St. Louis-based IACC continues to market to and educate meeting planners on what IACC properties actually are. It has been aggressive in initiating and expanding programs aimed at maintaining quality and best practices—notably in sustainability and technology—and in positioning to expand overseas.
Of its 300-plus member centers, almost 200 are in North America and more than 80 are in Europe. Since 1981 it has been promoting its conference center model, one designed to maximize the productivity of smaller meetings.
"It is a never-ending job," says Tom Bolman, IACC executive vice president. "There are so many part-time planners now. There are lots of misconceptions. It’s a continual challenge. With an IACC conference center you get a self-contained, distraction-free environment that you don’t get at a hotel."
Neil Pompan, IACC global president, compares buying a meeting at an IACC conference center with buying a car.
"You don’t buy a kit and assemble the car yourself," he says. "With a hotel you have to buy all the components—rooms, food, recreation, meeting support. With an IACC conference center you buy the total meeting experience."
The Universal Criteria
To join IACC, properties must adhere to the organization’s Universal Criteria, a set of rules covering everything from conference room design and services to food and beverage and even guest rooms.
The rules encompass lighting and acoustics and the use of ergonomic chairs. Centers must have a business center close to meeting rooms, areas for continuous refreshments and a conference staff member designated for each group. A minimum of 60 percent of meeting space must be dedicated, single-purpose conference space.
All must offer as an option the CMP, which includes lodging (except for day centers), three meals daily, refreshment breaks, 24-hour meeting room access and audiovisual equipment.
IACC has added technology standards to the Universal Criteria, including minimum equipment and infrastructure requirements for meeting rooms.
In 2007, IACC completed a four-year independent audit of all existing members—the first since its formation—to ensure they were adhering to the criteria.
Environmental practices are also a growing concern for IACC. Drawn up by a task force, its Code of Sustainability was unveiled at its 28th annual conference last March at Château Élan Winery & Resort in Braselton, Ga.
The code features 59 tenants of sustainable practices covering education and awareness, waste management, recycling, reuse, water conservation, purchasing, energy management, air quality and food and beverage.
Members tick off whether they had, or planned to, put into place the various practices, qualifying for one of three tiers of the self-policing program.
The organization has taken steps to restructure. Planning for expansion in Latin America, it changed the name of IACC North America last fall to IACC Americas. Last August, it held its second annual European conference, with the theme, "Navigating the Perfect Storm."
"We’re seeing membership growth, particularly in Europe, and there has been interest from Mexico and South America," Pompan says. "We need to be more inclusive. We’re consolidating chapters around the world. It is more cost-effective. We’ll have three primary areas: the Americas, Europe and Asia/Pacific."
During the first quarter of this year, IACC is holding meeting-planner roundtables in 16 North America cities designed to gather information on what planners require so IACC can better focus on what’s important. Sustainability will be among the roundtable focuses.
The results will be presented at IACC‘s 2010 annual summit, entitled "Not Business as Usual," at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa, near Chicago, in late March.