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What Associations Are Trying At Their Next Conferences

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Annual meeting season has officially kicked off (this is the March Madness everyone is talking about, right?), so we talked to a few associations about what they’re trying out this year. 

What Associations Are Trying At Their Next Conferences

The International Literacy Association will hold its annual conference in July in St. Louis with the theme "transforming lives through literacy." The conference will focus heavily on the group’s expanded focus on literacy. (It recently changed its name from the International Reading Association to reflect the new focus.) Several weeks before the conference, ILA is asking attendees for anecdotes of how literacy affects their lives and stories will be shared before and during the conference. Associate executive director Stephen Sye says the campaign not only helps forward the association’s agenda, but also lets members contribute content. The Newark, DE-based association expects 8,000 to 10,000 attendees.

What Associations Are Trying At Their Next Conferences

ILA designed several conference events to spread the message that literacy is a solvable problem. (FYI: 800 million people throughout the world are illiterate.) Attendees will be able to meet bloggers and book authors and get books signed. ILA is also creating an "evolution of literacy" exhibit that uses key literacy leaders as tour guides. The conference includes keynotes by Shaquille O’Neal and Octavia Spencer, an interactive DJ, and a possible intergalactic reading by an astronaut in space. Stephen says events have to be more interactive for learners in this digital age, so smaller pieces of information are presented with lots of Q&A. 

What Associations Are Trying At Their Next Conferences

The American Public Power Association’s June conference in Minneapolis will feature a new and improved event app. The Arlington-based association introduced a mobile app at its national conference a few years ago to help members navigate the event, and this year it integrates social media. So the 80% of attendees who download it can post pics and link comments and content from the conference to Facebook and Twitter. Education and customer programs VP Ursula Schryver says the app also replaces the event’s printed guide, cutting expenses. Attendees can find their way to sessions, click on vendors to find out where they’re stationed, and see a list of attendees at the conference and send them direct messages.

What Associations Are Trying At Their Next Conferences

APPA expects 1,400 at its conference this year and will offer them more networking opportunities, especially as people retire from the industry and a new crop comes in, says Ursula. The tricky part is offering those networking opportunities without adding major expenses to the conference. One way is through a “day of giving” event, where attendees come a few days before the conference to work on a service project in the city where the conference is being held. This year’s projects involve packing meals for children and cleaning up nearby parks and a shelter.