Norman Mailer Society/Future Society Annual Conference Sites

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Future Conference Sites
By-Laws

July 14, 2020

TO: Norman Mailer Society Executive Board
FROM: Bob Begiebing and Phil Sipiora
SUBJECT: Future Society Annual Conference Sites

During the board meeting of the 2019 Mailer Society conference at Wilkes University, the board discussed a proposal we distributed ahead of time regarding future venues for Mailer Society Conferences. Our goal was to maximize convenience of travel for many conferees and to provide an attractive and overall affordable venue (including proximity of airport and hotel). We believe that the likelihood of robust attendance (including spouses, partners, and families), the growth of the Society, and the efficiency for conference planners would be enhanced by rotating between two sites the board believes best meet these goals. The brief board discussion at Wilkes did not resolve the question of future venues for 2021 and beyond; however, three different venues were brought up by various board members—Providence, RI, Austin, TX, and either Sarasota or Tampa/ St. Pete’s, FL. During discussion Mike Lennon suggested that several board members who had an attractive venue in mind should research that venue and present the facts to the board.

In response to Mike’s suggestion, we are proposing that the board consider for one of the regular venues a familiar and previously successful site in Sarasota, Florida. We researched a few sites in Tampa/St. Pete’s, but so far we’ve found that the best conference facilities all around still seem to be in Sarasota, although future research of the Tampa area could turn up another equally attractive Florida site for future consideration. One of the attractions for both areas in Florida is that they have airports nearby (reducing secondary transportation costs, bus/transit complications, urban congestion, and other inconveniences). But Sarasota we believe has the best combination of manageable hotel rates, convenient on-site facilities for meetings and social gatherings, and attractive surrounding environment. Florida has relatively low air rates because as a major destination site tourism is highly valued, and rental car rates are likewise among the lowest in the country. The convenience of all conference events taking place right at the hotel eliminates further costs (whether shuttle fees folded into the registration fee or individual Uber-type fees) for attendees. The figures we present are for 2021 because at this point in 2020 board members cannot realistically confirm figures for 2022 and beyond. USF discounts are applied, including a $25/ room waiver in Sarasota, where we have had some of our best attendance previously, and where USF graduate students and faculty have to some extent added to the overall mix of attendees.

The Holiday Inn, Lido, Sarasota, FL. The Lido Sarasota has an attractive and interesting local environment. Because this is a conference site we have used before, most board members know well the facilities, the attractions of the setting, and the encouraging previous attendance numbers. Advantages include adequate conference rooms, a Gulf-view dining room, an indoor/ outdoor bar, 25 restaurants within easy walking distance, a hotel situated on a waterfront walk and beaches, and a fifteen-minute, uncomplicated cab/Uber/rental ride from airport to hotel. “City View” rooms=$155/night; “Gulf View” rooms=$175/ night. Facilities costs: Ballroom use $500/day; breakout session rooms $250/day; pre-planned food & beverage for duration of stay $3,000 minimum (i.e., board meeting lunch, plenary session luncheon).

If you have questions about the site, please contact Phil Sipiora at psipiora@gmail.com.

Some Voting Options to Consider

  1. We introduce this proposal to the board well ahead of time for our 2020 board meeting at the 2020 Zoom conference, for an up or down vote. (That way board members who cannot attend the Zoom conference would also be able to send in their votes on the proposal ahead of time).
  1. If a majority of board members would prefer to ensure anonymity and greater candor—and perhaps avoid a merely repetitious discussion from last year’s board meeting—we could offer this proposal for a vote by way of a convenient web portal. (Using the anonymous web portable such as Qualtrics, provided through the good offices of Jerry Lucas, would allow you to cast your anonymous vote when you sign in after receiving Jerry’s email with the link to the portal.) There is of course also the possibility of using the web portal for a vote even before the 2020 Zoom conference if we feel there is already sufficient detail in this proposal, and sufficient general familiarity with the site, for members to make their voting decisions.

Likewise, any other proposed venues presented in detail from other board members could be discussed (and voted on) at or before the board meeting as well.

NB: Nothing would prevent the Society from occasionally choosing a venue other than the two chosen by the board if the board decided such a choice might, for example, attract greater geographical diversity or realize some other desired purpose. Of course, facilities expense is a key issue, but once long, complicated car rental or taxi/Uber/bus/transit/limo rides are eliminated, we achieve more flexibility in room and facility expenses.

Thank you for your help in moving this discussion forward. We hope the whole board will take this opportunity to weigh in on future annual conference sites for The Norman Mailer Society.