APEX Draws Planner Pros & Cons

Originally published March 6 in MeetingNews

McLean, Va. — With public discussion of the last of seven APEX documents having ended last month, the industry is beginning to explore the various tools and templates that have been made available. Reactions vary but are largely positive.

The final area to be completed under APEX — short for Accepted Practices Exchange, a massive, years-long effort to set forth best practices for planning meetings — is contracts. The Contracts panel's recommendations are scheduled to be released in May.

"We're almost done with the content-development phase and are moving into the implementation phase," said Mary Power, president and CEO of the Convention Industry Council, which created and oversees APEX.

Other panels that have yet to wrap up their work are the RFP panel, which was expected at press time to close by the end of February, and the Meeting and Site Profiles panel, which likely will be finished by the end of March.

CIC has sold more than 6,000 copies of its APEX Meeting and Event Toolbox by OfficeReady since it launched last summer. The Toolbox will be updated frequently; a second version is under development.

"We're working with all 31 of the CIC organizations, not only on Toolbox sales, but to fuel APEX throughout their membership," said Mickey Schaefer, the driving force behind the creation of APEX and its former chairwoman, who currently acts as a consultant on the project.

According to Schaefer, the APEX team also is developing webinars, to be launched in April, relating to different aspects of the industry and offering information on the benefits of APEX and how it can be used to increase efficiency.

Other educational materials will include articles and PowerPoint presentations for member organizations to use at the chapter level.

A remaining challenge, said Power, is that "people who don't attend meetings-industry conferences don't know about APEX, and you can't explain it in a 10-second sound bite. We need to drive information, especially to planners who don't belong to industry organizations and hotels that don't belong to a chain."

To encourage industry-wide acceptance of APEX, the CIC is developing an Educator's Advisory Task Force, with the goal of incorporating APEX training into introductory meetings classes.

Many planners who are familiar with APEX are lauding its offerings.

"I just loaded the APEX Meeting & Event Toolbox on my computer yesterday afternoon," said Terri Crovato, meeting coordinator for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. "So far I have printed out some of the checklists and plan on modifying them for my own use. Yes, they are already in the CIC Manual, but now here they are at my fingertips to use and distribute to staff."

"I've been a big proponent of APEX from the get-go," said Vicky Betzig, a consultant and planner based in Brookfield, Wis. "It's a great tool for our industry and a great way to try to streamline efficiencies.

"My one complaint is that it has to be geared for everybody in the industry, so it tends to be all-encompassing. It takes a lot of time to scale it down for smaller meetings. It would be a better tool if APEX could offer different levels of these templates." She cited small meetings, large meetings and citywides as possible categories.

Betzig's primary suggestion regarding the contracts area was that sample clauses be included. "For each clause they have a definition, a purpose and approaches to consider, but I think they also need to put in recommended wording," she said.

According to Power, the omission was intentional: "Because a sample clause has to fit with the rest of the contract, we purposely did not do that. It would be problematic."

Some planners weren't thrilled with APEX at all. One who wished anonymity said, "A camel is a horse designed by committee, which sums up my impression of APEX. The intent was there, but because it was all put together by committee the execution is poor. It will be interesting to see if the industry adopts it — I doubt it."

Responded Power, "That's a sweeping charge. We've implemented a feedback mechanism to encourage input, but it's an evolution; you can't say that by tomorrow everybody has to be using APEX. As we roll it out we're going to make adjustments."