The Road to Nashville

August 23, 2023

In March I had the opportunity and privilege of attending the Annual Meeting program committee’s planning meeting. As with prior years, this meeting is a model of efficiency, as anyone who has attended can attest. It’s very clear that the difference between an okay meeting and a successful meeting is planning!

It is pretty much a given that attendees expect the meeting will be educational, well-run and in a great location. Whatever your reason for attending the meeting, we want you to go home having learned new things, found inspiration, celebrated successes, and made new and renewed relationships. Most attendees do not have a line of sight to everything that must be decided and accomplished for a successful meeting to happen. So, join me on a behind-the-scenes journey on the Road to Nashville, the location of this year’s meeting!

Behind all the activities on this “road” and all the decisions you will find the CCA staff. For anyone who has been a CCA volunteer or had the opportunity to interact or work alongside them this much is clear: nothing happens without our experienced, hard-working, talented and dedicated staff. They make meeting planning look easy! Here is a link to our current staff (scroll down the page).

Nashville, Tennessee picture

Annual Meeting ad with dates and location
[Four-Five Years in Advance – 2018]
Site Selection Prospecting

Site selection begins four-to-five years prior to a meeting. This phase includes all the business aspects of selecting a city and venue, contracts, negotiations and more. Staff identifies and vets cities and hotels for ultimate approval by the Board of Directors. Factors that go into selecting a cost-effective, attractive meeting location that meets our needs, and minimizes risks for travel, lodging and meeting space include:

  • Location and ease of travel – is the city an attractive location and a relatively “easy” flight or drive? Is there potential for attendees to extend their stay before and/or after the meeting?
  • Meeting facilities and hotel amenities – is it a quality hotel with attractive amenities? Can we reserve a block of sleeping rooms for attendees at a reasonable rate? Do the meeting facilities satisfy our needs?
  • Budget friendliness – are the hotel room costs, meeting food & beverage charges, taxes, resort fees and other miscellaneous costs within our budget?
  • Availability – are dates available in October that avoid holidays and major local events?
With such advanced contracting, there are many risks that must be considered. One of those risks is estimating the size of the room block needed. That’s right – the likely attendance must be estimated several years in advance!

[One-two years in advance – 2021-22]
Content Planning

During this phase of planning, the program committee is assembled, including identifying an Annual Meeting program committee chair, sessions are planned, speakers are recruited and agendas are built. This year’s program committee chair, Paul Sepe, was chosen before the 2022 Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas and was the vice chair for last year's meeting.

The intense prep for Nashville started shortly after the 2022 meeting in Austin concluded, although with a little well-deserved downtime for the staff! The first key task was to confirm the 2023 meeting planning committee, including the leaders of the various sections, and fill in any gaps in the committee membership. There were several conference calls ahead of the planning meeting and, of course, the logistics of the planning meeting itself got finalized.

When planning the sessions, the program committee takes into consideration: 

  • Emerging trends and topics;
  • Attendee feedback and suggestions from previous meetings;
  • Topics not covered during prior meetings; and
  • Identifying session speakers who are knowledgeable and subject matter experts.
[Seven Months in Advance – 2023]
The Planning Meeting

The program committee planning meeting was held mid-March this year. More than 50 CCA members and volunteers representing seven practice areas gathered for one of the most efficient processes you can imagine. 

Over the course of two days the sessions for the Annual Meeting were selected, with descriptions drafted, and sessions slotted into the meeting schedule and assigned to committee members for speaker recruiting. Additionally, possible speakers are identified for most of the sessions. It is an amazing process to watch and is so very well-run!

As you might expect, recruiting the best speakers starts immediately, and there is some friendly competition to lock in the most desired speakers! 

[Four Months in Advance – 2023]
Logistics and Operations

While the planning committee is working on recruiting session speakers and materials are being prepared, the staff is working on all the behind-the-scenes tasks that are necessary for a successful and memorable meeting:

  • Meeting registration 
  • Sponsor engagement
  • Marketing, including social media posts and campaigns
  • Speaker logistics
  • Meeting set-up logistics, meal planning and networking opportunities
  • Opening and closing session prep
[At the Meeting]
Nashville at last!

Leading up to the meeting, and while all of the attendees are enjoying the meeting,  our staff, along with meeting and CCA leadership, are working tirelessly and deftly to make sure that the meeting runs smoothly.

While this blog has laid out all the biggest tasks to be accomplished, the number of small tasks can appear almost endless and sometimes unpredictable. The volunteers and staff have worked diligently behind the scenes to facilitate, plan and deliver a memorable experience for you. I am certain the meeting will be a great experience for everyone in Nashville and I hope you will come to see that in person!

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