NORTHEASTERN DISTRICT BOARD
MAY 21-23, 2018
The 2018 meeting was held in Lake George, New York on May 21-23, 2018. The meeting was originally scheduled for May 16-18, 2018, but a conflict with the Jackson Hole meeting forced us to change the dates early in the process (though not early enough to have the correct date on the save the date materials passed out at the 2017 annual meeting). The reason for avoiding the Jackson Hole dates was because most o the international officers see that meeting as a “Must Attend” event, and we would not have had international representation at the Northeastern District meeting if the change wasn’t made. We thought we caught all the relevant conferences when we originally selected our dates, but Jackson Hole was overlooked.
The meeting features a full range of social programs, from the traditional welcome reception, award banquet and golf outing, to first time events such as a mini-golf competition and a trivia night. The technical program offered a wide variety of presentations, as well as a technical walking tour of local projects and a technical workshop, which all provided extensive opportunities for attendees to earn PDH’s.
For this meeting, we continued the tradition of using a vendor passport to promote attendees visiting our vendors, and we tried something new to promote early registration, by offering raffle prizes for those who signed up early.
Overall, the meeting was a huge success, the venue and social programs were fun and entertaining; the technical program was outstanding; attendance, vendor support and consultant support were all above projected; and although it wasn’t budgeted, the meeting generated a significant surplus in revenue.
Lesson learned: always check the date for Jackson Hole, as well as other well attended conferences, before finalizing meeting date.
Special thanks to the following local arrangement committee (LAC) members for helping to make this meeting a success.
Meeting Chair: Mike Wieszchowski
(as well as finance, venue, gifts and trivia night MC)
Registration: Jennifer Yonkoski
Technical Program-Lead: Jeff Lebsack
Technical: Sarah Bowman
Technical/A-V Support: Alex Kerr
Technical/PDH Approval: Tony Darin
Consultant Support: Tom Johnson
Vendor/Industry Support: Shelly Johnston
Publicity: Mark Nadolny
Social Activities: Don Adams
Technical Tour: Christina Doughney
Golf Event: Mark Budosh
Traffic Trivia Night (Content Development): Steve Gayle
We used Helms Briscoe to assist with the venue search. After reviewing the choices, it was concluded that the Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center was the best location for the 2018 meeting. It had ample on-site hotel rooms, 16,000 SF of meeting space, free wifi, no meeting room fees as long as we met a $10,000 food & beverage minimum, and no audio-visual fees. Helms Briscoe did the initial contract negotiation and review, then I met with the venue and ironed out the details before signing the contract.
Lesson learned: Even though Helms Briscoe is involved, always meet with the venue yourself and ensure there is no misunderstanding by going through a third party.
Accommodations for the 2018 ITE Northeastern District Annual Meeting were located in the Grand Hotel of the Fort William Henry Hotel Complex. The Grand Hotel had 96 available rooms, which consist of a mixture of standard hotel rooms, and luxury suites that feature either a fireplace or jacuzzi tub. All rooms and suites, whether lake side or mountain side, standard or luxury, could be reserved for $124 + tax per night. We committed to 193 room nights (33 on Monday and 80 on Tuesday and Wednesday) with an 80% attrition rate (meaning we needed to ensure payment for a minimum of 154 room nights). Based on our previous Upstate hosted meetings, 80 was a typical number.
For this meeting, 171 room nights (20 Mon./76 Tue./73 Wed./2 Thu.) were booked as of three weeks before the meeting. I didn’t get a final tally, as we were already over the minimum, but I expect that the total was in the 180-190 room night range.
I negotiated one complimentary room for every 40 paid, so four room nights were comped, which were used for VIP accommodations.
Lesson learned: Negotiate the highest attrition rate you can on the room block you reserve to ensure you are not left on the hook to pay for rooms that didn’t get used. And always ask about room comps.
The request for abstracts had a solid response and allowed us to fill up the sessions with a good balance from all the Sections. Overall, we had 8 sessions that provided PDH’s on topics such as Complete Streets, Freight, Safety, Transit, Congestion Pricing and Traffic Control Devices.
We also provided the poster session with its own session to allow people to focus on the posters, instead of being an afterthought in the hallway. We feel this work out well, especially being paired with a concurrent session that offered no PDH’s, the ITE HQ Town Hall Meeting. We felt that if a PDH session was an option at that time that it would take away from the number of people viewing the posters. Ultimately, the pairing worked well and there were a good mix of attendees at both sessions.
There was a 3-hr. technical workshop presented by Steve Gayle on performance planning and risk management at the start of the conference to provide more PDH options (for a nominal additional fee). However, this conference wasn’t as well attended as others we have seen (8 attendees). It is unclear if that is because of the topic, or the travel distance to Lake George being to far for people to get there early enough to attend.
For Audio-Visual, we brought our own laptops and projectors but for screens, microphones and speakers we used a combination of the hotel’s and District-owned. There was no on-site fee for A-V by going this route.
Lesson learned: Always bring a back-up projector in case a bulb blows or one stops working. Luckily we had the extra projector when one of ours went down.
We had higher than expected attendance and the numbers were some of the highest we have seen in Upstate NY for these conferences. Overall, there were 164 attendees (counting registrants, vendors and guests), this is more than 25% higher than expected.
We ran registration online using a Google Form and Paypals to allow Credit Card payments. The registration form could be accessed through a website we development for the meeting, ite-ned-annual-meeting.org, We have paid for the domain for just 2018, but this can be renewed if the District wishes to keep the domain for future meetings. I paid $300 to have the website shell developed in WordPress, and it can be modified for future meetings, if other meeting chairs wish to use it. The fee for using Paypals was about $845 and we received about 60% of our income through credit card purchases.
We ran a raffle promotion to try to get early registrations, it is unclear if the promotion contributed to more people registering earlier than usual, but the raffles went off well and attendees loved the opportunity to win prizes.
The registration cost for a full registration was $275 for ITE members and $350 for non-members. 1-day registrations were set at between $75 and $200, depending on the day. The key is to ensure the daily registration fee is more than the food cost for that day.
The registration numbers are shown in the table below:
|Technical Program Only||2|
Lesson learned: Online Registration is much easier than having everyone mail in checks. However, the Google Form/Paypal combo. we used was cumbersome and somewhat confusing. It needs to be better integrated into the website. I could have done that this year, but we were stuck in our old ways from previous meetings, so didn’t. I do have a connection that can integrate it all into the website, if someone wants to do it and needs help.
Also, whether the give-aways worked to bring in early registrations or not, the raffles were a big hit and I highly recommend doing it again.
We had a huge number of vendors this year with 17 in attendance. Typically, we plan for between 9 and 12 at Upstate NY hosted District meetings. The $500 cost for vendors included a table, electricity and wifi and meals for 1 person. We ran a vendor passport to ensure attendees got to all vendor booths and a raffle for filled out passports helped maximize the number of completed passports.
Lessons learned: $500 is the minimum we should charge for vendors, considering half of that would be food costs alone. That price did not scare off any vendors.
The passport remains a great idea and should always be used to promote vendor activity. The raffle is a great way to maximize passport participation. Remember to always give the passport raffle prizes out before the end of the conference, so people are still there.
We offered 3 levels of sponsorship: Gold, Silver and Bronze. We had 6 gold ($1200), 5 silver ($750), and 7 bronze ($500). Each sponsorship level came with different levels of advertisement and a free registration was given away with the Gold Sponsorship only. Because of the free registration, the cost jump between silver and gold was increased from that between bronze and silver.
Lesson learned: If you get extra money from vendors or consultants, use it to provide added benefit to our members. Out goal isn’t for a large surplus, it is to provide the best experience we can with the money we have. If you get more income, provide more food & drink, gifts or activities to attendees.
Gifts were ordered base on availability, price and a consensus of the LAC’s input. In addition to providing useful items such as a phone caddy, pen and messenger bag, a little local flavor was added to attendee gifts as well, with chocolate bars from a local Adirondack confectioner and coffee mugs from the historic Fort William Henry Museum. Attendee gifts were increased in cost over what was budgeted because of extra vendor support money.
Having an 18 hole scramble on the first day of the conference provided fun and was a great start to the conference for the participants. 22 golfers attending the golf scramble at the Top of The World Golf Course on the 21st. These golfers were split into 6 teams, and after a hard fought battle, the team of Paul Jebbett, David Verdoni and Bill McElroy came out on top with a score of 61 (-11).
Lesson learned: Offering another competition outing concurrent with the golf outing was a big hit and worth doing.
Out first ever mini-golf tournament was a great success as well. Not everyone plays golf, so this alternative gave attendees a fun alternative. 27 attendees played mini-golf at the Around the World Course just down the road from the conference center. Many of the attendees played both the “Around the World” and the “Around the USA” courses, and the scores were recorded. Overall, Steve Gayle had the lowest two-course score and won the first place trophy for low score on the “Around the World” course. Lynn Lamunyon took 1st place on the “Around the USA” Course.
A perfect weather night for an outdoor event resulted in an amazing welcome reception within the courtyard of Fort William Henry. The more than 120 attendees were able to walk the historic grounds and museum, and guided history and ghost tours were also provided. After the reception, many attendees stopped by the Tankard Taverne for a night cap before retiring for the evening.
The first ever Northeastern District Trivia night was a huge success and was a great alternative to the Traffic Bowl, which has become outdated, boring and not very well attended over the past many years. Two rounds of “Lake Name or Fake Name”, provided by ITE International were played as a warm up to the traffic trivia. The winner of those rounds was Jim Pond, who received an Amazon Fire TV Media Player and entry into a drawing to possibly receive a free registration into the upcoming International Meeting in Minneapolis. Four separate rounds of traffic trivia went up and down for many of the 12 participating team (with 5-7 members each), but in the end the team with the best record was the Met Mafia, who won two of the four rounds and placed in the top three in all rounds. $20 Amazon gift cards for each of the team members was awarded for their performance. The Kahoot.it App worked very well to run the trivia contect, and it is highly recommended to continue its use.
Lesson learned: Trivia night worked out much better than the traffic bowl and had a huge attendance. Highly recommend continuing this type format for trivia, and feel the Kahoot.it App is a great medium to use for the Q & A.
The award banquet provided the perfect mix of food and entertainment to cap off the day’s activities. Before the main awards, gifts were handed out for early registration; Winners included Gary Hebert, Christina Doughney, Frank Wefering and Rachel Dooley. Also awarded were gifts for completing the Vendor Passport; these winners included Doug Halpert, Einah Pelaez, Gordon Stansbury and Rebecca Brown. There were also several door prizes awards to some lucky individuals before the major awards were presented.
Achievement Awards presented at the meeting included:
The Final award of the night was the Harvey B. Boutwell Award for Distinguished Service, which is the highest honor the District can bestow upon an individual in recognition of their dedicated service. The winner of the 2018 Harvey B. Boutwell Award was “Kim Fabend”.