Planning a Convention


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National Amateur Press Association
A Guide to Planning an Annual Convention

Would you be willing to host a convention for the group? Here are some thoughts to get you started.

Introduction: Be Our Host!

Some comments from Jon McGrew, President, 2004:

I was surprised and pleased to get a note from a regional Chamber of Commerce representative in Illinois a while back, trying to woo us toward holding a future NAPA Convention there.

As appealing as it sounds to accept their offer and turn the planning job over to them, it doesn’t really work that way. We always need to have a local host, typically one of our own NAPA members, who can research the facilities and prices to meet our needs.

You might want to consider hosting a future convention in your own city. What’s in it for me?, you may ask. Well, you get to show off the local facilities in your area, and—don’t overlook the obvious—if it’s in your neighborhood, you get to attend without incurring travel expenses. A free room will even be provided for you during the convention. It’s worth considering.

The arrangements for a convention aren’t terribly complicated, but they do tend require a good amount of lead-time; therefore, the planning for each year’s convention typically starts at least a year in advance, and two years is better.

If you are interested in pursuing the idea of hosting a convention at some point, please get in touch with us. We would be very happy to discuss this with you. We can give you a starting point for talking with hotels and restaurants, so that you’ll know what to ask them for.

We always need help with the arrangements for future NAPA Conventions. Make it your year!

And by the way, I don’t know how that Chamber of Commerce rep in Illinois heard about us, but I tend to think that they might have gotten the idea that we are somewhat bigger than we actually are. I doubt that our next convention would be likely to fill their convention center arena.


A Starting Point for Planning a Convention

It probably seems hard to get started with the planning for a convention, but it's really not so hard. Part of the difficulty is in finding out what arrangements are expected. How many rooms are needed? What price is acceptable? What events have to be planned as a part of the convention. We'll attempt to explain that here, and then when you have further questions, just contact the NAPA President.

To get you started, here are some thoughts about the number of rooms that we use and prices and so forth. The figures that are shown here are just for use as examples, but they will show you what has been accepted in the past.

Convention Dates

The NAPA Annual Convention is required by our Constitution to be held for three days during July; those days are chosen by the President. It has almost always been held over the Fourth of July.

For discussion purposes only, let's assume that the convention is going to be held on July 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Then, as an example, here is how the convention would start to get laid out:

July 1:  Arrival Date / Welcoming Receptionabout 20-30 people
July 2:Morning Meetingabout 30-40 people
Afternoon outing and free timeabout 25 people
Evening Meetingabout 30-40 people
July 3Morning Meetingabout 30-40 people
Afternoon outing and free timeabout 25 people
Evening Meetingabout 30-40 people
July 4:Morning Meetingabout 30-40 people
Afternoon outing and free timeabout 25 people
Evening Meeting / Group Photo / Banquet Dinner / Adjournmentabout 20-30 people
July 5:Checkout and morning departure for most people (no meetings) 
Lunch or picnic for the remaining people, usually held elsewhere;
we are done with the hotel before this
about 12-14 people

Number of Rooms

  • July 1:   18 rooms
  • July 2:   Convention Day — 24 rooms
  • July 3:   Convention Day — 24 rooms
  • July 4:   Convention Day — 24 rooms
  • July 5:   Departure day; no rooms (one or two people might stay over)

Although this will change from year to year, a starting point would be to plan for approximately 24 rooms to be booked. This is a figure that can be used for preliminary discussions with hotels, in order to get rates. They will then have at least some idea of what we are considering (not 5 rooms, not 100 rooms). Some people arrive on the morning of the first day of the convention, and therefore do not use a hotel room for the previous night, so it makes sense to plan for perhaps 18 rooms for the first night (the night prior to the opening of the convention).


Try to choose a location that many people from around the country can travel to easily. Ideally, it should also be an interesting location. …We'll let you define what that means.

Airport Arrangements

How far is it from an airport? Does the hotel offer a shuttle to and from the airport? If so, what is the charge for it? And if not, what are the travel arrangements? Taxi? Bus? Train?

Room Rates

Although you might get scared off by the regular room rates at many hotels, speak with their convention planners. Group rates are often available for half of the regular rates, or maybe even less. Then, to get a proper picture of the cost, we need to add in the taxes and extras:

Chattanooga$699.25% + 6%$11$1.00/day
phone access
(might be 10% next year)

Notice that in these two examples, the room rates look quite different; yet, when the extras are added in, they are within $4 to $5 of being the same. Be sure to figure in all of the extras to see the true cost to our members.

Not everyone will need to pay for parking (because not everyone will drive), but almost everyone will probably pay either for parking or for transportation to and from the airport. Some will get rides from friends, of course.

We would like to keep the price of the room down to around $100 a night or less, including taxes and local travel, as we show in the chart. Many of the members are retired and on fixed incomes.

A few of the members will share rooms, to keep costs down. Be sure to get both single and double rates.

The organization will pay for a room for the President and for another room for the local arrangements person (…that's you!).

Meeting Room

At some locations, the meeting room has been free, because we are booking a number of guest rooms. At other locations, we have had to pay for the meeting room. See what your location can offer. Or, let's get creative: If we want to bring the room rate down a little more, we might consider offering the attendees a small rebate, which would then be considered as a payment for the meeting room.

Commonly, one meeting room is enough, although others could be used if the planned programs warranted them.

Meeting Room Equipment

The meeting room must have chairs and tables for all of the attendees. We commonly have them set up in a classroom arrangement (although a large U-shaped arrangement of tables has also worked for us). Pencils and paper should be made available. A lecturn or podium is required.

A microphone and PA-system speakers are required—these are very important. (Some of the attendees may have hearing problems, and some of the presenters may not speak very loudly.) An easel with a large pad of paper on it or a chalkboard or whiteboard is also needed.

A source should be found for a projector of some sort in case it is needed, but it isn't a required piece of equipment, and probably won't be used. The hotel itself can probably supply this if it is needed.

We also require a U.S. Flag for the front of the room, typically on a pole mounted on a floorstand.

In the back of the room, near the entry doors, we commonly have a few tables set up as a registration desk. We need to have several outlets available for the registration tables. There is typically no convention fee, but there will be a fee collected at these tables for the banquet dinner and for a group photo. There might also be other fees collected in advance for outings.

There should be six to ten additional tables available in the room (60"x24", as an example). These will be used for displays, handouts, registration, and equipment.

Coffee service before the morning meeting starts and again at mid-morning would be a nice touch, if the hotel can supply it at a reasonable cost.

One possible meeting room arrangement.
This sample room is 50' x 50' (2500 square feet).
Tables shown are 60" x 24".

Hospitality Room

These conventions are often the only opportunity that many of the members have for visiting each other face-to-face during the year. It's no surprise, therefore, that some people want as much visiting time as they can get… sometimes long into the evenings. We have commonly had arrangements for a hospitality room, for use in the evenings. That gives us a way to let a few people get together and visit for however long they may want to visit, after the equipment has been locked up in the main meeting room. See what your location can offer. We typically stock the room with some simple snacks—soda, chips, etc.

It might be possible to assign a suite to the President or the local arrangements person (their rooms are paid for as part of the convention), and use that room for the Hospitality Suite. Part of that depends upon whether or not that person is willing to have visitors sitting in the suite until all hours.


What provisons are there for meals? Is there a restaurant in the hotel or motel? What do the prices look like?

People are on their own for all of the meals except the Banquet Dinner, but there needs to be a provision for meals on the premises. Some of the members may require walkers. We cannot plan to go out for meals. Each individual will pay for all of their own meals, except for the Banquet, which is handled separately.

Banquet Dinner

We will need provisions for a Banquet Dinner at the conclusion of the convention. The banquet fee at Chattanooga was $21. The organization paid the additional taxes (about 11%) and service fees (19%) [because those costs were inadvertently overlooked when the convention was started]. The actual cost of the banquet at Chattanooga was $27 per person.

The cost of the banquet dinner that the hotel quotes to you will be based upon some minimum number of people. 25 is a good number to use for planning purposes. Nearly everyone at the convention attends the banquet dinner, although it is optional. People can purchase banquet tickets at the registration desk. Again, check with the hotel to see what service charges and gratuities and other extras there will be—know what the banquet price includes.

Although we do have to keep the prices down, we only do this once a year, so we want the banquet dinner to be a nice evening affair. Dress attire, with jackets and ties for the men, is traditional for the banquet dinner. (Casual attire is fine for the rest of the convention.)

Group Photo

It has been traditional for us to have a group photo taken just before the banquet dinner at the end of the convention. A professional photographer is usually brought in for this. For planning purposes, tell the photographer that there will be approximately 30 people. 25 of those people will want to purchase an 8x10" color photo of the group, assuming that the cost is around $10. The photos are then mailed out later to those who have ordered them.

Other Attractions

Some hotels may offer pools, golfing, or other attractions. Those could be desirable attractions, although for the most part, this group comes to the convention just for the convention itself and the scheduled outings. Still, the availability of some extras like that could bring in a few additional members who might then bring their families for those attractions.


An outing to Oak Knoll Books in 2001, featuring "Books On Books"

It is traditional to have a couple of outings scheduled for the group. These are often sightseeing excursions, taking in major attractions of the local area. Around three-fourths of the group will participate.

When possible, it is also desirable to make arrangements for an outing to a museum or company that is tied in with printing, and especially printing history. If there is a printing museum in your area, this could be an excellent outing. If there is a printing company or a newspaper nearby, especially one that still uses metal type, that can also be an interesting outing. And don't overlook a local printing hobbyist, whether they currently happen to be an NAPA member or not. Maybe that's you!

Guest Speaker

It is also traditional to have a guest speaker brought in to address our group after the banquet dinner. This could be a professor from a local college or university, speaking on a topic related to printing or writing. It could be a local printer or writer or calligrapher, explaining their work to us. It is sometimes a member, but more commonly the speaker is brought in from the outside.

An after-dinner speech should be easy-going and fun. 30–60 minutes is a common length. Our speakers commonly use (and should be encouraged to use) plenty of visual material, so be sure to find out what is needed in the way of projectors and screens, for instance. And as in the main meeting room, a podium and a microphone are absolute requirements.

An outside speaker will be given a free banquet dinner, of course. The rest of the arrangements are fluid; they might be given an honorarium—or perhaps not, depending upon circumstances. Assuming that they are local, their travel costs should be negligible, and they would not normally stay at the hotel.

When to Start Planning

Proposals for a convention should be made in the beginning of a calendar year for the convention that will be held during the following year. It is possible to make a proposal at the convention itself, for the following year's convention, but that's really getting a late start on planning.

You might even want to consider making a proposal for two years from now.

Proposals only become plans of record after being ratified at a convention.


So that's it: That's a starting point for planning a convention. If you are willing to track down some prices and make a proposal to us, we would love to hear from you.

If you are willing to take on this task, others can help. Let the NAPA President know of your interest, and you will be given some assistance, as needed.

Thank you for considering this! If you care to go for it, make your intentions known and start sending us your questions.

    Last updated: 03/30/2004