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New ideas: Trying new things to keep conference attendees interested and engaged

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Sep 18, 2013 11:40:00 AM

One of the challenges that face association meeting planners today are reduced travel budgets and the challenge to entice people to their conference instead of seeking out educational opportunities closer to home or online. One way to help combat the problem is to make sure that your conference is a forum for innovative ideas and sessions. Using feedback we received as well as new ideas that we thought would make the conference more successful, the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) staff added five new features to the 2013 SNEB Annual Conference.

Link and Learn

SNEB sent out a call to all conference registrants to submit a proposal for a “Link and Learn Session.”  Approved proposals gave conference attendees an opportunity to meet in a casual setting and discuss common interests.  One group met for breakfast to discuss the impact of gluten on our diets, another met for a casual discussion about social marketing which led to the formation of a listserv. The conference attendees really seemed to embrace the idea of a “planned” casual function, and it was a great way for people who weren’t already acquainted but had similar interests to get together, share ideas and make new friends!

Tech Fair

Because technology plays such a significant role in the world today, it was decided that a Tech Fair should be featured during the 2013 Annual Conference.  Attendees submitted proposals to feature apps and other technology that they had created.  The fair, with seven tabletop exhibitors, was held in the evening following a presentation on technology trends in education and nutrition.  Tech Fair exhibitors loved the opportunity to share the apps they had been working on and it was a great opportunity for attendees who are interested in app development to discuss with their peers the best way to get their own projects off the ground.

SNEB Talks

SNEB has such a diverse group of members and conference attendees who work in a variety of difference fields and specialties. Most members and attendees are educators, either in the field or in a university setting.  Because our members are in the business of teaching others about nutrition they are always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas to reach their students.  It was decided that a “SNEB Talks” session would be a great opportunity to showcase some of the interesting projects that our attendees are working on and different ways they are reaching their students. Based on a Pecha Kucha format, eleven presenters were given an opportunity to share their projects and research in an interactive format.

SNEB Student Volunteers

SNEB offers students one day of free registration for every four hours of volunteering they do during the conference.  This has been offered in the past but this year the SNEB staffed really focused on advertising the initiative to area schools.  Nearly 20 students took advantage of the opportunity, creating a positive exchange for both the volunteers and the SNEB staff.

Session Audio and Video Recording

For the first time, SNEB worked with a media company to record all concurrent and plenary conference sessions.  All plenary sessions were recorded in both audio and video and all concurrent sessions in audio.  The recordings were then available for purchase in DVD, CD and MP3 formats.  This was a great opportunity for people who can’t decide which session to attend to take advantage of the great education materials.  It was also a great opportunity for attendees to take back their favorite sessions and share them with coworkers and students.
From sessions inspired by trends, new takes on old favorites, and ways to extend program impact, there is always room for improvement. We, as conference planners, just have to keep our eyes open for the right opportunities to keep attendees engaged.

About Sarah Gould

Sarah_GouldMembership & Meetings Coordinator, Society for Nutrition Education & Behavior

Topics: Conferences

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