Hired in January as RCMA’s first director of conferences and events, and working closely with Executive Director Harry Schmidt and the board of directors, Dean Jones, CMP, has moved forward in just three months with a plan for reshaping the association’s 2013 annual meeting in Minneapolis. We caught up with him in March to discuss changes under way, and to hear about his vision for the organization in the years ahead.
What changes are being explored for the 2013 meeting?
We are planning significant changes—a complete overhaul of the existing schedule. There will be at least five new networking opportunities, including targeted breakout sessions after the opening reception, a free night for suppliers to invite planners to dinner, and a service project where both planners and suppliers will have an opportunity to help the local community.
Why a service project at the annual meeting?
Given the nature of our faith-based community, it’s a natural progression that we need to be doing, as many meeting planner members are already doing with their own meetings. And it’s not only faith-based groups that are doing this. Corporate social responsibility is a big effort within the supplier community of our membership.
Will there be any changes to Behind the Scenes program?
We’re going to tweak it to include opportunities that are more focused and relevant to our planner members, and we’re also going to give planners choices in how they spend their opening day, with an option of participating in Behind the Scenes, an intensive educational opportunity, or the community service program—all of which will be offered concurrently.
What about changes to the exposition? Will the format change to a “reverse,” where planners and suppliers meet for pre-set appointments?
We are looking to create a perfect blend between a trade show and pre-set appointments, where we will still have the traditional setting of the trade show but lots of opportunity for targeted interaction between buyers and suppliers.
What are some other changes that we’ll see in 2013?
We will offer an educational track specifically for suppliers. We’re also eliminating Friday morning as part of the official program, and the business session will be held instead at the breakfast session on Thursday. We’ll probably eliminate the Thursday morning speaker and have instead some kind ofexperience along with the business session. This will free Friday up for travel back home or for planners who would like to participate in a custom site visit to our host city. This will likely be something that they can sign up for when they register for the meeting.
What else is on the horizon?
We’re creating a mentorship program that will pair new with seasoned planners in an effort to build each other’s skills and awareness for mutual benefit. On another front, we are also consulting with several organizations to help redesign our logo and promotional materials, and we’ll be rolling out changes in the months ahead.
What is your long-range vision for RCMA and its meetings?
My No. 1 goal is to create community. As an association, we have to have value in the lives of our members and one way to do that is to interact regularly with members. The meeting is a three-day event, but we want RCMA to be a community that is interacting regularly throughout the year, whether it’s through meetings that provide additional educational opportunities or Web site forums. Right now we’re in the process of redesigning our Web site so it will be more interactive with online data, profiles, floor plans, exhibitor information, and online forums. This will help us build community. We have to be more interactive in order to create an association that meets our members’ needs. The “If you have it, they will come,” mindset does not work anymore. We need to create something better together.