Having returned from the NACA National Convention 2015 several weeks ago, I have been asked by those that attended and those that didn’t, “How was the Convention?” My initial answer was it was okay. When pressed to explain my response I usually commented that we didn’t do as much business as we would have liked or as we had done at previous NACA National Conventions. When I got asked for the 3rd or 4th time I really stopped and thought about my answer….
So, how was the NACA National Convention?
It was pretty darn good. Convention Chair Josh Brandfon seemed to be everywhere and attended everything. I honestly don’t remember a CAMP that I didn’t see him at or a meeting or an event that he didn’t stop by and welcome people. His committee followed suit. They were present, visible and incredibly helpful regardless of their job or area. From registration, to educational programs to an outstanding Opening Event to the CAMP, this group worked tirelessly to insure an incredible experience for all.
Ken Brill, Chair of the Board, exhibited the kind of leadership he has shown all year, direct, honest and self-effacing. As he has always done, he took responsibility for some of the mistakes that had been made not only during his tenure but before it had even begun. His support of the volunteers both in Minneapolis and before has been fantastic. Brian Gardner gave every indication on-site that the work that had been started by the Board this year would be continued next year during his year as Chair.
A group of school members and associates got together to discuss the conference and the convention schedule and had an amazing 90 minute exchange of ideas that has led to further conversations, calls and e-mails. During that session we had a brain dump and the ideas that came out were really mind-boggling. There were no comments like “this is YOUR problem and YOU need to fix it.” We worked as a team to understand that we all may have different ways of getting there but we all want the same thing: an association that meets the needs of its school members, students, associates and professionals in the year 2015.
Over a three-day period we watched Block Booking meetings drastically and fundamentally change. By Tuesday night, the Block Booking meeting was just a caucus with “Pit Bosses” from the Block Booking team working with the regions and the associates to create, strengthen and extend blocks. There was real excitement and energy in the room. We witnessed schools texting representatives from schools that were not present to try and get them to come to the meeting. Several schools expressed dismay that some of the schools that were attending the Convention were not involved in Block Booking. Schools were asking why other schools didn’t participate, even if they couldn’t book anything, why didn’t they come to see what acts were generating business and blocks. That is music to an associate’s ear.
Dr. Zebulun Davenport gave an incredible presentation called “Creating Welcoming and Inclusive Environments by Understanding Difference” to an enthusiastic crowd at the Diversity Dinner. Not only what he said, but the way that he said it had the crowd mesmerized. My only regret is that he only spoke to about 100 delegates. It would have been amazing had all or most of the convention seen him. Diversity and inclusion are topics that are often presented but rarely the way he presented them. His message had power and meaning but it also had humor and hope. He talked about how diverse organizations are stronger than homogenous ones. It was a spellbinding and uplifting journey that he guided his audience along. At the end, all I could say was WOW!
Were there other highlights? Absolutely! On Friday night, the Foundation hosted a Trivia Tournament offsite that was hopefully profitable as well as FUN. Our team had a blast, even with our second place finish. Energy in the CAMP and at the Convention in general was good. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Toby Cummings, NACA’s new Executive Director, and the rest of the office staff who continue to provide incredible service and clearly care about providing a first rate experience for all.
To top it off, I got to see two people that have served this association in a variety of ways for years be honored with the Founders Award NACA’s highest honor. Congratulations go out to Dr. Cindy Kane and Dr. Gayle Spencer on the well-deserved recognition they received.
In looking back, how was the convention? Pretty darn GREAT!
(Photos at the top: Josh Brandfon, Ken Brill, Dr. Zebulun Davenport, Toby Cummings, Dr. Cindy Kane, Dr. Gayle Spencer)
Highlights by Ken Abrahams