ence previously endedonWednesday at noon; this year, it ended on Tuesday afternoon. The tighter timeframeled to greater attendeeparticipation at sev- eral events.“We used to have a closing banqueton Tuesday;wemovedit toMonday, so that itcouldbe more ofacenterpiece for the conference rather than aclosing event.Thatwassold out,andwehadmore people there thanwenormally have.” Closing general session. Instead of holding a
generalsession onTuesdaymorning, AFPmoved it to the end of the day, so that “the very last thing attendees didwasgo to a great generalsession, and they could leave on a big, high note. They could come inwith a real buzz, and thatwould be sus- tained throughout the conference, and thenthe last thing theywoulddowouldbe to see PresidentClin- ton [present].” That kept attendees untiltheendand helped fill the block “tremendously.” Streamlined general sessions. AFP hired a
professionalemcee to facilitate its general sessions, “soweonly really hadmaybe 10 or 15 minutes of AFP stuff before [attendees] really got to see the
speaker they came to see. All of our strategic part- ners and sponsors are no longer on stage;we had just the conference sponsor welcome everyone.” While thismovemight have presented a problem for sponsorswhowere used to that exposure, “it was more of a problem for the 4,200 people in the audience who were giving us feedback that they wanted us to streamline those general sessions and focus less on AFP activities.” Amoreinteractiveformat.AFPworkedtocre-
ateanenvironmentwherespeakerswould actmore likefacilitatorsthanlecturers, sharingtheirknowledge with the group, but allowing sufficient time for audience participation. Since many of the session rooms needed to be maxed out theater-style, there wasn’talways theopportunity forroundtable setups. Nevertheless, “it really doesn’t takeawholereset to get people talking to each other.” Handheld content. Through a mobile web-
site, attendees could access the conference’sTwit- ter and Facebook pages. “We were also getting good feedback immediately. Attendees got the showdaily on there, and they could see the floor plan and any programchanges.” Themobilewebsitewas such a hit that AFP may dispense with print- ing a final program for people to carry around in the future. On-sitecredentialing.Noreg-
CONCIERGE ON THE MOVE: AFP hired three people to circulate throughout the con- ference floor on Segways covered with AFP signage. “They would move wherever there were crowds,” said Lynn Smith, CMP, “and be available to answer questions and give directions. That went over very well.”
istration credentialsweremailedin advance.“We went a little greener this year,”with stations “like you have at the airport”that produced credentials on site. New menu options. Lunch
meals were changed to soup and build-your-own salad and protein stations. For the first time, “I had no complaints about the food, whichwasamazing.” One change that AFP did not
makeat this year’s conference was to offer a virtual component, “because some of us have not had such a great experience with virtu- al meetings,” Smith said. “But that doesn’t mean that we won’t do that in the future.” While other changes are likely
in store for AFP’s upcoming confer- ences,“we’ll essentially want to do the same thing,” she said. “Go in on a high and leave on a high.”
40 pcma convene May 2011
Thoughtful Theming “Perspectives for Your Profession“— the theme of the 2011 AFP International Conference on Fundraising—was designed to get attendees talking. “Tell me your story” ribbons worn by attendees helped spark networking. In addition to that
overall message, gen- eral and breakout ses- sions were organized around a daily theme. The first day centered on global philanthro- py, with TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie as the gen- eral-session speaker. Monday was devoted to the fundraisers themselves; all of the sessions that had to do with the profes- sion were offered that day. General-session speaker and actress Queen Latifah talked about her philanthro- py efforts. The confer- ence ended with Tuesday’s focus on the future of philan- thropy—the subject of President Bill Clinton’s general-ses- sion speech.
Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.
Innovative Meetings is sponsored by the Irving, Texas, Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.irvingtexas.com.