Optimizing the Annual Conference for All — Valerie Perry, Candidate for Director

Candidate Question #2: What changes, if any, do we need to make to keep annual conference as a vibrant, well-attended event?

I am Valerie Perry and I am a candidate for Director.

SLA Annual Conference is one of my favorite events of the year. Ever since my first SLA Conference in Indianapolis in 1998, I have learned from the excellent programs, enjoyed catching up with colleagues and meeting new people, participated in unit activities, and checked out new products and services on the exhibit floor. For each SLA member, the primary reason for coming to conference varies, but a key ingredient is always the powerful networking that occurs during those few short days.

There have been several committees and other groups that have reviewed all or parts of the conference, at the Association and unit levels, including those recently in 2001 and 2006. Each has made its mark on the future of the conference. We currently have a new Conference Re-envisioning Task Force which is taking a holistic look at six key areas: member engagement, logistics, content, vendors, international, and online. I hope that SLA members will participate in the current process and provide feedback to the task force sub-groups when requested. This event is vitally important both to our members and to our Association, and these sub-groups cover some of the most significant conference areas.

We need to involve everyone affected in order to create the optimal event for all. This year’s conference attendees will be able to participate onsite and all SLA members can participate via the email address slacrtf@gmail.com. We should also consider reaching out directly to our members who have not attended the conference in recent years and seek to learn why. I am certain we would find some very useful information as well as make important connections with those members.

I have seen the annual conference from multiple sides: as an attendee, a unit leader, a program planner, a fundraiser and a treasurer. Each role provides a different point of view. Yet, we all want the best event possible for ourselves and one another. We should be careful about considering all points of view and make sure we are listening actively to responses when asking questions about the conference. For instance, now that we are trialing the shorter conference duration we should be asking everyone what worked well for them this year with the shorter schedule and what could be improved. Is missing a whole day of programming an improvement and worth the reduction in cost or did the reduction make us realize the value of the extra day and convince us that it is worth the extra cost to us, our units and the Association? Or is there a better schedule format for us to consider?

This is also an excellent time to share what you have learned from attending other conferences. For instance, I attended the One Health Conference this year and experienced receiving my online planner schedule sent to my iPhone each morning before my day began. It was great to receive a complete list of every program and event I had selected all with accurate logistical information. This was an awesome tool/service. I don’t know whether it was expensive but it was certainly effective. I rarely needed to consult my print program. Would this improve user experience at SLA? Possibly or we could discover something even better.

So speak up, share your thoughts and be a part of the process for improving the Annual Conference and our Association! We are a community and everyone needs to participate.

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