Because RWA belongs to its members, RWA conference locations are rotated across the country in order to make it more convenient and less costly to attend (at least every three or four years).
When RWA considers which hotel is best for its annual conference, we consider the following:
- Adequate number of guest rooms (preferably in one hotel); at least half of the guest rooms must be multiple occupancy rooms because so many members prefer to share
- Affordable room rates
- Adequate closet space for up to four attendees
- Adequate meeting space (hotels provide meeting space without charge in exchange for filling the block of guest rooms)
- One or more ballrooms that are 25,000+ square feet in which to hold the literacy event and other general sessions (Keynote, Luncheon or Breakfast Speakers; Awards Ceremony)
- Workshop space that allows for 11 to 12 sessions per hour each seating at least 100 people
Some organizations choose to hold conferences in multiple hotels. When they do that, they either have to split workshops among various hotels (comped space) or they must rent space at the convention center. The primary downside for RWA choosing to hold its meeting in a convention center is a lack of sponsors or exhibitors to bear the cost of using the center. (For example, RWA pays more than $8,000 to rent 200 square feet for three days at BookExpo America. The income BookExpo derives from exhibitors underwrites the cost of meeting rooms.)
In 1999, RWA explored the idea of using a convention center in what is known as “second-tier cities” (examples: Long Beach, California; Cincinnati, Ohio) for its annual conference. The idea was to escape the problems related to using one hotel (i.e., tight meeting space or insufficient supply of double/double rooms). We found that although we would be able to offer members more options in terms of room rates, the cost of using the convention center had to be funded by an increase in room rate (hotel would rebate to the center) or in the registration fee (RWA would pay for space). The model really fell apart when we discovered that overall travel costs were not cheaper. Most second-tier cities require connecting flights, and those are often higher than flights into major cities.