Carrie Abernathy CMP, CEM, CSEP
Director of Education & Events
“Go and Be”. The theme of IAEE’s Expo! Expo! 2014, “Go and Be”, really resonated with me as a meeting planner. I have attended several planner-centric conferences over the years and I was really excited about the innovation that IAEE brought to the table for planners at their 2014 conference. In December I was lucky enough to be provided a scholarship to attend Expo!Expo! by the DC Chapter of IAEE to “Go and Be” an attendee of the conference in Los Angeles. I really took on the challenge of trying to immerse myself in as many of the conference “new offerings” and engagement activities as possible. To me, the idea of Go and Be and the execution really engaged planners in a new way. Not only were planners provided with exceptional breakout educational sessions and a fantastically diverse tradeshow floor, but we were able to get in “bite-sized” education and gain hands-on experience by visiting the ‘Go and Be’ areas. For me, the areas created a safe haven to network and build relationships while learning valuable tips in different topics such as ‘Trends and Directions’ and ‘International Business’. I was equally impressed that Expo! Expo! tackled conversations around influence, potential, and motivation. I was expecting new technology to be at the forefront of the conference, and while it was, Expo! Expo! tackled these important topics as well as part of a truly diverse agenda.
I believe one of the most appealing traits of Expo! Expo! was the conference’s ability to customize the learning and engagement experience to any attendee at any level of their career. Having multiple types of engagement opportunities at any given time for adult learners is an excellent strategy (and one that I plan to use in my own conference as well!). With sessions to fit learning styles of all types (visual, hands-on, lectures, panels), I felt as though attendees of all backgrounds could make the conference experience valuable and relevant to their professional. As well, with sessions for young professionals, women, students, and C-suite level learners, the conference did a really great job of making everyone feel as though they had something to learn and something valuable to contribute to the conference conversations. As a director-level event professional with over ten years of experience in the meetings business, I often am concerned that the education will be geared to beginners or senior level executives, or that I will become uninterested in the topics that I tend to see at most every planner conference. However, I felt as though at Expo!Expo! truly engaged attendees in a way that held our interest and sparked creativity. I know that I personally was able to bring back new ideas on technology and engagement to try at my conference. I always appreciate that Expo!Expo! “test-drives” new features for planners so that we have an idea if they will be successful in action at our own events. IAEE certainly has their work cut out for them to top the 2015 conference, so I am truly looking forward to what IAEE’s Expo!Expo! has in store for us this December!