by Sarah J.F Braley | February 01, 2012

Belonging to a targeted trade association gives professionals a sense of community and stability as their own jobs grow and change. But as comforting as it is to think of those membership organizations working steadily in the background on their constituents' behalf, such associations also need to grow and change to keep up with the times. In the meetings world, five industry groups are greeting 2012 with some major strategy and/or personnel changes.

A new mandate Officials at two industry organizations have stepped back to reevaluate how they serve their members. The result is a name change for both associations and a refocusing of their missions.

ACOM becomes ESPA. Created 24 years ago, the Association for Convention Operations Management, known as ACOM, aimed to support convention services managers mainly at convention centers. But over the years, the membership base spread to include housing managers, operations managers, directors of conventions and trade shows, and more. So at the end of 2011, ACOM changed its name to the Event Service Professionals Association.

Eric Blanc, President, Event Service Professionals Association"When it was founded, convention services managers had been underrepresented in the industry," says Eric Blanc, CMP, director of sales and marketing for the Tampa Convention Center and president of ESPA. "But we found that as it matured, we had not kept up with the changing roles of our people. Our folks were taking on more tasks and their titles had begun to change. They are event services people."

Members got the full taste of the new direction last month in San Diego when, as usual, the organization co-located its annual conference with the Professional Convention Management Association's Annual Meeting. The change to ESPA precipitated a spike in attendance at the event, jumping 16 percent over the conference held in Las Vegas in 2010.

ESPA also has seen an uptick in its ranks now that the categories have been realigned and memberships are being offered to organizations and not just individuals. Facilities now can enroll five or six employees rather than just the two or three who would join in the past.

Blanc adds: "The truth of the matter is that our people are the ones who sell destinations. Their services keep bringing people back. Our members have long known this truth, but we're trying as an association to get the word out. Our educational programming is geared around helping our members understand that component."

ACME becomes CSPI.
A similar transformation is taking place at the Asso­ciation for Convention Sales and Marketing Executives. Now called Convention Sales Professionals International, the organization also is changing to accommodate the broader professional roles of its members. A strategic planning session last year concluded that a rebranding was needed to expand the group's appeal and align the association with other professional groups in the meetings industry.

"ACME worked closely with our association management firm to create a new name and brand that represents where we wanted to go," says Yulita Osuba, CMP, president of the association as well as senior director of sales, marketing, event management and exhibitor services for the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. "We want CSPI to be the association for all sales professionals who work for convention centers and convention bureaus. Dropping 'executive' from our name opens up membership to all levels and roles in sales and marketing, and adding 'international' helps us to recruit international members."

Osuba says the feedback has been very positive. "When the rebranding was announced to the membership, several people reached out to headquarters to express their excitement. There is an incredible value in belonging to an association like CSPI -- we are a community and a network for career development, and that is never more valuable than in a changing economic climate."

CSPI's annual conference will take place later this month at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., with a focus on best practices for salespeople at destination management organizations and convention centers.