The Roller Skating Association International held its 76th annual convention and trade show in 2013 in Reno, Nev. RSA represents skating center owners and operators; teachers, coaches and judges of roller skating; and manufacturers and suppliers of roller skating equipment. Tina Robertson is the president and director of convention services for the organization, where she leads the convention committee that plans all aspects of the event, including the Roller Skating Foundation/Pepsi Golf Classic, welcome reception, silent auction and president’s dinner. Robertson talked with Connect about her role with the organization and how she got involved with the hobby group.
DAY JOB “I own and operate a skating facility in Topeka, Kan. I’ve been in the business since 1989, and I purchased the rink in 1995. Normally, ranks are generational—a high percentage stay in the family. I’m one of the few non-generational rinks.”
INTRODUCTION TO SKATING “As a child, I was a rink rat. I went skating all the time and was a regular customer. From the time I was 9 to 15, I skated five days a week in Topeka. As a general rule in the industry, you lose your customers around the time they turn 16 because they can drive to other functions on their own, and we get them back when they have children. I was like any other customer and stopped roller-skating on a regular basis when I was 16. After I graduated [college], I ended up working for the university in Topeka, and I went to the roller rink for a part-time night and weekend job. I would skate with the kids and watch them as the floor manager. I eventually went to work with the rink full time and now own the rink I skated in as a child.”
RSA INVOLVEMENT Each section of the RSA represents different states. My section is section 4, which represents Kansas, Missouri and a few other states. The previous owner [of the skating rink] was a member of the association, so he took me to some meetings. When I purchased the rink, I maintained that status with the association. This is where you get so much information outside your four walls. I started getting active in my section and served as an officer for my section. Each section votes one person to serve on the national board of directors who represents their section at the board table. I became to our table’s representation and then I moved to being vice president and then president. During my term on the board as section representative, I served as chair of the convention committee. I have now taken over operating the convention. When my term as president is over, I’ll still plan the convention.
PLANNING PROCESS “The [planning] committee meets once a year to make what I call the road map of the convention: who your speakers are going to be, what sessions are going to be about, what the price structure is going to be, theme, keynote speakers, etc. I take that roadmap and make that happen. I reach out to our speakers, I do our contracts, I plan the trade show [80-100 vendors, about 120 booths]. My job is to create the details of the big plan. [Attendance] varies, somewhere between 320 and 500. It depends on the venue and city.
SITE SELECTION “Our members enjoy Las Vegas. It’s pretty much a done deal that every other year we go to Vegas. On our alternate years, our board members listen to input from their sections on where they’d like to go, and within our RSA office, we begin getting bids. Sometimes we’re in Florida; this last time we were in Reno.”
PERSONAL FAVES “I like Vegas a lot. There are a lot of activity options for our members. We’re looking more at the Midwest, toward the middle of the country, because a lot of our members are around that location and able to drive in. We like Florida, too, because our members can bring their families.”
NEW INITIATIVES “We always outsource and look at things people do to build more excitement at our trade show. I had the opportunity to go to the National Association of Concessionaires’ trade show, and we started working with them on concession stands for our members. One thing I picked up from them that we’re looking into is letting vendors have a five-minute window to talk with interested attendees at the trade show.”
ADVICE FOR OTHER PLANNERS “The skills that will set you two steps ahead of the next planner are your people skills. I believe the personality you bring to the table reels other people in. At the end of the day, you have to get people to do stuff for you, get people to pay money to come to your event. You have to make them feel the passion you have. If you have that passion for planning and can share it, you will be a great success. If you feel it, they’ll feel it.”