The American Society of Association Executives' (ASAE) 60th annual convention, scheduled to open here Friday, will attract more than 2,100 chief executives of national associations from cities throughout the United States.
Many of those executives will be scrutinizing the city with a fine-toothed comb to determine if they should move their annual conventions or associations headquarters here in the next few years.
Board of Trade officials will be on hand to influence them. The board has planned several Executours which, in 12 hours, will point out the attributes -- proximity to government activities, access to other big-name associations -- that make Washington the Association capital of the country.
"These executives are coming to learn, but they're also coming to see just what Washington has to offer, if the city is all it has been cracked up to be recently," said James Low, executive director of ASAE, an organization of 10,000 trade organization executives.
While this week's four-day convention is billed as a means for executives to get hands-on experience learning to manage their associations more efficiently, it is much more than that.
Fighting for the executives' attention from dawn to dusk will be sellers in the ASAE industry marketplace. More than 60 companies, occupying 529 booths in the basement of the Sheraton Washington Hotel, will offer a wide variety of goods and services -- audiovisual equipment, graphic services, professional speakers and computers -- to willing purchasers. g
To ensure the executives are not bombarded with sellers, however, ASAE has imposed a ceiling on the number of booths; no more than 40 percent of the convention-goers can be sellers. Each company pays a $900 fee to advertise.
The convention-goers' birds-eye view of D.C. winds them through theatres, monuments and museums, then back to the Sheraton for 10 educational seminars designed to teach the basics of association management -- from primping one's hair to writing a well-tuned speech.
Panel members at the convention's opening session include Martin Agronsky of the Nationally distributed TV public affairs show, "Agronsky and Company," James J. Kilpatrick and George Will.
Board of Trade officials predict each conventioneer will spend upwards of $1,500 before the weekend runs out, generating $5 million for the city.
Booked five years ago, the upcoming convention will probably be ASAE's last here before the convention center is finished. The affair quickly is outgrowing the Sheraton Washington.
The ASAE, founded in 1920, currently holds educational seminars for trade group leaders, conducts research, and publishes regular periodicals and special reports.
Since Low took over at the association 15 years ago, membership has grown 500 percent from 1,900 to 10,000 executives. The budget has skyrocketed from $200,000 to $7 million.