by Mary Ellen Bates
One area of focus for the Board of Directors as we implement our strategic plan is in building and enhancing the Annual Conference. It’s one of our chief member benefits, as well as a significant source of association income. We also recognize that the conference needs some adjustments to reflect the current concerns and issues of our members, as well as the market in which we operate.
Since it’s one of my passions, I’d like to share the vision that the board has developed regarding the Annual Conference. As anyone who has ever been involved in conference planning knows, it involves a significant time commitment, often spanning several years, on the part of many volunteers. In order to continue offering high value to members, we see the need for a more strategic approach to planning the conference, in which our volunteers’ valuable professional time is used in the best way possible. We have selected several avenues to pursue for the next three years:
- Develop a more streamlined way to develop conference content
- Offer more value to more senior members
- Develop our virtual conference activities
What will this look like? In terms of the conference programming, division leaders will offer higher-level input and will be looking at ways to extend the programming virtually throughout the year. We also envision an executive track for experienced members that will have a high profile and will generate press coverage of the conference as well as publishable white papers. Our goal by 2014 is to have a full-time staff member involved in coordinating CE programs, conference programs and year-round education, in order to better support SLA’s strategic goal to support information professionals.
The number of sessions conducted during the Annual Conference will drop, as we combine similar topics and focus on providing fewer sessions of high quality. We also see the divisions offering more virtual programming throughout the year; this can be an opportunity to offer division-specific virtual programs that more division members could attend.
As a conference attendee of more years than I care to count (except that I’ll note that I have tote bags from two Annual Conferences in San Antonio), I know how valuable they are for my professional development. I am really passionate about finding ways for us to continue to add value to the conference, and to enable even more virtual learning for our members throughout the year.
Mary Ellen Bates is SLA’s Division Cabinet Chair.