Monday, May 16, 2011

My Thoughts on the CRDA Summit

Truth be told, I was expecting my first CRDA-Canadian Resort Development Association (  convention to be routine. I’ve been privileged to attend the past 6 or so ARDA (American Resort Development Association) conventions and while I’ve noticed a decided swing in the tone; from all is great, to all is depressing to (thankfully) this year’s all is changing. I expected CRDA to be a carbon copy, albeit with a Canadian flair. Boy, was I wrong!

My first indication that this was different was the name of the convention; it was billed as a “summit”, which I took to be a play on words; “summit”, “mountains”, “Vancouver”, cute! The next indication that something was different was that Ross Perlmutter, the President and CEO of CRDA asked me to moderate the “Ask The Owners” panel. Actual timeshare owners taking part in an industry conference---moderated by the “controversial trouble maker” (others’ words, not mine or Resort Trades) Timeshare Crusader herself! This was different indeed.

Jim Madrid (, CEO of Entelechy started things off with a Keynote Address focused on change and the fact that we can, and must “Snap Out Of It.” I believe that the message of “we change for one of two reasons; inspiration or desperation” will prove to fateful insights in 2016. The industry will be looking back on 2011 as the year that “we got it” and made the necessary changes and retooled OR the year that “we coulda, shoulda changed” but neglected to.

As with any conference that has more than one concurrent breakout session, there were some sessions that I couldn’t attend. Rather than give a review of the sessions that I was able to attend, and thereby ignore or somehow diminish the ones that I was not able to attend, I’d like to concentrate on Linda Clemmons’ excellent session entitled “Negotiations and Communications-Is Your Body Talking?”, the finale of the summit entitled “Changing Gears-The Industry Workshop” and a bit on the session that I moderated, “Ask The Owners.”

There’s a reason Linda Clemmons ( is one of the Zig Ziglar’s most in-demand speakers; she not only commands attention, but is a masterful communicator and was able to bring the sometimes mysterious world of non-verbal communications into crystal clear focus. As a former timeshare salesperson and frequent public speaker, I thought I understood non-verbal communications. It has been drilled into my head that only 7% of communications is what we say-the rest being how we say it and our body language.

Linda was really able to demonstrate non-verbal communications in a powerful segment where she was able to “read” the 5 people she selected from the audience. By simply observing the way in which these people stood, how they held their arms and hands, she was able to gain insights into the inner workings of these people, to the amusement and bemusement of all. Let’s just say the “ah ha” or light bulb moment for me was when she talked about the positioning of feet. I’ll never NOT look at feet again in a social or business situation!

“Changing Gears-The Industry Workshop” was a continuation of and an enhancement of ARDA’s excellent “What Would You Do?-The Timeshare Of The Future” session. In this high-tech segment, timeshare professionals from many companies collectively answered the following questions: “How would you change the way we reach/solicit and/or interact with our prospects?” “How would you change the products we offer?” and “How would you change the sales and purchasing process?”

The collective answers surprised, amused and on a purely personal level, vindicated me. (NOTE: Pending CRDA’s permission, we’ll reprint the results in a later issue.) Let’s just say that if they had to do it all over again, timeshare would NOT be quite what it is today. There was a tremendous emphasis on letting people buy timeshare rather than selling, much agreement that timeshare might be better as a short-term (no more than 10 year) right to use product and much talk about issues of transparency, social media, letting the consumer do more of the dictating in terms of the product specifics and more of a global focus where a timeshare “point” in one system is the same as a timeshare “point” in another system in order to let consumers use the product with great ease.

One of the most used words in this session was the word “education.” As someone who was harshly criticized 6 years ago for saying “an educated consumer is this industry’s best friend”, I had to smile. Education seemed to be on everyone’s mind and the need for education on the consumer level, the mainstream media level and the industry level seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Whether all this good news remains in the talking stage, or actually gets implemented is of course the key to the timeshare industry’s future.

A final word about the session which I moderated, “Ask The Owners.” These gracious timeshare owners took time out of their schedule to attend an industry event without any compensation. They were not “vetted” or coached in any way and they delighted the audience with their knowledge and their candor. It was my privilege to get to meet them and learn from their years of experience. Having witnessed what they bring to an industry event (where most of the executives haven’t dealt with an actual owner in years, if ever), I feel strongly that including timeshare owners in all future industry events should be mandatory. We as an industry owe it to ourselves and to the owners. They are our future.

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