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Where your conference money goes

June 16, 2013

The other day I received a query on the ConferenceMarketing@FloridaWriters.net email address: “Where does my money go?”

The question, from an FWA member, referred to the registration fee for FWA’s annual conference, “The Greatest Writers Conference on Earth.”

Oxford Self Storage(1)I could see where he was coming from. If you’ve attended an FWA annual conference in the past or if you’re looking to attend this year, you know the investment is substantial. In the spirit of transparency, the Conference Committee wants to share my answer with you.

If you register today (or until September 22, during regular registration), your fee for the full conference is $355, not including hotel. After September 22, it’s $375.

Where do these fees go? The quick answer: to your stomach! Last year, food alone for the full conference cost $335 per person—exactly the same as this year’s regular registration fee. Add the other costs—including faculty transportation (last year $9,000), lodging for faculty and volunteers ($25,000), and food for faculty and volunteers ($17,000)—and we have a shortfall of $51,000, not including miscellaneous expenses.

????????????????????????For the shortfall, we look to other revenue sources, such as interview sales, commissions from the conference bookstore, and funds from sponsors, donors, and advertisers. These help, but don’t close the gap, never have.

When I explained this, the member emailed back, “So why not cut costs?” The answer is that FWA is committed to bringing you the best possible conference experience, and to do this, we focus on four goals.

  • Attract the best faculty. Imagine how appealing an invitation would be to an agent or publisher if it involved staying at Motel 6 and eating fast food!
  • Secure a sufficiently large facility. Purchasing Marriott’s award-winning meals entitles us to some deep discounts on the meeting space. We’re expecting some 500 attendees this year, so we need the space.
  • OnlineBinding.com(1)Pack in as much in a day as possible. This means keeping everyone on campus. We’re most productive when we stay together and not swarm all over the city for meals. The conference is like a continuous business meeting, where you network with industry professionals and fellow writers, all day, in a collegial setting.
  • Make you comfortable. Only when we are comfortable can everyone get the most out of the conference. With some 24 workshops and all the other activities, there’s a lot to take in.

ExpertSubjects2In short, if you compare our fees to other conferences, you’ll find them a good value for many reasons, not the least of which is all meals are included—meaning you don’t pay extra for the five breaks and seven meals (one of which is the Royal Palm Literary Award Banquet), and you don’t have to worry about the sales tax and 22 percent service charge. It’s all included. Not to mention, this year we’re adding more healthy food choices. The chef is creating an entirely new menu custom-designed for FWA based on your feedback.

A word of thanks to our gracious sponsors, who contribute funds and necessary services to defray conference costs: Peppertree Press, Platinum Sponsor, 6 years, who publishes the Collections book; OnLineBinding.com, Platinum Sponsor, 3 years, contributing the conference goodie bags and printing the conference program; Orlando Marriott Lake Mary, Platinum Sponsor, 2 years, contributing the upcharge of a full (vs. continental) breakfast on Friday; ExpertSubjects.com, Platinum Sponsor, 2 years, monetary contribution; Oxford Self Storage, Gold Sponsor, 4 years, contributing a 10 x 15 foot climate-controlled storeroom for conference equipment.

MarriottThank you, sponsors, for your support!

If you or a company you know wishes to become a sponsor, donor, or advertiser, please contact ConferenceMarketing@FloridaWriters.net. We want your money, we admit it, but we’ll do everything we can to ensure you get your money’s worth in promotion.

“So my registration fee goes to my stomach?”

I don’t think my new member-friend got past that fact. And understandably. “Yes,” I affirmed, “your stomach.”

We hope you’ll treat your stomachs and benefit from the entire conference experience at the “Greatest Writers Conference on Earth” October 18-29 at the Orlando Marriott Lake Mary. Details on the FWA website: floridawriters.net.

What part of the conference experience do you enjoy most? What activity or service would add value for you? Would you like to be a sponsor?

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2 Comments
  1. June 17, 2013 3:46 pm

    Producing an event requires a tremendous effort and until you’re going through the motions, you cannot appreciate the hurdles to jump and the effort required. Space rental is indeed provided complimentary if you buy enough $35.00 buffet lunches, similarly priced breakfasts, dinner and so forth. Audio-visual equipment – you can’t bring yours in – the venue has to provide it. A laptop and power point projector and screen can be purchased for an amount equal to two days rental.

    Change venues. Go to a University. Oops, they charge also. Plus, they want liability insurance provided that names them as an additional insured. Oh, and the only food service allowed is from university food service. You mean cafeteria food? Yep.Same kitchen and same chefs that cook for the students.

    And so it goes. Now; why do you think so many events have sponsors like the state arts council and\or the state humanities council? It’s to underwrite their losses in producing the event. That’s right – if the taxpayers didn’t step in with funding to help out, the event would lose money.

    Hotels; they’ll give you a whopping 20%, maybe even 30% off their rack rates for your attendees. Your attendees can still stay down the street for much less by buying their room through Priceline or Travelocity and they do just that. Well, you can get rooms comp’ed for your faculty based upon the number of nights your attendees book. True – but the going rate is one free night for every 40 rooms booked. What a deal – for the hotel!

    Alas, being an event planner is a thankless task and as an attendee, if you think someone is getting rich, you’re right. But it sure as hell isn’t the event organizers.

    I know of what I speak as I near wrapping up all the details on year two of the Business of Writing Summit: http://businessofwritingsummit.com

  2. June 17, 2013 10:35 pm

    I’ve attended several different conferences, and the FWA conference definitely offers the most value. I’m still amazed that y’all are able to put on such a great conference for such a small registration fee. I really appreciate the sponsors who make that possible. I hope to be a sponsor myself someday. For now, I’m excited to be on faculty for the Youth Writers’ Conference. Looking forward to seeing everyone in October!

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