President's message from WSAE VantagePoint magazine, Fall 2014 — The 2014 Innovation Summit Task Force really outdid themselves this time. Charged with creating an event that would be truly innovative and different from the first three successful Summits, they understood that breaking away from the previous model was a must. The task force, board and staff had to be willing to take a risk and step out of their comfort zone.
Starting immediately at the top of the program, we opted to stray from the usual opening session/keynote presenter in favor of a room full of kick-off activities: a book signing, a community service project book drive, assistance in updating wsae.org profiles and demographics, a professional photographer taking headshots, and a networking ice-breaker in which attendees could share the things they “rocked” at. Participation was a must in this environment and I saw some normally shy people connecting with others over commonalities on their oversized “I Rock At” buttons.
The Innovation Labs at Discovery World had everyone talking. These self-selected labs allowed attendees to explore areas of interest or push themselves out of their comfort zones. I heard some great stories about the molecular gastronomy workshop in which participants combined chemistry and food science to come up with something that looked like fried eggs and spaghetti, but tasted anything but. Talk about getting uncomfortable! Eww!
My personal favorite was the video production lab. Here, attendees wrote and starred in their own 30-second videos, promoting their associations, services, events – anything they wanted their audience to know about. Most of us are totally self-conscious in front of the camera, so this was an area where people really had to push themselves. The results were wonderful! Those who participated received copies of their videos and were even willing and able to share them with other registrants during the final session on Innovation Application.
Speaking of which, we were lucky enough to have Michelle Mason, president and CEO of Association Forum of Chicagoland, moderate our final Innovation Application session. After a brief introduction from Michelle, Dana Murn-Kohal of CUES gave us a quick overview of her takeaways from the Innovation Summit, in a format she’d never presented in before!
For some, networking and meeting new people can be uncomfortable. During this last session, attendees were challenged to introduce themselves to participants they’d never met before and exchange contact information. These would be their “accountability buddies” and help them stay on track to implementing at least one idea from the Innovation Summit before our 2015 event.
While you take time to step out of your comfort zone, whether it’s to explore a new opportunity, make a new acquaintance, or discover a hidden talent, we’ll start planning the next Innovation Summit. It’ll take a lot of stepping out to make it even more innovative next year, but we’re up to the challenge! We’d love to hear any ideas you have for making the event even better in 2015.