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ASAE Annual Meeting Lights Up Los Angeles

ASAE Annual It was all about sizzle and show business in Los Angeles as the city hosted the ASAE Annual Meeting August 21-24, 2010. This meeting was to have been held in Los Angeles in 2005, but work still remained to finish major hotels near the Los Angeles Convention Center and make other improvements in the area.

Today, Los Angeles boasts an impressive downtown area with a LEED-certified convention center, a vibrant “LA Live” outdoor entertainment venue in the heart of a convention district filled with restaurants and other attractions, and major hotels within walking distance of the convention center that include the J.W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton.

Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau President & CEO Mark Liberman, who took over the reins of the CVB in 2003 after longtime CEO George Kirkland, CAE, passed away, recalled how he and George lived by the mantra, “If we build it, they will come.”

Now the meetings are here – Liberman reported that Microsoft is coming in 2011 with 50,000 room nights and the American Heart Association is coming in 2012 with 48,000 room nights. These are just two of the larger events scheduled in the coming years.

The Opening Night Celebration at the ASAE Annual Meeting was held in LA Live, featuring a live performance by Melissa Ethridge. Cyndi Lauper performed at the Final Night Celebration in another impressive venue – the California Plaza Water Court.

In between, ASAE featured plenty of show-business elements in its general sessions, starting with a “Guilt by Association” sitcom starring several association professionals and TV-style commercials that added sizzle to everything from the new “Decision to Learn” book to the popular Food and Wine Classic. Talk show host Joy Behar even showed up to congratulate new Certified Association Executives and moderate a discussion with Graham, ASAE Chair Velma Hart, CAE, and Center for Association Leadership Chair Robin Lokerman.

ASAE also launched its new brand and logo, shifting the phrase “The Center for Association Leadership” to become its tagline under the main “ASAE” name.

ASAE President & CEO John Graham, CAE, announced that more than 5,500 association professionals and industry partners attended the meeting and 439 companies exhibited – numbers that represented solid growth over 2009. The 60/40 ratio of association professionals to exhibitors was extremely strong.

ConventionPlanit.com was among the exhibitors, demonstrating the popular online search directory to association CEOs and meeting professionals during the two days of exhibits.

ASAE partnered with the Midnight Mission, a longtime human services organization centered in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, to offer an extensive social responsibility initiative that included preparing and serving meals at the mission, sorting clothing, and building bikes for children from the local Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

The ASAE Food and Wine Classic, held at the California Science Center, continued its tradition of offering local cuisine to complement the many wines featured from a range of wineries. ASAE also makes a special effort to make this event as green as possible, and Scott Lindley of the Convene Green Alliance moderated a session, “The Business of Meetings: Behind the Scenes of Events – Greening Tales to be Told,” which detailed many of the green aspects of this event in Los Angeles and other ASAE convention cities.

Off ‘N Running Tours (ONRT), a group that hosts 5K runs at conventions nationwide since 2002, hosted a “Fun Run” on Sunday morning that attracted many attendees. “These runs offer a healthy networking alternative,” explained ONRT President Cheryl Anker. “Associations realize that all their time doesn’t have to be spent eating and drinking.” Even so, ONRT makes sure that some tasty treats are available at the end of each run, featuring local cuisine whenever possible.