I'd like to say that the Chicago chapter is very grateful for the support and advice we have received from Dave and all of the Detroit convention folks. CAROC has not hosted a convention in over 20 years, so we lack members with this sort of experience. One thing I think we would do differently if we were starting over would be to involve those with extensive convention experience earlier in the planning process. This might have helped us highlight the areas of risk and better understand what our membership is looking for in a convention.
Having said that, there is a limit to what we could have and should have changed. We looked at quite a few hotels in the Chicago area, and they all required substantial commitments for food and beverage purchases - in some cases much higher than those we were able to negotiate at the Marriott. We ultimately worked with a convention planning professional known to us through the club, and he was able to help negotiate a better deal than we had been offered otherwise. Hotels are seriously expensive around Chicago, and to get a much better deal likely would have required us to chose a location too remote from the city to justify this as a Chicago convention.
We could have picked a somewhat less costly menu, and this is something I would probably change if I could. We did not do so because we thought people would rather pay a few bucks more for a high quality beef filet (and believe me, this will be delicious) than chicken breast or pasta; we didn't want people to be disappointed with the food. We may have been mistaken in this judgment. It is hard to know how many more people might have attended the banquet if the cost was $10 lower. Would it have been enough to help meet our food and beverage minimum? Who knows? However, Carm has looked at the banquet costs over the last several years and found that with the exception of last year we are not really much out of line. It could be that we have found the price break point above which people don't wish to go - maybe at $59 we would not have received any complaints. Carm also pointed out that the hotel is not the only cost issue - autocross parking lots and track rental are also very expensive in this area. We could have gone with Blackhawk Farms instead of Autobahn for our track, but even there the fee is much higher than in many locations and the facilities are far inferior to Autobahn's.
Regarding the publicity considerations, we also lack someone with that background. One of the things I would do differently is to start the publicity campaign much earlier; we decided to wait until we had opened our on-line registration. Once we got going I think we did a reasonable job - we used the BB extensively and I have received feedback from a number of people who signed up for an event because of our articles in the Owner. We missed a golden opportunity in Detroit by not having well organized publicity there, in the way they had done in Oklahoma. I'd urge next year's organizers to take this opportunity in Chicago and let us know in advance how we can help.
We have been in contact with our neighbors in Michigan and Wisconsin for quite some time, and I would like also to thank Wisconsin's Bill Hall for his help in getting the word out. We could have done more in this area, however. It also would have been helpful if our chapter's web site domain had not expired two months away from the convention! In case you had not heard, it is now back up and accepting registrations. Because of the extended outage we have decided to keep our discounted 'early bird' registration fee in effect right up until the week of the convention. It seemed like the right thing to do under the circumstances. The site can be found here:
Welcome to Chicago Alfa Romeo Owners Club
The site has also been expanded with a lot of additional information about the events. Just follow the link from the front page and select the event you are interested in.