New director builds on novelty of AVMA convention

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As AVMA convention manager for the past six years, Michael R. Roop has been intimately involved in helping shape the AVMA Annual Convention during a formative period in its expansion.

Following the recent departure of Dr. Cynthia L. Coursen as director of the Convention and Meeting Planning Division, AVMA executive vice president, Dr. Bruce W. Little has named Roop as new director of the division.

Announcing the promotion Aug 18, AVMA executive vice president, Dr. Bruce W. Little said, "Michael has been a loyal AVMA employee for almost six years and has an abundance of experience, both with the AVMA convention and other association conventions."

A search is in progress to hire a person for a new position of continuing education coordinator. This staff person will oversee development of the educational sessions offered at the convention and other AVMA-sponsored meetings, serve as primary staff support to the Convention Management and Program Committee, and procure sponsorships.

"The beginning of next year would be an ideal time for the new coordinator to start," Roop explained, "because, as dictated by CMPC-imposed guidelines, we had 100 percent of the 2001 program for Boston in place by the committee's September meeting, so planning is getting in full swing for the 2002 program in Nashville."

Roop is convinced that what the AVMA has to offer at its convention is unique among major veterinary conferences. "We make sure the educational needs of our diverse members are served," he said. "Our educational sessions and social events cover all areas of veterinary medicine rather than being limited, for example, to one practice species. So when veterinarians attend the networking and social opportunities the AVMA convention provides, they see classmates and colleagues they may not see elsewhere."

CMPC meeting
Michael R. Roop (third left), new director of the AVMA Convention and Meeting Planning Division, with some current members of the Convention Management and Program Committee.

The Executive Board and CMPC are determined that the AVMA be the premier veterinary convention in the United States, Roop said. As a result he receives a lot of positive support and direction from them as to what the veterinary community wants.

This year for the first time, the AVMA conducted a convention survey on-site. The Convention Management and Program Committee reviewed the survey results to determine whether attendees' expectations were met in such areas as speaker quality and variety, and appeal as a family event.

"Our numbers are growing because we've improved the quality of our programming and are doing a more aggressive job of marketing what's always been a good program," he said.

Objectively speaking, Roop acknowledges that for-profit endeavors such as the Western, North American, Wild West, and Central veterinary conferences offer "a product vital to veterinarians" because of quality programming in a desirable location at a certain time of year.

Halfway through Roop's time on staff, the Executive Board in July 1997 approved Dr. Little's proposal to create the Convention and Meeting Planning Division and authorized the position of director, which Dr. Coursen filled.

"When I first started, we were an arm of the Business Division, with three staff members dedicated full time to producing the annual convention," Roop explained. "Now we are a freestanding division of six employees."

In his former position as convention manager under Dr. Coursen, Roop solicited bids from prospective convention sites, selected a recommended site for the convention eight years ahead, negotiated contracts, and oversaw aspects of the convention and other AVMA-sponsored events and internal meetings.

His responsibility for those activities will continue. Generally he makes two site visits the year a convention site is chosen, then returns 18 months prior to the convention and several more times before the event. In addition, Roop now oversees a staff of five, and, in the interim until a CE coordinator is hired, is involved with sponsor solicitation.

"Sponsorship of all AVMA activities is becoming a more appealing opportunity. With so much attention being devoted to enhancing the program and the high quality of our exhibits, we have strong support from our members and our attendance is growing," Roop said.

"Still, every year it is a challenge to acquire sponsorship dollars, for many reasons, from corporate buyouts to low company profits. Even so, sponsorships with the AVMA have increased because larger companies have realized the value of broad visibility."

The objectives Dr. Little outlined in 1997 for the new AVMA convention and meeting division included the following:

  • doubling the CE hours over the next few years
    "Across the board we've increased quality programming featuring the most effective speakers versed in current technology," Roop said. "We've introduced the popular wet labs and expanded autotutorials, including computer learning labs, into the Multimedia Education Center."

    The total amount of CE available has expanded 68.8 percent since 1997. At the 1997 convention in Reno, 396 CE hours were presented; this year in Salt Lake City, 714 hours were available.
  • expanding the scientific sessions, including wet labs, for veterinary technicians and assistants
    The most substantial increase in CE has been for veterinary technicians and assistants, thanks to support from Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. Since 1997 the technician program offerings have increased more than threefold. More interactive sessions are offered. Wet labs were added in 1998 and were increased this year to five. Also this year, veterinary technicians knowledgeable in specific areas were recruited as speakers.
  • promoting international attendance through excursion programs or charter flights
    The excursion programs will likely first come into play with the 2006 Annual Convention in Honolulu. "Island airlines have expressed interest in offering some pre- and post- outer-island tours," Roop reported. The Hawaii convention will provide an enchanting venue for the AVMA's first convention off the mainland in 143 years. According to Roop, the Honolulu convention bureau has made it clear they intend to promote this destination over the next several years, and to make sure the AVMA gets the best airfare for its members and the best shipping rates for exhibitors' freight.

"The Honolulu convention center is large enough to accommodate our growing convention," Roop said.

To curb the temptation to hit the beaches rather than the lecture halls, the architects devised a plan, he explained. "People will be surprised to note that the architecture and structure and view from the convention center are such that open spaces and windows along corridors bring in as much of the outdoors as possible."

Roop has high expectations for Boston in 2001. "We set an all-time record in Boston in 1992 that held until we met in Baltimore in 1998. We've always had a good draw in the Northeast because of the high veterinary demographics there."

The Boston convention will offer a larger number of wet labs for veterinarians and six labs for technicians (dentistry, external fixators, lasers, critical care, hematology, and equine endoscopy). The Multimedia Education Center will be moved from the exhibit hall to the registration area so it can be open throughout registration hours.

"Because of growth in the number of CE hours, great marketing and promotional programs, and expansion of our veterinary technician program," Roop said, "we're in a position to break our '98 record."