Client Stories

Client stories – and the VCC team’s expert advice – featured in a variety of channels.

The Mover Behind AOTA’s Inspire

Changemaker Leslie Jones, American Occupational Therapy Association, met the uncertainty of the pandemic with improvements to the group’s biggest events. Here’s how she did it.

Take Networking Up a Notch

Sarah Michel and Amanda Kaiser, CEO of Kaiser Insights and coauthor of The Virtual Networking Incubator Roundup report, provide insights from a think tank that brought 150 association professionals together to explore networking in virtual settings.

Meet the Silo Busters

MeetingsNet recognized Kristen Wheeler, meetings program manager; & Mary Ackleson, senior program manager, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, as Changemakers in their July/August 2021 issue. VCC is proud to have helped them bring two events together into one highly successful online event to shake up “the way it’s always been done.”

5 Ways to Shake up Your Next Panel, According to an Expert Moderator

If two out of three attendees dislike panel sessions, why do 95 percent of conferences feature some sort of panel on their program? Kristin Arnold doesn’t claim to have the definitive answer to that question, but she does have many ways to make panel discussions better. Arnold, president of Extraordinary Team and author of "123 Ways to Add Pizzazz to a Panel Discussion," shared some of her tips at a Velvet Chainsaw webinar, “Rethink, Restart, Refresh Your Panels: Advice for 2021.”

How the American Psychological Association ‘Crushed’ its Virtual Event

“This wasn’t a thing we were stepping … into because we were forced to do it,” Alicia Aebersold, APA’s chief communications officer, said during our webinar. Instead, the approach they took was, “This is the thing that we are going to step into and crush it,” she said. “We are going to make it better than it could possibly have been in person.”

Key Decisions the National Speakers Association Took for a Successful Virtual ‘Experience’

Participants in our September webinar got to hear how the NSA wrestled with many decisions leaders faced following the move of its 1,200-attendee INFLUENCE 2020 national annual convention in August to an all-digital event. It featured the “brains behind the design” of INFLUENCE 2020: NSA President & CEO Mary Lue Peck (pictured), NSA Board of Directors President Anna Liotta, and Sylvie di Guisto, who served as co-chair of NSA’s conference program. 'Never waste a good crisis’ was the association leaders’ mantra, as they sought to remake an annual event into a virtual experience — not a ‘conference” or ‘hybrid’ — and introduced initiatives that will last into the future.

If You Build It, Will They Come? How Two Large Fall Shows Are Forging Ahead

As many associations wrestle with decisions for their fall conferences and shows, the question on everyone’s mind is, if you build it, will they come? Join this interactive webinar to learn how organizers of two very large events—one a trade association and the other professional—are tackling, planning and preparing for this fall. They have two scenarios in mind: hybrid or virtual? Cancellation is not an option.

By attending, you will learn how to:
Navigate complex decision-making and scenario planning processes with staff and volunteer leaders, speakers, partners and exhibitors.
Consider nimble practices for designing and refreshing event plans amid a crisis.

A Fresh Perspective Wins the Day

By reinventing her 127-year-old annual meeting’s general sessions, Changemaker Alicia Aebersold developed programming that impacts and connects attendees year-round.

[Webinar] Mission Critical: How One Global Association Transformed its Live Annual Event to Virtual in Record Time

Theirs is not a typical story. The American Association of Suicidology's annual meeting had been growing steadily in recent years. When their reimagined conference couldn't take place in Portland, Ore. in late April, staff and volunteers went into overdrive to transition the physical meeting to a virtual one in a matter of days. They knew how critical it was to deliver much-needed content to their global community.

In our webinar, Colleen Creighton, CEO, AAS, and Jonathan Singer, PhD, 2020 Program Chair and Board President, share transparency and truths about what they learned, what they’d do differently and the surprising results of the efforts of their team. Take away lessons you can apply immediately to your event strategy.

Kinetic Keynotes

Sarah's expertise as a professional speaker, hiring professional speakers, and getting the most out of them is at the forefront of MeetingsNet's March cover story, called Kenetic Keynotes. She also gives advice on How to Hire (and Pay for) the Right Speaker and How to Make your Speakers Rock Stars, related sidebar stories that complement the main story.

The Video Recap of AAHA's Connexity

The video recap of Connexity, the reimagined annual conference of the American Animal Hospital Association, brings to life the possibilities of creating a new and meaningful experience for meeting attendees. VCC’s Sarah Michel was proud to be a part of the redesign team.

Reimagining a Conference to Land More Repeat Attendees

Content weavers, activation guides, and a solutions center are all ideas that improved the first-timer’s experience at the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society’s annual meeting to turn them into loyal attendees. In order to shift members' thinking about the annual conference away from being a singular, stand-alone opportunity to connect, the meeting’s team created community pathways for professional support year-round. RAPS looked to VCC to help achieve those goals.

Newbie Navigation: Welcoming the First-Time Attendee

Coverage of a session at ASAE’s 2019 Annual Meeting, called "Using Your Conference as a Year-Long Engagement Tool," focused on how to help the first-time conference-goer get the most out of the meeting experience. Heather Wakefield (pictured) of the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, a VCC client, co-presented the session, recapped here.

Activate This! How to Design a Next-Level Event Sponsorship Program

Dave's insights into effectively activating sponsorships at today's tradeshows and conferences are front and center in this article from a leading industry magazine. “The problem is that we’ve miscategorized what a sponsorship is—it’s a powerful marketing strategy that builds emotional connection that can change attendee behavior,” Lutz explains.

MeetingsNet Announces 2019 Changemakers

Heather Wakefield, senior manager, education & events, Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, was named a 2019 Changemaker by MeetingsNet for leading changes in the annual conference format to boost collaboration and facilitate meaningful connections and community. VCC collaborated with RAPS to initiate the changes.

Understanding the Value of Face-time over Factoids

Lindsay Currie, director of stakeholder engagement, Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, had a goal to create an annual event that facilitates a community network. For her innovation, she was named a 2019 Changemaker. VCC collaborated with RAPS to initiate changes to the meeting.

You Collect Attendee Feedback, but Do You Actually Put It to Work?

Andrew Leitch, executive director, marketing & member experience, Greater Public, was named a MeetingsNet 2019 Changemaker for leading bold changes in attendee-needs research and educational formatting. They led to a major bump in participant satisfaction at the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference. VCC worked with Greater Public to kickstart the changes.

How to Avoid “Better Sameness”

Matt Gruhn, president, Marine Retailers Association, was named a 2019 MeetingsNet Changemaker for managing a multi-year process of rebranding and reimagining the Marine Retailers Association’s Dealer Conference & Expo as “Dealer Week.” VCC collaborated with MRA to re-energize the event.

Lisa Block Makes ‘the Perfect Move’

"Convene" Editor in Chief Michelle Russell chats with Lisa about the reasons behind transitioning from vice president of events at SHRM to her new role as executive vice president of conference strategy at VCC. "There’s a big mutual admiration society going on.”

Two Minutes with Lisa Block: A New Direction

Lisa, a 2015 MeetingsNet Changemaker, chats with MeetingsNet about her career as a meetings innovator at the Society of Human Resource Management, and how she prepares to take on her new role at Velvet Chainsaw.

Three Do's of Attendee Onboarding

Among the recommendations for onboarding first-timers at conferences is to build an army of connectors–a group of well-known industry leaders and influencers–who act as your ambassadors at key touchpoints at your event, according to Sarah and Velvet Chainsaw's e-book "Conference Connexity: Delivering on Your Networking Promise."

Next-Level Networking for Association Professionals

Associations that offer only mix-and-mingle networking receptions miss a valuable opportunity to help all attendees share more meaningful interactions. Sarah leans in to explain how adding thoughtful structure (and more fun) to your networking events gets genuine conversations and connections flowing.

MeetingsNet Announces 2018 Changemakers

The 150-Year-Old Show Shakeup: How 2018 Changemaker Melinda Lauzon strategically redesigned the Canadian Medical Association’s General Council to expand reach and influence while becoming more inclusive. She was named for strategically redesigning CMA’s annual forum with the goal of advancing healthcare in Canada. VCC collaborated with CMA to effect change.

The Rock Star of Program Reimagination

2018 Changemaker Marci Thompson, vice president, knowledge and professional development, Society for Marketing Professional Services, revitalized her organization’s programming with a little talking, a lot of strategy building, and a ton of idea activations. She created a vision for her team: “to inspire devotion through learning.” VCC helped guide SMPS through its changes in learning.

Should You Start Thinking of Conference Attendees as Guests?

A recap of a session at ASAE’s Great Ideas in which Michael Cavanaugh, CEO of the American Animal Hospital Association, and Sarah (pictured at right) discuss the work they’ve been doing to reinvent AAHA’s annual conference. The new experience—called Connexity—is set to launch in September 2018, and part of that reinvention is a policy of no longer referring to meeting-goers as attendees. Rather, Cavanaugh said, they will be called guests.

PCMA Convening Leaders 2018 Mash-Up Studio Interview

Dave is interviewed in the Digital Experience Institute’s Mash-Up Studio during PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2018 in January in Nashville as a preview to his session entitled "Sophisticated Sponsorship Strategies to Increase and Diversify Revenue." More than 1600 participants joined the live broadcasts (some 4500 attended CL in person) and Dave’s session was chosen as one of the crowd-sourced sessions to be rebroadcast during the final day’s programming.

What's Next In Association Learning?

The world of association learning is changing, with content being delivered in a variety of formats. Jeff is one of several thought leaders to lend expertise on how to improve the traditional lecture format at your conferences. Those include using techniques that will deepen the attendees’ learning, meaning “the more likely the learner is actually going to apply it.”

3 Lessons Learned From Jeff Hurt’s Webinar

In this recap of an Association Success webinar called “Cultivating a Dynamic Strategic Board,” Jeff, known for his ability to guide committees and task forces through difficult periods of change, says that changing the way a group thinks can cultivate a more strategic form of thinking among boards.

Associations Are Rethinking Their Annuals in a Big Way

The traditional annual meeting model, many believe, has seen its day, as a new generation of time- and attention-challenged attendees demand more peer-to-peer engagement and program content that is immediately applicable to their specific work roles. In Meetings Today's August cover story, Dave and Michelle Mason, CEO, Association Forum (pictured) weigh in on how significant changes can lead to continuous improvement.

Six Hacks to Evolve Your Association Conference

A summary of an Association TRENDS webinar with VCC’s Jeff Hurt called, “The Evolution of the Association Conference.” Hurt outlines the top three reasons people attend conferences—education, networking and generating business—as well as six hacks to help your meeting prosper and grow.

Joy Davis Named 2017 Changemaker

A profile of Joy Davis, Director of Knowledge Management, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, who is recognized for rebranding and reimagining the annual meeting, and for making progressive changes in scientific poster experiences.

Michael Cavanaugh Chosen as 2017 Changemaker

Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, CEO, The American Animal Hospital Association, earns his 2017 Changemaker status with his unconventional attitude toward risk, reward, and giving back to the next generation of planners.

4D Conference Experience

Kristi Casey Sanders, CMM, DES, HMCC, director of the Meeting Professionals International Academy, interviewed Jeff in June on Facebook Live about the background and meaning of 4D experiences, which helped meeting professionals think more about the strategic design of their events by fostering four deep experiences at their meetings: deep learning, deep play, deep reflection, and deep connections. Jeff and two VCC colleagues delivered a unique track at MPI's World Education Congress in June. He designed each session using a station-rotation format, a highly participatory room set up that encourages engagement.

Spring Clean-up for Meeting and Event Pros

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, a VCC client, is transforming its annual meeting into Innov8, a conference experience designed to help teachers and teams develop solutions to a self-identified problem of practice.

AAHA Reveals New Conference: Connexity

The American Animal Hospital Association, a VCC client, revealed plans for a fresh, innovative veterinary conference during its 2017 opening session. Connexity will be a more intimate, interactive learning experience with limited attendance from AAHA-accredited hospitals.

Exposure Podcast

A podcast interview with Sarah about how speakers are morphing into the role of facilitators, including tips on how to make more memorable experiences for your conference participants.

2016 Changemaker: Dave Lutz

A profile of Lisa Shambro, Executive Director, Foundation for Strategic Sourcing, who reinvented her association’s spring meeting with VCC’s help.

6 Ways CME Must Change

What if jobs as medical meeting providers depended on the performance outcomes from their education, just as Medicaid reimbursement depends on outcomes beyond the patient’s hospital stay? Jeff offers six thought-provoking strategies.

2014 Changemaker: Jeff Hurt

Jeff is named a MeetingsNet 2014 Changemaker for blogging about, speaking on, and living and breathing the idea of innovation and evolution of the on-site meeting environment.