Owners and staff at the Sands Beach Club, managed by Defender Resorts, show how to have an over-the-top annual meeting. “There’s always a good turn-out and owners have fun meeting, dancing and socializing!” says Kelley Ellert.

Timeshare’s most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner. Yes, you know what I’m referring to – annual meeting time! Ok, if you’re involved in management maybe it’s not your favorite time of the year, but to help make this year’s annual meeting the best ever I interviewed nine professionals who touch some part of annual meetings. From the general managers, to the supportive administrative staff, to the management companies overseeing the whole process, I spoke with these experts and put together some of the industry’s best tips for preparing for annual meetings.

The biggest theme I found while talking to everyone was preparation. It is the golden key. To truly host a great annual meeting, though, one of the biggest takeaways I found is to prep for more than the expected items, including any hot button issues like special assessments. While you want to make sure you don’t neglect those main topics, find ways to add some excitement to the event. Sometimes the little touches can go a long way.

For example, Susan Crow, General Manager of Links Golf & Racquet Club in North Myrtle Beach has an entire list of “extras” that she does each year on top of the business aspect, such as providing food, nametags as people register, door prizes and decorations. Because their meeting always falls on the first Friday in December, she makes sure the clubhouse receives a deep cleaning and is glitzed out in holiday decorations.

Crow also makes sure that no matter what, the meeting commences on a high note. She always saves the door prizes for the end and makes absolutely certain that every single owner in attendance receives a little something. By setting the scene and providing these personal little touches, Susan’s annual meetings have become for a much-anticipated event, not just a business meeting to attend.

Another way to really be prepared for the business side of things is to be thinking about the annual meeting year round, not just when it comes near. Betty Osborne, General Manager of the Beach House Golf & Racquet Club and Ocean Forest Colony, both in Myrtle Beach, keeps notes on her forecasted actual each and every month, not just at the end of the year. This way she has a plethora of information readily available that may have been hard to recall without such detailed notetaking year round.

The support staff is an incredibly important, integral piece of the successful annual meeting puzzle from the beginning until the very end. These supporters get everything started with calendars, dates and notifications and are responsible for putting out the detailed notice, proxy and nomination bios. Having people with initiative, organization and communication skills who also understand the importance and details of the meetings helps to make sure everything is smooth.

According to Laurie Beth Fulford, the Lead Administrative Manager for Defender Resorts, there are a variety of tasks that administrative assistants must consider, organize and handle before an annual meeting. From tallying the proxies and entering them into the database, to putting together a book of all information that could be necessary for the meeting leaders to reference, there’s a mountain of details to be handled. This isn’t just hot-button issues, but calendars, insurance policies and more that have to be handled meticulously.

While interviewing people, I found that in addition to communication, organization and preparation there was another important theme that almost everyone mentioned. Based on the level of enthusiasm everyone had when speaking of it, I had to guess that it’s without a doubt something very important. It’s food! After long lists of prep dates, deadlines and all the business that must go into an annual meeting, everyone was sure to remind me you cannot, I repeat absolutely cannot, forget about the food. Not only does it make people happy, but it keeps them from getting squirmy and wanting to leave as quickly as possible. It creates happiness and bonding. It takes into account the fact that at the end of the day, no one is there for business. The whole purpose of the meeting is to ensure the value of the home resort; it started for owners when they purchased a vacation. These are people that enjoy life, traveling, socializing and experiences.

Tips for food is to not skimp, make it a delicious experience for the guests. The happier they are with the food, the happier they will be in general. Make sure to have options available for various diets, but also make sure not to serve food that is too heavy and causes everyone in attendance to enter the dreaded “carb coma.”

While all resorts and situations are different, there were many similarities in the things that resort professionals mentioned go into making a successful annual meeting. To boil it all down, if you want your next annual meeting to be the best ever, then over-prepare, communicate well and absolutely have some amazing treats to eat on hand.