The 2007 APSP Leadership Conference has been cancelled and association officials are re-evaluating the event in an attempt to bring it back in a better, more vitalized form.

“It’s not dead. We just want to do it differently,” said Bill Weber, president/CEO of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, based in Alexandria, Va. “I think it’s really a temporary hiatus. It will come back stronger, but probably smaller. There’s no magic in size.”

Over the past few years, the event has been drawing less and less attendance said Lauren Stack, APSP director of marketing and promotion, and staff liaison to the APSP Manufacturers Council.

“[Industry] consolidation meant there weren’t as many companies to draw from, which led to fewer people attending,” Stack said. “I think what happened was that as attendance dwindled, the agenda remained the same and didn’t really change much over the past 15 years.”

She added that hot tub professionals thought the conference had slowly become less relevant to them, and that segment of the industry began to drift away.

The event was held last August and attracted fewer than 100 people, marking the third consecutive year that interest seemed to wane. The conference lost $30,000, Stack reported.

“The format had probably run its course,” Weber said. “Last year was a good program, but it was just that — a program. I think we want to go back closer to its origins: a CEO to CEO opportunity, which is probably the best value for it.”

The Manufacturers Council, which oversees the event, met at the Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show last month to decide the fate of the conference, as well as its own role in the industry.

“They engaged in a strategic planning process to define their role within the association and what they can best deliver to the segment they represent,” Stack said.

The council noted that networking remains a high priority for industry members; therefore, the Leadership Conference should return in some form. Stack said the group would like to see it back up and running in 2008.

One of the keys is lead time. In the past, many believed there was not enough advance notice for the executives who might want to attend. It’s very important to plan ahead, Stack noted, and the council is expected to address that issue.

The Leadership Conference began in 1989 under the direction of Brian Murray, who was on the Manufacturers Council and a member of the then-NSPI Board of Directors.

“It had a very successful run, especially when it was held on the West Coast,” Stack said. “All of the hot tub manufacturers and pool industry suppliers would attend.”

APSP officials stressed that the Leadership Conference will return after it has undergone a makeover.

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