Goodbye Conference Emcee, Hello Content Weaver

Many associations have elevated the traditional role of conference emcee to that of "content weaver." A look at one association that’s trying it out this week and some benefits of taking this approach.

In the past, some association events had a conference emcee, whose job was to keep the event moving along and the audience engaged. That often included audience interaction, general housekeeping announcements, networking tips, and possibly a cheesy joke or two.

But, more and more, that role is being phased out for something else: content weaver.

So, what’s a content weaver?

According to Velvet Chainsaw Consulting [PDF], a content weaver “connects the dots and weaves the threads of the conference’s content, overarching issues, and themes” by opening and closing each general session “asking provocative questions and framing the context of the conference’s learning opportunities.”

This week, the American Animal Hospital Association is bringing a content weaver onboard for the first time. AAHA’s senior veterinary officer, Heather Loenser, DVM, will be taking on the title of content weaver for its Connexity conference.

“I hope to be the catalyst for many ‘AA-HA!’ moments,” she said in a press release. “My job as Connexity’s content weaver is to be a sense-maker. I’ll help guests answer the crucial questions we often ask after attending a conference—‘So what?’ and ‘Now what?’—by connecting them to colleagues and innovative actions they can immediately implement in their hospitals.”

Throughout the conference, Loenser will observe educational sessions, work closely with keynote speakers and learning facilitators, and spark interesting and insightful conversations to help attendees—AAHA calls them guests—make the most of what they’ve learned. Then, at the end of each day, she’ll weave together the key concepts from each session into a cohesive message. This will allow guests to return to their workplaces with essential takeaways and practical tips not only from the sessions they attended, but also from those they didn’t.

While the results of AAHA’s foray into using a content weaver are still to be determined, here are three benefits that attendees and your association could see from taking a similar approach:

It can help your attendees to organize their takeaways. After days of learning and networking, attendees could be burned out or feel overwhelmed by all the takeaways and ideas swirling around in their heads. A content weaver may reduce some of that anxiety by helping them see how various themes and issues go together—and how those can ultimately be applied to their everyday work.

It will reveal how cohesive your conference content is. If the content weaver’s task of forming a cohesive message from your sessions proves too difficult or even impossible, you may have a larger problem: Your conference may be trying to do too much—and it may be time for some refinement.

It could help promote future conferences. A content weaver’s job shouldn’t end when the conference does. As part of the role, he or she should help your association debrief participants and assist with future marketing efforts. For instance, you could produce brief videos, which feature the content weaver along with key takeaways, and begin the marketing process for next year’s conference.

How do you think your conference could benefit from a content weaver? Please share in the comments.

(Mercedes/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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