Big Changes Ahead for CSA's 'All-Member' Meetings


By Jim Moody, CAE

Our Sales & Management Conference at Callaway Gardens a couple of weeks ago was quite a hit. At least that’s what the evaluations tell me. Sometimes I worry that people tell me what they think I want to hear on evaluations. Nevertheless, I’m riding high based on that feedback.

While the meeting was successful in any way you can measure it (attendance, finance, evaluations, “vibe”), I think many of us are wondering if an association our size really needs two “all member” meetings per year.

The Board met the day before the S&MC started and looked at that issue. We considered lots of factors. On one hand, having two meetings makes obvious geographic sense because our territory is vast. It’s a long way from Lake Charles, La., to Savannah, Ga. It’s also true that both meetings have been successful financially and from an attendance perspective.


On the other hand, we have concerns about meeting fatigue. There’s a core group that seems to attend both meetings. Will this core group grow tired of two somewhat similar offerings per year? How do we factor in the fact that industry consolidation is taking away some of our potential attendees? And while it’s true that our territory is vast, people seem to be willing to travel for other meetings if the meeting provides meaningful content and networking in an attractive setting.

The Board decided that it made sense to put our eggs in one basket and create one larger meeting that would encompass the best of both meetings.

Chair Ida Ross Swift Hicks named a task force of DJ Ashy, Tommy Chauvin, George Weatherly and Justin Wright to flesh out what a combined meeting will look like. They will be focusing on time of year; length of meeting; finding the best balance of exhibit hours, education hours and networking/social hours; and looking at creating a pool of locations we might want to consider.

For 2016, we know we will be at the Golden Nugget in Biloxi. It remains to be seen whether they will hold us to our previously contracted dates in March or give us flexibility to move to a different time of year.

I appreciate the support so many of our dealers and associates have provided our meetings over the past few years. During such trying times for our industry, we actually grew attendance quite a bit. But going forward, the best path is a unified meeting. I’ll keep you posted about where things shake out. Regardless, I’m excited about being able to provide you with top-notch education, insights on where our industry is heading, great networking opportunities, and the ability to connect with your local reps from trusted vendors.