[PAO] Annual Conference comments

Steven Solomon ssolomon at cap.gov
Mon Jul 21 15:54:42 CDT 2014


There has been much discussion the last few days on this list-serv about
the cost, location and even the necessity of CAP's annual conference. Some
of my PAO colleagues have even gone so far as to question renewing their
CAP membership. I'd like to share a few of my thoughts.

Although many of you said you wouldn't be attending this year's conference
due to the cost, the latest stats (three weeks prior) show that more than
650 people are registered at this point and we expect to have between
700-800 by the time registration closes. This means that this conference
will be one of the largest (if not the largest) national conferences CAP
has had in the past 10 years. That's a success by any measure.

But this doesn't mean that concerns about cost fall on deaf ears. I know
personally that the National Staff takes the input of all our members very
seriously. Past conference survey comments have indicated that reducing the
cost of the conference hotel is very important to our members and the
National Staff is doing its best to do that.

For example, this year’s hotel rates were the lowest we know of in recent
history: $75 for Mon-Thurs and $110 for Fri-Sat. This includes free parking
and free Internet in guest rooms. The hotel waived its normal
conference/resort fee of $19.99. The hotel sold out of the CAP room block
before the cutoff date because so many CAP members took advantage of the
low room rates. The hotel provided many additional rooms to CAP members at
the same low contracted price even though they were not obligated to do so.

Also, food and beverages are expensive at hotels. On top of food costs most
hotels charge a 22% service fee plus taxes. This is true whether you go to
a smaller city or a larger one. The total is usually 30-32% above the cost
of the F&B. (CAP is not tax exempt in many states when purchasing F&B). To
reduce the cost of meals for our members, like the prayer breakfast ($15)
or the banquet (early bird registration was $60), CAP subsidized the cost
of these events. The actual cost of these meals is much higher.

The early bird registration fee was $99. This is the same it has been for
many years. Most other non-CAP conferences that provide similar
professional development opportunities charge $400 or more for their
conference fees. Check it.

The banquet speaker, Air Force Maj Gen Kevin McLaughlin, and special guest
speaker, famous aviation fiction author Dale Brown, are not being
compensated for speaking. Both have special ties to CAP. Gen McLaughlin and
his wife are very active in CAP as are their three sons. Gen McLaughlin is
also commander of AF Cyber Command so this is another tie to CAP’s
important cyber role. Capt Dale Brown is a CAP squadron commander in NV.

In general, holding conferences at smaller cities could help reduce the
cost of hotel rooms but it is usually more expensive to fly into cities
like that, so the out-of-pocket expenses might offset each other unless you
are driving.

NHQ plans on National Conference attendance being between 500-800.  These
numbers and the fact that we require a lot of breakout rooms to hold
between 50-60 Learning Labs during the conference limits the hotels we can
use to only larger ones. Using conference centers is usually more expensive
overall than using larger hotels that can accommodate CAP.

NHQ tries to move the conference around the country each year so it will be
close to a large population of CAP members who could drive in to attend. In
2015 CAP is planning to have it nearer the eastern part of the United
States, because it has been farther west in 2013 and 2014.

Finally, at the upcoming conference we are delighted that we will be
conducting limited testing on the ability for our members to virtually
attend key professional development sessions via webinars. If the tests go
well this year, and we expect they will, CAP will increase the number of
Professional Development sessions that will be broadcast via webinars in
2015. This will allow more CAP members to participate in specific events
even if they can’t attend the conference in person.

I hope my input helps answer some of the questions you've had. But because
NHQ doesn't monitor this list-serv, I suggest using the chain of command if
you'd like official feedback. And as always, you may call me at any time.


National Public Affairs Officer
Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters
105 South Hansell St., Building 714
Maxwell AFB AL 36112-5937
s <ssolomon at cap.gov>solomon at cap.gov <ssolomon at cap.gov>
Cell: 240-505-6279

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