by Sarah J.F. Braley | June 01, 2007

Mary Ann Linder“It’s all about networking and business interaction. A lot of deals are made.”

Mary Ann Linder is meetings manager for the 81-year-old Soap and Detergent Association in Washington, D.C. SDA members produce more than 90 percent of the cleaning products marketed in the United States. The SDA Annual Meeting & Industry Convention is held at the beginning of the year at Florida’s Boca Raton Resort & Club, its home for the past 38 years.

How did you get into the industry? After going to college for international relations, I found a job as a program assistant at the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, which represents the toll-road industry. I was supposed to help wherever there was a need, and most of the need was in meetings. I loved it. I learned on the job, completely. I like that, as a planner, you see projects through from start to end. And there’s never a dull moment.

What distinguishes your annual meeting? Ours is primarily for members to have business meetings. We always need about 30 meeting rooms. We have about 600 people participating, and our attendees say the right people show up: the decision-makers. It’s all about networking and business interaction. A lot of deals are made.

Do you have to theme your events around soap? The members do get kind of tired of all the clean-hand jokes. This group tends not to be at the beginning of their careers. We pick themes that are business-oriented. We did have disposable hand wipes at registration this year that we branded. Our little packets said, “Clean hands save lives.”