.

Motor Coaches

In most cases, motor coaches are the appropriate means of transportation to off-site activities. They normally are equipped with rest rooms and offer reasonable room for our long legs.

Some conventions have used school buses. You can read on the side that their capacity is 75 children. Halve that for people our size. You may be able to get two short or very friendly people into a seat, but those of us with very long legs need a seat of our own. If you need to transport more than 40 people, or your trip lasts more than an hour, use a motor coach. Remember, also, that motor coaches have luggage compartments for people’s belongings and supplies that you will need on your trip. On a school bus they will take up seating room.

Let the bus company know that you will have bus captains, and arrange for them to use the bus’s public address system. Also try to arrange for them to be able to stand in the aisle during travel so that the passengers can get to know them and to make their presentations better.

When you make your arrangements with the bus company, tell them that you will be taking a cooler on each bus. Whether you can have beer in the cooler is a matter for negotiation, but there’s no reason why soft drinks should be outlawed (except for perhaps concern about cleaning up after spillage). Make sure that the contract states what you have agreed to and if the bus company’s normal policy is to prohibit coolers that the drivers will be informed as to your agreement.

Find out whether the drivers will know how to get to your destination. If not, you will have to provide a guide who knows the way on the first bus of the caravan.

Find out whether the drivers expect a tip. If so, include it in your convention budget and inquire whether you can include it in your payment to the bus company or whether it should be given directly to the driver. Make sure that the driver is told that he must not ask the passengers for a tip, as the convention pays all tips for included activities. The convention treasurer can give the tips directly to the drivers if the bus company cannot distribute them.

Awards

According to the TCI bylaws the convention committee is responsible for purchasing and preparing quite a few awards. There is also a price ceiling, which you must work under. Refer to the current TCI bylaws for details. You might want to choose as awards a memento relative to the theme of convention. For example, our awards were Revere bowls.

Activities

Sports

You must plan one day (Thursday is the most popular day) for sports competitions mandated by TCI bylaws. See the bylaws for a list of these sports and rules governing them. You may sponsor other sports activities. Consider what is around you. What are local favorite sports? Past conventions have included options of tubing down a river and white-water rafting. If you are at a resort, you may wish to add competitions in sports that are offered on-site. For the less athletically inclined, past conventions have offered darts competitions, with the boards available for playing all week.

Day Trips

Think about what sites within a couple of hours of your convention hotel people would like to visit. Perhaps your convention theme can provide some guidance. Most conventions should plan to schedule two day trips, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. This is certainly flexible, though. Is Miss Tall International in an Independence Day parade? If so, you may want to have everybody cheer her. Perhaps there is a big event happening that you would like everybody to have a chance to attend. Are you within walking or subway distance of points of interest? If so, you won’t need to use buses to get there. It’s easier to schedule partial-day outings to such places.

Dances

Here is a place where you can spend some money without breaking the bank. If a live band costs $900 and you can spread this over 300 attendees, the cost is only $3.00 per person, maybe $2.00 per person more than a disk jockey would cost.

Charity Fundraiser

A fundraiser for the benefit of the National Marfan Foundation and the Canadian Marfan Society has been a feature of every convention in recent years. Events have included line-dancing lessons, an auction of donated items, and Las Vegas nights. You will find it relatively easy to solicit donations for an auction, as Marfan is a recognized charity, and at the same time you can spread the word as to what the Marfan Syndrome is. If you have the time and inclination, you could also consider fundraising for the TCI Foundation, which plans to in the near future sponsor the TCI scholarships. Perhaps you could sell split-the-pot tickets for this.

Entertainment

Consider both going out and bringing in entertainment. If you can spread the cost of bringing in entertainers over a large number of attendees, the cost per attendee can be significantly smaller than paying for tickets to an outside event. In the past an Elvis impersonator made an unannounced appearance. We had a murder mystery show come in after dinner one night at our convention. You may be able to combine entertainment with a dance. Do you have a local celebrity band that could provide both entertainment and dance music some evening? Consider over-the-hill rock groups that live in your area. You may be able to present name entertainment without travel or lodging expense. We tried to get Herb Reed and the Platters for our convention, but they were performing out of town.

After-hours Fun and Games

There is a tradition of costumes at after-hours parties. There is also the reality of many people coming to after-hours without a costume. This is probably because either the costume is too difficult or expensive to make, too bulky to carry (seven after-hours costumes could fill more than one suitcase by themselves), or embarrassing. Fortunately, most people at after-hours don’t seem to be bothered by the last of these problems. But seriously consider the former problems. Pick themes where the costumes can be something already on hand and easily carried. For example, don’t ask people to wear a cowboy hat that wouldn’t be worn otherwise. It can’t be thrown in the corner of a suitcase, and lots of Yankees don’t even own one.

Several recent conventions have featured a cross-dressing night of some sort. This is actually one of the easier costumes to put together. The best are well planned in advance, but there are over a hundred people that already have apparel at convention that can be borrowed to make this costume.

We’ve had the most fun at after-hours when there have been games and contests, such as musical men or the Miss Tall Transvestite International contest. Plan to appoint somebody to be in charge of after-hours games.

Don’t shortchange after-hours when you choose a disk jockey to provide the music. Somebody who can lead games can immensely add to the enjoyment of the party.

Most of your guests have been up since early morning, so be sure to serve your after-hours food immediately, and plan your games right after people have had a chance to eat.

Day Chairmen

Day chairmen represent convention’s implementation of matrix management. Each day chairman’s job is to make his day as enjoyable as possible for the attendees. The day chairman should be responsible for events of the day, and interests should be matched with events. The day chairman responsible for an event could place a description of the event and what to bring along in the daily newsletter and write the script for the bus captains to read on the way to the event. The bus company may be able to provide a canned script to help with this. The day chairman should make certain that the work of the various sub-committees is coordinated to make the day run as smoothly as possible. Since the day chairman knows how each sub-committee is rendering services on his day, he can provide first-line troubleshooting, calling in whatever resources are appropriate to take care of any problems.

Communications

If a significant number of your activities are planned away from the hotel, you should provide for mobile communications. At the 1993 convention we rented three hand-held cellular phones. The convention chairman carried one, one was assigned to the transportation chairman, and the day chairman carried the third. The telephone numbers of all these phones were listed on the back of everybody’s badges so they could always call for help.

Make certain that your cellular phone provider serves all the places you will be going. Get the telephone numbers in advance so that you can give them to anybody needing them. Pick up the phones a day in advance so that if the promised numbers aren’t provided or there is a problem with a phone, you can notify everybody of the change and correct badges before they are laminated.

Registration Area

You should have the following to give to the attendees at registration:

Personalized Registration Envelope

An envelope containing a statement of account, a list of events purchased, a badge, and any required tickets should be ready for each attendee. If everything is correct, you can collect the amount owed at the bottom of the statement and give the attendee his badge and tickets. If there is any problem, take the attendee to a problem resolution area so that you do not hold up the line.

Attendee List

This is a list of all attendees, prepared from the master registration list, with contact information.

Detailed Itinerary

The itinerary for the week should list all events in order by starting time, showing scheduled times, places, and dress code. If attendees should bring any supplies, note them here. Also make it clear what events are offered only at an extra charge or require specific sign-ups.

General Information

Here’s a good place to explain what attendees should expect and be aware of. For example, if mugs are not to be brought to some events, explain that here. Also include a comprehensive list of committee members so that attendees will know who ask questions of or who to praise for a job well done.

Goodie Bags

If you have items for goodie bags that should be given only to men or to women, don’t stuff them in the bags. Since all bags look alike on the outside, it’s too easy to mix them up. Instead, give each attendee these items separately and let them put them in their bags.

Mugs and Mug Labels

Mugs are too expensive to just stuff them in the goodie bags, which you may give to attendees not eligible to get mugs. You must make sure that each person gets a mug along with his personalized mug label, so you should hand the mugs out separately. That way, also, the attendee can choose his mug if you are allowing a choice of color.

First Daily Newsletter Edition

If you will be publishing a daily newsletter, give the first edition to the attendees at registration. This will make them aware that they should look for the daily paper each morning. You can use this first edition to provide the general information mentioned above. If you do this, make sure that attendees arriving after the first day also get the first day’s edition, and point out that it contains general information that they should read.

Daily Newsletter

News and Information

A daily newsletter will allow you to focus on the day’s events, providing detailed information in a timely manner. Print the day’s itinerary on the front page along with appropriate additional articles that may add to your guests’ enjoyment and appreciation of the events. Also include the first event of the next day, so that they can plan when to get up before the next newsletter issue is available to them.

The newsletter should report news as it occurs: the Miss Tall International pageant winners, sports award winners, and news from the delegates’ meeting. Humorous happenings and news about attendees can provide a human-interest aspect. For example, is there a couple at convention on their honeymoon? Was there great press coverage, is a TV or movie crew coming, or is a celebrity expected at convention? Share the news in the newsletter.

You can also generate interest in upcoming events that require more of an explanation than just a listing in the itinerary. Do you need volunteers for anything? The daily newsletter is a good place to ask for them. A last-minute change in the schedule? Highlight it in the newsletter as soon as you know about it.

You can set up each day’s newsletter in advance, with the headings, dates, and daily itinerary, along with articles about upcoming events placed before the convention starts. All that’s left to do on publication day is to report on the previous day’s activities and perhaps insert a feature or two.

Example: Up-to-the-Minuteman

As editor of our daily newspaper, Karen Kersey printed eight daily issues plus an extra edition for our Marfan benefit auction listing contributions by corporations, clubs, and individuals. The format was a single 8 11 sheet folded in half, a different color each day. The first page carried the day’s itinerary at the bottom, and the last page listed contact people including the day chairman and cellular phone numbers for emergencies. Information about the day’s after-hours party (including the menu) was printed in the middle of page three, with the following day’s breakfast menu in a box at the bottom. Other articles varied by day.

Sunday

Welcome to Bawhston (by Boston’s Queen and King), weekend flier assembly information, pageant florist information, optional tour sign-ups, Kae is Coming!, fireworks information, hotel facilities, call for volunteers.

Monday

It’s Tall Awareness Week!, other press coverage, call for newspaper contributions, mug protocol, club T-shirt sales, extended pool hours, day trip information, dart tournament, Miss TI hairdresser promotion.

Tuesday

Marfan Syndrome – Why We Care, ice cream shops (it was hot!), call for after-hours food preparation volunteers, descriptions of day’s optional tours, day’s club photo schedule.

Wednesday

Miss TI ’93 – Jill Viglione, delegates’ meeting notes, computer museum, day trip information, memorable quotes by convention attendees.

Thursday

Let the Games Begin (sports tournament information), call for after-hours food preparation volunteers, weekend flier assembly information, warning about heat, descriptions of day’s optional tours, recipe for cookies from Monday’s after-hours, lost item notice, TCI cookbook promotion.

Friday

How can a Woman/Man Become More Like a Man/Woman (after-hours promotion), change in bus schedule, day trip information, extended pool hours, e-mail address collection, cookbook workshop cancellation, TCI cookbook promotion.

Saturday

Miss TTI ’93 – Big Red, Mr. TTI ’93 – Mr. Duck (after-hours contest report), departure information, after-hours recipe, report on honeymooners, descriptions of day’s optional tours, day’s club photo schedule, TCI cookbook promotion.

Sunday

Attendance Award, Travel Trophy Award, Sports Award for each sport: (Champion & First Runner-Up), Best Paper Award, Publicity Award, Membership Increase Award: (Percentage Increase & Numerical Increase), Scholarship Award(s), Outgoing President's Award, 12 Merit Awards, TCI Man & Woman Lifetime Achievement Awards (Kae Sumner Einfeldt Award and Frank Winker TCI Lifetime Achievement Award), and any other awards made by the Executive Board or as specified in any resolution, a listing of the newly elected officer clubs and officers, a listing of convention “firsts”, note from the editor.

Flier Packet Assembly

The Saturday night awards banquet is one of the two formal dinners of the convention. It is also the traditional night when clubs distribute fliers for their major upcoming events, and the fliers for the following year’s pre-convention and convention are made available. If these fliers are just left on the tables, the tables end up decorated with fliers. Several conventions in recent years have scheduled a flier packet assembly time (it usually takes a couple of hours) within two days before the awards banquet. You will need to provide staplers capable of stapling the fliers from all the clubs wanting to distribute them, probably around twenty-five pages. Tell everybody in the information sheet passed out at registration and in the daily newsletter that individual fliers will not be allowed on the tables.

Each club should bring enough fliers to give one to each attendee (tell them how many in the final information packet you send to attendees) to the packet assembly room at the appointed hour to make up the packets. If the publisher and host clubs are known, you should ask them to bring the flier requesting photos and articles for Tall Topix and the fliers for the following year’s convention and pre-convention. The Tall Topix request should probably be collated on top of the stack, followed by the pre-convention and convention fliers, followed by individual club event fliers. The club representatives can do the collating and stabling. The committee should provide the space, a coordinator, and the stapler (or large envelopes, which are more expensive). Try to borrow heavy-duty staplers from your committee members, and make sure you have enough staples.

Awards Banquet

The TCI Executive Board is responsible for the awards banquet program. Make sure that you have everything on hand that they will need. You, of course, must arrange for the meal and the facilities. If you want to have any special program or make any special presentations, be sure to coordinate this with the TCI president, who should act as master of ceremonies at the banquet.

If you have many attendees from abroad, you should consider special recognition for them in the form of a flag ceremony, which has been presented at conventions in the past and which is patterned after a similar ceremony performed at the Europaball.

The convention chairman should thank each committee chairman, and ask each in turn to stand to be recognized by the attendees. This is the time for public praise for a job well done. After each chairman has been acknowledged, the sub-committee workers should also be asked to stand for recognition.

The convention chairman should also recognize the pre-convention chairman and ask all who worked on the pre-convention to stand for acknowledgement.

Decorations

You will probably have many events that you would like decorated. For example, you may need table decorations at dinners and theme decorations at after-hours parties. Consider appointing a decorating committee to make and place the decorations. If you want to re-use any of the decorations, the decoration committee should also remove the decorations after the event is over.

Clean-Up

In the course of running the convention, you will be bringing a lot of “stuff” to your various event sites. This “stuff” must also be taken away. Have recycling and trash containers wherever they are needed. Make sure that you know how you will dispose of the trash once it has been collected. People will loan equipment such as crock pots that you will have to return to them. Let them know in advance when and where to pick up their belongings. You will probably have other things delivered commercially. Be sure to arrange for pick-up of items that have to be returned.

More Advice to the Chairman

After living with the convention for two years, you should be intimately familiar with nearly everything about it. Two of your most important roles are those of disseminating information and of getting things taken care of. During the convention everybody will be coming to you, incessantly. Jan made a rule that he wouldn’t put off anything. He wouldn’t handle anything later. If he couldn’t handle it within the next thirty seconds, he would direct the person to somebody else. He had placed somebody in charge of everything foreseeable, and even had somebody in charge of everything else. There was also the matrix organization of day chairmen that he could refer things to. Thus, he was always able to either deal immediately with an issue or refer it to somebody else who could deal with it.  This worked out well for him. We recommend it to you.

Don’t let yourself be pressured into changing plans without good reason. You have had months to make your plans and consider alternatives. The chances are that these plans are good ones. Don’t screw them up. At our convention, we had planned a day trip to Plymouth and Provincetown, stopping in Hyannis for dinner on the way back to Boston. A handful of very vocal people asked that we hold one of the buses until afternoon and have it go directly to Hyannis, skipping the Plymouth and Provincetown venues. Jan agreed to this. We were lucky that this did not turn into a disaster. On the five buses that left in the morning for Provincetown there were only two empty seats. And one of the most vocal couples requesting the afternoon bus were right there in the front row of one of the morning buses! Our afternoon bus carried a total of fourteen passengers. If only three more of these had decided to go in the morning, we would not have had the capacity to take everybody. As it was, there wasn’t even a seat for a cooler on our day-long trip.

Another reason for not changing plans is that you will be exhausted. You probably will be in no condition to make decisions as clearly as you did when you made the original plans. Furthermore, there are many people who have relied on things happening as planned when they have made their own plans. A change of plans could inconvenience a lot of people in ways you don’t know about.

Make sure somebody is assigned to be in charge of everything. There will be so many unforeseen details that you will have to attend to that you will not have time to run anything yourself. Keep yourself free of obligations. You should plan to welcome your guests at the beginning of the convention at the first night’s dinner, the first event for all attendees, or first night’s after-hours party. You should introduce the pageant director at the Miss Tall International pageant, and you should plan to thank attendees and workers at the awards banquet. If all is organized correctly it should look as though you could disappear after your last planning meeting and, except for these commitments, the convention would go fine. What this really means is that you will have time to handle all the unforeseen things that will arise during the convention.

The Party’s Over

The Hotel Bill

While your fellow club members are packing up all the things they brought, the chairman, treasurer, and registrar should meet with the hotel’s comptroller or his designee to go over the bill. This is not a final accounting. Just look for gross errors. Do the room night counts match your figures? Do the meal counts match? Do the incidental charges make sense? Point out any discrepancies that you notice, and make it clear that you will audit the bill completely later and come back to discuss any adjustments that you believe are appropriate. Meanwhile, as long as the total is within reason, pay the bill, adjusted by any discrepancies that you can agree on.

You’ll probably need a few days to put things away, do laundry, etc. But then you need to have a meeting among the chairman, treasurer, and registrar to audit the bill. Look first for any disagreement in vouchers posted. Is there something there that you don’t think you should be charged for? Check against the contract and correspondence from the hotel. Check with the person who signed the voucher. Does the room count match? If not, compare your registration detail against the rooms charged for. This will help you see exactly where the discrepancy lies. Are the meal counts off? Check with the person who signed the voucher. It may take two or three meetings among yourselves, with intervening calls to the hotel and to club members to determine the reason for the discrepancy. Only after you are satisfied as to exactly what happened should you request a meeting at the hotel to go over adjustments that you feel are appropriate. Take complete documentation to the meeting. Make sure that somebody from the hotel with the authority to negotiate a settlement will be at the meeting.

You may have to attribute some of the mistakes to lack of communication or other human fallibility. There may be a gray area where it is arguable as to whose fault it was, the convention’s or the hotel’s. Keep these items separate from documented errors in the bill. After the documented errors are corrected (or are at least added up and agreed on), then you can negotiate how much responsibility for these mistakes you should assume and how much the hotel should assume. Don’t forget that it is your fiduciary responsibility to your club and to TCI to provide a reasonable profit, not necessarily maximum profit. Reasonable compromise is appropriate.

Accounts Receivable

You will probably find some unexpected bills outstanding. Some people may have come to events and did not pay. Somebody may have bounced a check. There may be a pageant program bill or two outstanding. Ask for these payments immediately. TCI bylaws provide a mechanism for notification if bills remain unpaid. If payment is not forthcoming, notify your debtors as to what the bylaws require you to do, expressing your desire not to have to do it.

Remaining Bills to be Paid

Schedule a meeting of the entire committee as a wrap-up session two weeks after the convention. Ask everybody to bring any outstanding bills so the treasurer can write checks for them on the spot. If anybody can’t come, try to get the bills another way, either by having them brought by somebody else, or having them mailed to the treasurer. It is possible that some bills, such as for long distance calls, may not have come in yet. Ask anybody waiting for a bill to tell the treasurer as soon as the bill arrives. Try to have all bills paid within six weeks after the end of convention.

Accounting to TCI

TCI bylaws require that you submit your books along with supporting documents (primarily receipts) to the TCI treasurer within 90 days after the close of Convention.

Government Filings

You will have to file an annual report for tax-exempt organizations with the state where you are incorporated. There may be a small filing fee (approximately $25).

Disbursement of Funds

Once you have finalized your bill with the hotel and gotten in the bills from your committee members, you should have a reasonably good idea as to your net income. If you have considerably more cash in the bank than you can reasonably expect to need to cover unforeseen expenses, you can disburse some of your income to TCI and to your local club following the rules in the TCI bylaws for splitting the net income. After you are confident that all bills have been paid and all money that you can reasonably expect to get has been received, you should close the books and make final disbursements of the balance in your account. If you have receivables outstanding, see if you can turn over the collection of these to the TCI Treasurer. That way, you can close your books and be finished with the work of the convention once you have filed the above reports.

Past Mistakes

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
—George Santayana (1863-1952), American philosopher, poet

The combination of minimal written guidelines from TCI as to how conventions should be run along with convention staff who have never before run a convention, many of whom have not even been at one, is a recipe for disaster. It is miraculous that TCI conventions come off as well as they do.

It is not surprising, then, that things happen during convention that present problems for both the convention committee and the attendees. Here we present a list of incidents from past conventions that we have attended, along with some of our suggestions to avoid their recurrence. We hope these will prove instructive.

Every convention is different. Many have featured innovative ideas that we have incorporated in the suggestions in this guide. Others were not so successful. Even when they did not work out, these innovative ideas were at worst temporary inconveniences. Most of the big problems were due to:

        antagonism toward the convention by the host club membership

        neglect of commitments

        carelessness

        greed

At one convention, the after-hours bar was located a long walk plus an elevator ride from the after-hours party room. This split up the group and was a pain for everyone. Try to keep the bar in the party room, or at least in the adjoining room.

At a pre-convention, the bus left a day-trip site out in the country thirty minutes before the announced time. A committee person, fortunately, decided to do a clean-up drive around the site and found us, or we would have had no way back to the hotel.

At a convention, the entire transportation staff failed to show up. The convention chairman ended up driving the van.

The hotel swimming pool was unavailable for the first three days of convention due to renovations. Put a list of amenities to be provided by the hotel in your hotel contract to avoid surprises.

At another convention, the chairman decided that she didn’t have to pay for convention because she worked so hard. She is now among the handful of TCI’s persona non grata.

Another convention promised T-shirts to early registrants. When we got to convention we asked for ours and was told that the T-shirts were being handled by the club rather than the convention, and that the convention had no business promising them. Obviously, the convention could have purchased enough T-shirts from the club to fulfill their promise They just didn’t give a damn. Both civil and criminal law recognize fraud. Don’t defraud your attendees.

The proposal accepted the previous year specified that two clubs would run an eight-day convention, one being responsible for the first four days, and the other for the final four days. When some things didn’t go right the first two days, the convention committee’s response was that they were not responsible because this portion was pre-convention, run by yet another club. This chicanery led to two TCI bylaw changes, one requiring that pre-convention and convention be clearly differentiated, and the other requiring that major departures from the bid specifications could be made only with the assent of the TCI Executive Board.

The convention committee, over the objections of the chairman, demanded that the convention be held in a suburban hotel, even though the major draw of the convention was the host city itself. They ended up spending as much on motor coaches as they would have spent on a far better in-town location.

The registration packet included a “release of liability” form. TCI bylaws state who can attend convention, and execution of such a form is not a prerequisite to attending convention. In the end, they didn’t require that attendees present it in order to register. This document sends a message to your attendees that you are unwilling to take responsibility for your actions toward them, and probably has no legal significance. Don’t consider it.

At the same convention, the pageant dragged on for nearly six hours. The committee had engaged a DJ for the Coronation Ball, which never happened because by the time the pageant finally ended, it was time for after-hours. The convention and pageant committees have to work together to avoid such problems.

Another convention used an open pick-up truck to transport luggage from the airport. At least one suitcase blew off the truck and was destroyed. Make sure your attendees’ belongings are secured when you are responsible for them.

This same convention featured a trip to a city a little over an hour away. The returning buses all left before the announced departure time, and a former Man of the Year got left behind. He had to take a 50-mile taxi ride home at the expense of the convention. Make sure that the last bus waits until the appointed hour for departure.

At another convention, the registrar refused to arrange roommates, and Susan got several calls asking her for help in finding a roommate (this was not our convention). This is one of the jobs of registration.

The convention registrar also expected each registrant to call the hotel to register separately. Prices were stated separately for the events package and the hotel, and payment had to be made separately. This just increases the opportunity for error. You should make all hotel reservations and collect all money. We also recommend that you don’t tell your attendees how much is going to the hotel. With a separately priced events package it’s too easy for them to ask “What am I getting for this?”

The flier listed several included off-site activities. Attendees were surprised to discover that they could only participate in one for free; they would have to pay to do the others. Make clear in your promotional materials exactly what is included in the package and what costs extra.

On the buses to the convention site, we were told to leave our luggage on the ground and that the hotel personnel would take care of getting it to our room, for the charge was included in the package. The hotel, however, added a luggage charge to everybody’s bill. Make sure that such charges are included in your bid, are in your hotel contract, and that they don’t appear on our attendee’s hotel bills. Also make sure that anybody speaking for the convention knows what he is talking about.

Another convention failed to provide (on request) separate event prices. Attendees who only wanted to attend selected functions were not happy. Last-minute decisions had to be made by high-level convention officials, and emotions ran high. Although you should encourage people to participate in the entire convention, make sure you can easily handle “partials.” At our convention, we had four hundred total attendees, accounting for three hundred full-time equivalents. Obviously, we had a lot of partials. They can provide some nice incremental revenue.

One convention had four cellular phones for communication. Yet when one of the buses broke down on the longest day trip, the following bus (which was nearly empty) whizzed right by. The cellular phones were all back at the hotel with the committee, who hadn’t come on the trip. The cellular phones do no good if they aren’t deployed.

One year a lovely outdoor garden location was assigned for taking club photographs. The photos are cropped for Tall Topix so that little can be seen but the club members. The only part of the garden that could be seen was the trees growing out of people’s heads. Because the photos were taken outside, the bright sky caused halos that obscured people’s faces. Official photos are taken to record the people, not the convention site. Strive for a studio-like indoor spot for taking these pictures.

In spite of our best efforts, we screwed up too. Following are the problems that we can remember occurring during the convention week:

Registration opened very late. We had a long line in a hot hotel corridor, although we continually told those waiting in the line that they could come back later. We had continued to take late registrations, rather than cutting them off and doing final processing of the ones we had. We should have told them to register at the door. We had to print out statements of account, event lists, tickets, and badges, and laminate the badges and stuff envelopes with statements. Cut off registrations two days before arrival day, and get started early organizing your registration site.

We tried to be creative with some of our menus, including a traditional New England breakfast consisting of beans and franks. The hotel didn’t prepare them the way we expected, and lots of conventioneers couldn’t face beans and franks first thing in the morning. If you risk being overly creative, you should probably provide a more conservative alternative.

One of our committee chairmen suffered a major loss just before convention. He hid this fact and tried to carry on as best he could. It didn’t work. This resulted in terrible disorganization in the events he was intimately involved in. We had committed all our resources, and making up for his inattention cost us much time and resulted in frayed nerves for already-pressured workers. We got through with the superb efforts of volunteers from other clubs, along with an extra burden accepted by our own committee people.

When we told the hotel our technical needs for the pageant, we specified that we would need two light trees. In spite of the fact that Jan had said “and I don’t mean Christmas trees with lights on them,” guess what the hotel delivered! Fortunately, our set-up was early and there was plenty of time to replace the vegetation with theatrical lights.

Somebody stole one of the contestants’ stockings. Since then we’ve heard of other similar incidents in the past, including evening gowns being thrown in a pile on the floor. Provide for security of the contestants’ belongings.

Our pageant started half an hour late. At the appointed hour the contestants’ belongings were still scattered throughout the auditorium. The pageant’s technical director had arrived from a foreign trip only the day before and was busy catching up on what he had missed. We don’t know whether he was simply behind, or whether there were not enough people working on the pageant. Anyhow, it took an extra half-hour to get the place in shape, with the audience waiting in a crowded foyer.

On the way home from a day away from the hotel we had planned a sit-down dinner at a restaurant. Shortly after we arrived, Jan expressed our need to be served immediately. It simply didn’t happen. This put us an your behind schedule, so when we arrived at the hotel for our Marfan fund-raising carnival, the band, which had been engaged for two hours, had already been playing to an empty room for an hour. We ended up paying them for an extra hour, along with paying for six motor coaches for another hour, too. The Marfan event ran so late that we canceled after-hours. Jan had not spoken with the restaurant personnel about the event, having left this up to our food chairman. If we had made our scheduling requirements clear to the restaurant, they no doubt would have complied. They probably thought we wanted a cocktail hour before dinner. We had also scheduled too tightly. It had seemed that dinner followed by the Marfan fund-raiser followed by after-hours made sense. But it left no room for error.

Although we had attendee lists by event and tickets for some events, the only event we actually did a comprehensive door check for was the Miss Tall International pageant. At one dance we covered the door for part of the time. For the most part it was only after the fact when we collected admission from our own unregistered club members that we had observed at dances. We really believe that very few people sneaked into events. It’s sort of like the German subways where they only occasionally check tickets. We probably wouldn’t have caught enough gate crashers to make it worthwhile to tie up our people checking tickets at every event. We had our workers so busy doing other things that we couldn’t ask them to do this, too.

At the Saturday awards banquet, Jan made a short speech thanking the various committee members by name for all of their hard work in making this event happen. Unfortunately he failed to mention the valiant efforts of the Pre-Convention staff, particularly the help of Pre-Convention co-chairman Ellen Freedman who stepped in to help us after just finishing the running of their weekend.

We had one optional activity for which we charged separately, the whale watch on Friday. We probably should have just added this activity to the package, as most everyone went and reported that they had a wonderful time. Not having it included required additional explanation of our pricing. We should have just kept it simple and increased the package price a bit.

On departure day, the airport bus driver that the motor coach company sent couldn’t even find the airport. We had to allocate one of our people to ride along on some of the trips. Once the driver missed one of the terminals altogether, and departing attendees had to walk or take an airport bus from a different terminal. In the confusion, some belongings were left on the bus and lost. This experience demonstrates that it is essential that the convention chairman meet with all contractors, both with their contracting management and with the shift manager who will be responsible for services rendered.

Bibliography

Rethemeyer, Debbie. Miss Tall International Pageant Guide Book, Florissant, MO: published privately, 1987. Available from Debbie Rethemeyer, 1839 Fernwood Trail Dr, Florissant, MO 63031 (314) 921-4873