We’re three weeks since our 2018 Alabama Disability Conference, and the planning committee has had a chance to meet and discuss what we can do better next year. Some of the discussion points are presented below.
Registrations: Our inexperience with the on-line event platform allowed one person to buy multiple tickets without specifying individual names for attendees. This meant that we did not have printed badges for many attendees. We apologize for the inconvenience if you were affected. This will be a relatively easy issue to address next year now that we know how to fix it. We will also look into color coding badges to better identify the ticket type.
Space: Our meal and general session space was very tight this year. In our planning process, we had based our specifications on an estimate of approximately 200–250 registrants. Counting speakers and guests for the Awards Luncheon, we actually had a peak of more than 300 people. The turnout was wonderful and very gratifying, but it had its downside with some tight quarters. The higher turnout also caused some shortages of badge holders, lanyards, and meal tickets.
Speakers: Feedback that’s been reviewed thus far has been very positive on speakers and topics. Attendance for the sessions I was able to attend was very good, and the audiences were attentive and engaged. Lining up topics and speakers is the most challenging aspect of planning a conference of this type, and I give all the praise to my fellow committee members, who did a fantastic job pulling a line-up together. We’re sorry that transportation issues prevented our closing keynote speaker Thomas Moon from joining us, but we recognize that things sometimes happen that are beyond our control. We are always open to your suggestions for program topics and/or speakers that you feel would be good for our audience. We will be considering establishing topic tracks, such as a Self-Advocate/Parent track or a Direct Service Provider track. Your input on this is also encouraged.
Food: It’s virtually impossible to please everyone with hotel food. It is also the number one expense incurred in putting on a conference and a large part of the cost of registration. This creates the challenge of selecting a pleasing menu at an affordable price. Personally, I thought the food was very good, but I’m obviously biased. Our intent for next year is to pull together a subcommittee specifically to work on menu selection.
Location: We have already started the process of seeking proposals from different venues across the state. These include the Gulf, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Huntsville. Each have their own sets of pros and cons. We hope to make a decision soon so that full fledged event planning can begin. Again, your suggestions and thoughts are welcome.
We hope that if you attended the conference, you got fair value back. That is the aim and that is what keeps people returning each year. It’s important to know that the bigger the conference, in terms of attendance, the more visibility we have with government officials, elected and appointed, as well as with the media. It also means we have more appeal to a broader range of speakers. and we also gain more visibility within our communities. We need to see others like us and be seen. That is the first step to engagement.
If you weren’t able to join us, we hope your circumstances next year permit you to attend. We will be working diligently to create another great line-up of topics and speakers.
Planning and implementing this conference only happens through the efforts of a lot of people. In particular, I’d like to thank the ACE/Arc organization for their significant contribution in manpower and resources. The volunteers that served on the planning committee did great work in a compressed schedule that had us questioning in the beginning if we could actually make it happen. I’d like to single out Wade Reese, who’s title was Co-Chair but who performed more like the Chair. He was instrumental in keeping the meetings scheduled and keeping the work on track.
I also want to thank our sponsors, advertisers, and exhibitors. Without them, we couldn’t afford to put on this conference, and you couldn’t afford to attend. Over the next few weeks, I hope to be able to promote all of them on social media and help them get even more value for their participation.
and thanks to those of you who attended. You are why we do this. We hope we’ll see you at future conferences.