Following Harvey, Meetings Change Course to Give Back

Hurricane Harvey severely affected residents and businesses in Houston and other areas of southeast Texas. As meetings return to the region, many are using their time there to give back to the local community.

The destruction left behind by Hurricane Harvey has led to an outpouring of support and donations from individuals, organizations, and industries. In the meetings sector, convention centers in Houston and Dallas, along with Austin, have been turned into shelters, and numerous hotel brands have also offered lodging and monetary support to those affected.

While some meetings and conventions were cancelled or postponed due to Harvey (and, this week, due to Hurricane Irma), others went on as planned and will continue to do so in the coming weeks as the area recovers.

However, Harvey is still very much top of mind for planners and attendees, which is why many groups are adjusting their plans to make room for fundraising and relief efforts during their events.

Perhaps no group has overhauled its multiday event more than real estate company Keller Williams. Its second-largest annual gathering, Mega Camp, was expecting 7,500 attendees to arrive in Austin next week.

But a few days ago Keller Williams announced that Mega Camp, which was scheduled to take place at the city’s convention center, is now Mega Relief. According to, the company “hopes to make Austin the epicenter of disaster support.”

In other words, Keller Williams decided to set aside its original conference programming and instead host a weeklong event focused on providing immediate aid to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Although the schedule is still being finalized, the company says attendee volunteers will be organized into groups to help out on the ground in the devastated areas, as well as provide support in local shelters and donation warehouses. And entertainment and networking events offered in the evenings  will also serve as fundraisers.

While what Keller Williams is doing is commendable, it’s probably not an option for most association meetings. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t stepping up to do what they can to help the local community while they’re in town.

For instance, the Society for Exploration Geophysicists’ International Exposition and 87th Annual Meeting will go on as planned in Houston later this month. It will be the first large conference to take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center following Harvey.

While details are still in the works, organizers said earlier this week they plan to use the meeting “to bring geophysicists and their expertise to the local, state, and federal efforts to repair compromised infrastructure, including roads, bridges, overpasses, and dams, while they’re in town.”

In addition, INFORMS, which will hold its annual meeting in Houston next month, is also in the process of developing a coordinated effort to helps its members and attendees make a positive impact in the community during their time there.

Meanwhile, the Southwest Dental Conference, which will take place next week at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, is encouraging its attendees to help those who are being temporarily housed in the venue.

Has your association added something to its upcoming meetings to allow attendees to donate or give back to those affected by Hurricane Harvey or other disasters? Please share in the comments.

Keller Williams changed its annual Mega Camp event, taking place in Austin, would now become a mass-aid effort called Mega Relief. (Handout photo)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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