4 Great Meeting Ideas from Great Ideas

A quick look at four of the best meetings- and events-related ideas shared at the 2015 Great Ideas Conference.

As an ASAE staffer, I don’t always have the chance to play the role of attendee at one of our conferences—something I’m sure a lot of you can relate to. So it was a welcome retreat to head to Orlando last weekend for the 2015 Great Ideas Conference. (P.S. The warm and sunny weather made it that much better.)

What if you also gave attendees the chance to actively participate in and learn skills onsite?

So, with iPad, laptop, and good old pen and paper in hand, I headed to sessions, talked to attendees, and returned home with a ton of story ideas and notes. Here are four of the best meetings-related ideas I brought back from the conference that I thought I should share with all of you:

Bridge the gap. Sure, it’s great for attendees to spend some times in sessions listening to experts talk about and explain skills they must acquire to do their jobs better. But, what if you also gave attendees the chance to actively participate in and learn these skills onsite? At the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) National Conference, it offers a Bridge the Gap series.

How it works is that earlier in the day attendees go to a Bridge the Gap Lecture on a certain topic. For instance, one being offered at the 2015 meeting is “A Developmental Approach to Teaching Athletes the Power Clean.” Later that afternoon, attendees head to a Bridge the Gap Practical where they get hands-on training for teaching that technique. While this idea is well-suited for a group like NSCA where trainers are required to know proper technique, I’m sure most associations can think of a way to spin this idea to the industry they represent.

Pass the baton. In a session led by Kerry Stackpole, FASAE, CAE, on 50 ideas and innovations associations are piloting now, I learned that PMMI—The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies partnered with two universities at its PACK EXPO East show last month to connect today’s packaging professionals with those of tomorrow. Students from Rutgers University and Vanderbilt University demonstrated their latest innovations to show more seasoned professionals what skills and abilities they’ll soon bring to the workforce. Doing something like this is a great way to get younger people engaged and familiar with your association. (You can also read the rest of Stackpole’s list.)

Make friends with the big fish. In his session “’Coattailing’ for Small Event Success,” James Booth, CAE, discussed how his organization—the Bottleless Water Association—met in conjunction with the National Automatic Merchandising Association’s Coffee, Tea, and Water show. It worked for BLWA, a startup association with less than 50 members, because it allowed it to make a name for itself at a much larger show where both groups had similar goals but were not competitors. He suggested other small-staff organizations consider doing the same if they are just getting off the ground or are looking to go global.

Reinvent your program submission process. In “Create an Engaging Educational Experience,” presenters Ryan O’Rourke and Mark Koepsell, CAE, suggested using a three-pronged program submission process. The first step is a call for ideas where you ask people for problems they want solved or topics they’re struggling with. The second part includes a call for subject matter experts  in which you ask your members who would be a great presenter on the topics identified in the previous step. You then ask these experts to consider applying to speak. The final step is a call for programs, where you ask presenters for details about their sessions (e.g., Will there be any interactivity?) and for two learning outcomes.

It is after this that you begin the selection process. To keep the same people from speaking all the time, O’Rourke suggested not providing presenter names to those individuals who are reviewing the proposals. The mix of recruiting and crowdsourcing session topics is one I’ve blogged about before, but it is a good reminder for associations who may be looking to switch up their educational programming or bring in new voices.

That’s just a glimpse into what I took away from the conference. If, after reading this, you’re now curious to read more about what else went on at Great Ideas, we just so happen to have a Rebelmouse pageas well as a handful of other pieces—on

But now I’m curious to hear from all of you. Great Ideas attendee or not, what great meeting- or event-related ideas have you come across lately? Share them in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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