Three Events That Rethink The Experience

Thinking of trying a new type of event approach for your association? Take a look at these three events for inspiration.

Experiential Event

American Osteopathic Association’s OMED 2016

Theme: Renew your purpose. Renew your passion. The meeting’s website promised, “More than a medical conference—a respite.”

Goal: To bring together the profession’s many subspecialties and transform a medical meeting into an “osteopathic brand experience.”

Thematic tie-ins: Guided meditation activities, keynoter Deepak Chopra on the future of well-being, and journey maps that, like TripAdvisor, helped different participant groups curate their OMED experience.

Most unusual experience: The OMED Festival. Set outside in the sunny plaza of the Anaheim Convention Center, the festival made live music and “healthy bites” the backdrop for experiences like improv comedy, allowing doctors to relax and recharge.


California Water Environment Association’s “One Water, One California 2016.”

Goal: To help with what surveys told CWEA is the number-one problem keeping water engineers up at night: getting staff at all levels to talk and work together productively.

How it worked: To lay the groundwork for shared solutions, the opening session was set with a small center stage and networked screens in the room’s four corners. To foster conversation, the 800 participants gathered at 24-inch rounds, high boys, and small clusters of chairs. Appearing in prerecorded video clips was Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence. Between clips, a “content weaver” led participants through activities to promote strategic thinking, mutual respect, and teamwork.

Results: The session jumpstarted fresh thinking that permeated the rest of the conference. It also helped CWEA get out in front of industrywide issues.


World Hepatitis Alliance’s 2015 World Hepatitis Summit

Goal: To prepare 500 public health experts, clinicians, patient groups, and ministers of health from 84 countries to develop a rapid response in case of outbreaks of viral hepatitis C.

How it worked: Expecting a typical presentation, the audience was surprised when a video news report broke in to set the stage for their challenge: to develop a national response to a viral hepatitis epidemic in a fictional country. Over the next three hours, delegates split into groups, adopted roles, and made large-scale plans to prevent, diagnose, and treat the hepatitis outbreak. They also had to manage crisis communications. Preloaded iPads provided the background each group needed to tackle the challenge.

Results: The simulation was the summit’s top-rated session. Participants praised the exercise for teaching them the importance of harnessing diverse expertise and building consensus. The World Health Organization now has a small-scale version of the exercise for use at regional conferences.

(Thinkstock photos)

Karla Taylor

By Karla Taylor

Karla Taylor is a communications consultant in Bethesda, Maryland. MORE

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