In one of the most competitive fields in the healthcare meetings landscape, the American Dental Association’s annual meeting consistently ranks among the five largest trade shows in the United States. But with only 8 to 10 percent of its 157,000 members attending the event every October, the ADA had to acknowledge it was not reaching its potential. It also recognized that member demographics are changing. More women and minorities are coming out of dental school, for example. Plain and simple: the ADA wanted—needed—to shake things up at its annual meeting.

This shakeup would have to be big. In 2012, Catherine H. Mills, CMP, director, Annual Meeting & Council on ADA Sessions, Division of Conferences & Continuing Education, at the ADA in Chicago, working with direction from the Council on ADA Sessions, a volunteer committee of 22 dentists who guide the staff on annual meeting issues, crafted some pretty lofty goals: to become the premier dental meeting in the U.S., to refocus the meeting brand to tie it closer to the strong ADA brand, to create emotional connections to the annual meeting brand, and to engage the organization’s evolving audience.