With 10 months to go before its 2017 conference, the American Counseling Association has selected San Francisco as its host city. The decision comes only weeks after it pulled the meeting from Nashville following the passage of state legislation that violated ACA’s ethics code.
This change signals that we are committed to serving our diverse members and helping them provide the support their clients need.
Following the decision to relocate its meeting from Nashville because of the passage of discriminatory legislation, the American Counseling Association has moved its 2017 Conference & Expo to San Francisco.
“This is a historic time for ACA as we have never had to make a decision like this before. We believe that San Francisco will be an enjoyable and active city for our conference,” ACA CEO Richard Yep, FASAE, CAE, said in a statement. “This change signals that we are committed to serving our diverse members and helping them provide the support their clients need.”
ACA pulled its conference from Nashville in May after Tennessee passed legislation allowing counselors to refuse service based on “strongly held principles”—a condition that violates ACA’s code of ethics. When looking for a new location, ACA sought out places that could not only provide the necessary amount of space and rooms but that also did not have any pending legislation similar to Tennessee’s.
“It became really important that wherever we relocated to that we weren’t going from the frying pan into the fire,” Yep said in an interview with Associations Now. “We wanted to make sure it was a place that would be open and welcoming and friendly to all of our members and did not discriminate the way that the law in Tennessee will be discriminating against our clients or potential clients.”
The conference will now be held in March 2017 at the Moscone West Convention Center. San Francisco will serve as an attractive and easy-to-market destination given ACA only has 10 months until the meeting, Yep said.
While the space met the criteria set by ACA, its meeting team will still have to rework parts of the conference to fit the new space. “The space is the space. The dates are the dates. The city is the city. The state is the state. So our challenge now is to try to fit what we can into a reconfigured size,” Yep said.
But it also gives ACA a chance to try something new. The new space “lets us make some changes we’ve been thinking about anyway, but now we have the added benefit of saying ‘Look, we don’t have the space to do it the way you guys all have been doing it for 40 years,’” Yep said.
In the past, each of the different specialty divisions in ACA would host its own luncheons during the conference, but this year the events will be combined into one for all specialties. Yep said attendance at the luncheons was already dropping, and the change will enhance the experience and save money.
The combined event will also parallel the conference’s theme and tagline “One Community.”
“One of the reasons we pulled out of Nashville was because we wanted to show that we were one community,” Yep said.
While switching destinations less than a year out has been a challenge, the staff has managed to make the change happen by extending the call for programs by two weeks and preemptively creating marketing and leadership materials to help draw attendees to the new location. ACA will also give a special discount to members from Tennessee who plan to attend.
“This is what association management is all about,” Yep said. Leaders will experience curves in the road and need to make last minute changes, but “the mark of a real professional is how they respond to those curves.”