Get Conference Inspiration from Trusted Peer Connections

So many in our industry have been pushed to their limits in 2020. Whether that has manifested in job loss, interrupted work/life patterns, isolation, grieving the loss of a loved one, unimaginable work pressure or needing to be “always-on” on Zoom or Teams, it has been a year of disruption unlike any we might have imagined.

In spite of all the bad, there is also much that is positive for the next phase of association conferences. Earlier in my career I got connected to a network of like-minded planners and leaders by getting involved in industry associations like PCMA and ASAE. Those relationships have significantly shaped my leadership style and expertise. For many, COVID has made it more difficult to build a trusted peer network.

VCC Client Roundtable

Inspired by one of our clients, last week we convened a roundtable of forward-looking association Event Directors. The purpose of the event was simple; to bring together a like-minded group of really smart and thoughtful people to share what they’ve learned in 2020 and what they are taking into 2021 for their organization’s major conference. It turned out to be an inspiring conversation.

These event pros were not shy and shared many obstacles but always coupled them with an idea or plan to overcome, recalibrate or thrive. In fact, that sharing allowed the group to build trust and connect very quickly. In these days of working remotely, it seems there is no substitute for peer exchange. The greatest value I think they all took away: we are not in this alone.

Roundtable Takeaways

Here are just a few of my favorite snippets from the conversations in hopes you might find something that resonates:

  1. Just try stuff, treat your next event like a laboratory.
  2. It’s more important for your team to understand programming than logistics.
  3. Embracing the opportunity to “own” a virtual program can be exciting and fulfilling.
  4. Have an emcee or host who is not your volunteer president.
  5. Planning virtual events takes more time, resources and energy. Right now, it’s just harder!
  6. Develop your experience strategy before committing to a platform.
  7. Throw out the old (or just get rid of the pomp and circumstance) and embrace the opportunity to try something new and unexpected.

I came away from this exchange more confident and bullish for a future of hybrid events that engage multiple audiences. What I know for sure: with these amazing pros leading the way, association events will never be the same. And that gives me hope.

Do you participate in a formal or informal peer group to help you navigate the future? If so, what advice or valuable lessons learned can you share?


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