NARP's 50th Anniversary

Discussion in 'Rail Advocacy Forum' started by jis, Aug 7, 2017.

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  1. Aug 7, 2017 #1

    jis

    jis

    jis

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    NARP is throwing a big party for its 50th anniversary, in Chicago early in November (Nov 2 - 5)

    See https://www.narprail.org/events/rail-nation-chicago/

    I was looking forward to it, until I started calculating the cost that is. Turns out that I can pretty much do a round trip to India in Coach for the cost of the Hotel, Registration, Gala Dinner etc. etc. all put together, even before I add in the cost of transport to get there and back. Which is now giving me a bit of a pause. What are the rest of y'all involved with NARP planning to do?

    I might still make it there, staying at a cheaper hotel or some such. We'll See. But wow! It was a bit of a shock!
     
  2. Aug 7, 2017 #2

    pennyk

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    I looked at the price of the gala dinner and was taken aback. I am only semi-seriously thinking about going.
     
  3. Aug 8, 2017 #3

    the_traveler

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    I could not believe the cost of the dinner :eek: unless it includes at least 5 lobsters!
     
  4. Aug 8, 2017 #4

    Bob Dylan

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    Old saying from JP Morgan:

    "If you have to ask how much something costs you can't afford it!"
     
  5. Aug 8, 2017 #5

    RSG

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    The dinner cost was off-putting to me as well, and it made me wonder--aside from the five lobsters which it surely must include in the price--if the expected attire is equally as snazzy. If so, this means packing additional clothes to wear essentially once, or, in the extreme, renting formal wear. So I've booked passage (to Union Station instead of India) and preliminary hotel reservations an an ORD-area hotel in my price comfort range, but have yet to tie up the $200+ in non-refundable registration fees. Since I'm obviously not alone in the breathtaking reaction to the Gala Anniversary Dinner cost, I'm comfortable in skipping it when it comes time to pull the trigger on registration. Obviously there could be a fair number of people doing the same in which to arrange "anti-banquet" dinner plans with.

    Other than that, I'm looking forward to it!
     
  6. Aug 10, 2017 #6

    keelhauled

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    $225 registration fee?

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Aug 10, 2017 #7

    RSG

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    The registration fee in and of itself isn't so outlandish; I attend several conferences a year and $200-275 is about average, I would say. Another conference every other year which I attend is about $100 more than that. That is without ticketed events, such as meals and non-sponsored receptions. All of the above events operate on a cost-recovery basis in one of the top 25 cities in the US (including Chicago). I would imagine that the RailNation event is operating on a similar basis. Another organization I belong to actually uses their annual conference as a fundraising event, with a fee of around $75-85 (without meals), though in much smaller venues than places like Chicago. From what I've seen, ultra-professional conferences, where most of the attendees will have an advanced or terminal degree (such as the American Medical Association or American Bar Association) are in the neighborhood of $500 or so.

    Where NARP probably could do a better job is in communicating the value received for the cost of registration (as well as that of the Gala Anniversary Dinner). There's a preliminary schedule out, but it's not hugely specific other than the standard "fun for the whole family". Contrast that to two of the conferences I've attended where the opening keynote at one was Anderson Cooper and the closing session at another was Hillary Clinton, both included in the registration fee. Granted, not every conference or event can have a marquee name (or does), but if you know in advance that the odds are good of having a worthwhile event or speaker, it generates both interest and a willingness to overlook what might otherwise be considered steep costs.
     
  8. Aug 10, 2017 #8

    Mystic River Dragon

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    I tried to look up the registration page and was denied access to the site by my computer, so I know where I rate. I will sit on the RiverWalk and wait for you all to bring me free snacks :p .

    I'm not clear who is sponsoring this--is Rail Nation a group of its own, and NARP members are just going for fun?

    Or is it NARP itself charging those amounts?

    If the first, that's fine. If the second, in my opinion, that does not give NARP a good reputation for including everyone--it reinforces the stereotype that advocates (in general) are rich people who have lots of money and free time and don't connect with the real working world.
     
  9. Aug 10, 2017 #9

    jis

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    It is NARP's 50th Anniversary shindig which is being sponsored exclusively by NARP, under a banner name of their choosing. It is being run by a convention organizing outfit, I forget their name, under contract from NARP

    I have no idea why you can;t get to the registration page, since I can without identifying myself as anything to do with NARP.
     
  10. Aug 10, 2017 #10

    jebr

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    The link is blocked by my company's firewall due to a potential security threat. I'm not sure if it's an overzealous firewall or what, but it's using the OpenDNS technology.

    I do think the price is a bit too high for what's being advertised, especially since it doesn't seem to be especially geared towards industry professionals. If they want grassroots advocates to attend, my gut instinct is that the price needs to drop down quite a bit (maybe down to $99 with a $39 or $49 one day pass) in order to entice people, and/or show that there's a fair amount of "big names" giving talks/seminars during the conference. The gala dinner also seems to be really, really expensive. I honestly wonder how many people have decided to register for it. Maybe it's a fundraiser, but it still seems too high even in that context.

    I could easily take the Builder or a flight down to it, but I highly doubt I'll go despite the largest expense being the registration cost. It just doesn't seem worth it to me.
     
  11. Aug 10, 2017 #11

    bretton88

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    Judging by the discounted rates for NARP members, my guess would be NARP of setting these rates.
    Sent from my SM-N920P using Tapatalk
     
  12. Aug 10, 2017 #12

    Mystic River Dragon

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    I'm at work, so it's my company's firewall blocking it, just like jebr's.

    I agree with the idea of the one-day passes.

    I went to a Gala dinner once years and years ago at an editing conference, and it was the low point of the whole few days--long, boring speech and impossible to leave early without being rude. Much more fun to just go out on the town with your friends. :)
     
  13. Aug 10, 2017 #13

    jis

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    I am hoping that if I register late enough there will be no decision left to be made regarding the Gala Dinner :)
     
  14. Aug 10, 2017 #14

    RSG

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    Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes organizing of the event (disclaimer), I'm guessing that the contract with the event planning company [WorldTek Events] includes a flat fee plus a 'cut of the door', ie, a percentage of each individual registration. That contract presumably went by the green shades types in the organization and then they determined the registration cost. I'm sure someone somewhere said "There's no way we're losing money on this!" and then that factored into the eventual cost.

    The problem arises in knowing the total costs versus the total number of attendees. So in effect, it's the old shopkeeper's dilemma: how many units of X can I sell at what price/s in order to make a profit (or in this case, presumably, break even)? There are ways to estimate that, but at the end of the day it's still a guess. I'm betting that the powers that be were being pessimistic on the number of attendees and the costs and thus the eventual registration fee amount.
     
  15. Aug 10, 2017 #15

    RSG

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    The gala dinner is really, really expensive. That's what piqued my curiously about the expected attire. For the conferences I usually attend, banquet tickets for plated meals served at-table are in the $85-95 range. That may even include an overhead for a scholarship fund or some other fundraising effort. This includes venues such as the take-it-or-leave-it captive audience pricing of McCormick Place as well as other Loop hotels like The Palmer House. I will allow that those prices may actually include a sponsor subsidy, but there's no reason NARP couldn't have done something similar ("The 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner, sponsored by Siemens").

    As for the contents of the dinner, well, lobster fans will probably be disappointed, but it will be a decent meal and presumably, in addition to the speaker/s, there will be entertainment of some sort, such as a swing or jazz band and a cash bar (and yes, for that price, one would expect an open bar). I think it will be a fun event, just not $179 worth of fun.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2017
  16. Aug 10, 2017 #16

    jis

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    I am still debating between going to the thing at all, or going to the meeting but skipping the dinner extravaganza.

    BTW, do we get AG points for the money spent? Or is that just for the membership fee?
     
  17. Aug 10, 2017 #17

    RSG

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    Right. I've not attended a conference in the past 20 years that did not have tiered pricing of some sort. It boggles my mind to figure out how many attendees they are expecting. In my view, you can't really determine what the final registration cost should be until you can somewhat gauge the number of attendees. One way to do that is to offer an Early Early Bird discount. So in this instance, using the $225 base registration fee, a super early bird fee might be $99 before May 31st. It would be non-refundable, but transferable before a certain point in time. This would be a preliminary gauge of interest in the event and would get your die hard base to commit ("It's only a hundred bucks, plus if I find out I can't get off work that weekend, I'll give my ticket to Jeb."). Once you knew that your base was interested, you could start planning on other arrangements and things like the size of the venue needed for the opening reception. [To that end, a discounted reception ticket could also be offered.]

    Building on the above, the regular early bird registration would span from June 1st to August 31st and be around $150 for members. This would give people the summer to think about it and possibly commit, thus giving another rough body count. By this time, the details of the event should be lined up so more info can be offered to potential registrants and be used to further promote the event ("Friday Highlight: Amtrak President & CEO Wick Moorman"). From September 1st on, the regular price would apply until say, October 31st. Events involving separately priced meals would close earlier, since most venues want a final count ten days prior to the event. I would make the early bird and regular registrations refundable (with a 20-25% penalty fee) up until October 15th and all registrations transferable once until November 1st. This gives a comfort level in committing to registering without feeling they've completely flushed money down the toilet if they are unable to attend for whatever reason.

    Once the early registrations come in, then breakdown pricing can be offered. I would go $50 for a day pass and say, $90 for a two-day pass (registrant's choice of days). This would be offered in advance and on-site. Exhibits-only pass would be $25 for the entire weekend. Kiddos 12 & under would be admitted free to the expo when accompanied by paying adult. Other events not capacity-controlled would be offered as a walk-up admission fee on a cost-recovery basis. Cross-promotion (has anyone even thought of this?) would start around October 1-10 with a rented display in CUS and perhaps heavily-trafficked METRA venues like Ogilvie Transportation Center.

    I'd also either raise the non-member registration fee, or further discount the member registration. In the two conferences for a single organization I attend each year, the non-member registration is a hefty $150-175 above the member rate. It doesn't pay to attend the conference without being a member (which is a base rate of $65 or so). I would also make membership an option during the registration process.

    Having helped organize events and conferences before, as well as attending my fair share, I realize that it's not easy and is more often an art rather than a science. Still, you can do things which reward your existing membership, increase your membership base, and overall create enthusiasm for the event as well as the organization and the mission. Based on the early information provided for the RailNation event, there is certainly room for improvement.
     
  18. Aug 10, 2017 #18

    MikefromCrete

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    i've been thinking about attending this event since I won't need a hotel room, just a Metra ticket, but the details are rather vague. I'll probably wait until specific speakers, programs and guided tours are announced before actually putting down my money. This could be a very exciting, very informative event, but I just don't know yet. I also don't think I'll be plucking down $150 for the banquet, no matter who the speaker is.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2017
  19. Aug 15, 2017 #19

    Eric S

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    Yep. I have been tentatively planning to attend but will not make any definitive plans until I see a more detailed schedule.
     
  20. Aug 15, 2017 #20

    CHamilton

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    I'm as anxious as everyone else to see more details. I understand we should be getting more information in the next couple of weeks.
     
  21. Aug 15, 2017 #21

    Devil's Advocate

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    Did NARP just win some big infrastructure improvements or HSR funding? Because this is the sort of lofty exuberance I'd expect to see at the height of a professional organization's activity and influence. It's not what I'd expect to see from a relatively small and scattered organization of volunteers with modest means and limited influence focused on niche goals that are still struggling to find meaningful traction in today's political landscape.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2017
  22. Aug 26, 2017 #22

    CHamilton

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  23. Aug 26, 2017 #23

    RSG

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    Thanks for the nudge to check out the schedule update, CH! Nice to finally see some substance to the schedule...
     
  24. Aug 27, 2017 #24

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Not really helpful.

    Just a list of people they asked to stop by.

    "CONFIRMED & INVITED SPEAKERS/PRESENTERS"

    Let see some names of people who are going to be there. Very pricey event.
     
  25. Aug 27, 2017 #25

    RSG

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    I would think that the named persons are the "confirmed" presenters and the "invited" ones are the generic representatives from Brightline, Texas Central, FRA, etc. I would be surprised if that was not the case, as when planning events the rule is not to overpromise and underdeliver, but rather the opposite if at all possible.
     

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