Beth Warning, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, Region IV Director
If you worked in marketing, the term WIFM would be standard language. WIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?” indicating that at the base of all sales are the needs of your target audience. In terms of our Constituent Society State meetings, WIFM can beused to drive the purpose of the conference, delving into what the meeting should provide to meet the expectations of our members and attendees.
Take a minute for a quick internet search on the importance of professional meetings and you will find tips and hints for the “Top 5 Reasons” to attend a professional meeting. Attending your ASCLS Constituent Society meeting is no different.
At the top of the list would be networking. A State meeting brings together a group of like-minded individuals who share common bonds rooted in our profession. And for ASCLS, this small group has been described repeatedly as family, where the annual State, Regional, or National meeting is the place to catch up with old friends while making new friends. In this age of online communities and classes, the state conference may be where you meet your new employee or next colleague.
Second on the list would be continuing education. Sure, you could sit with an iPad and attend several webinars on specific topics. But there is something about being with the content experts, asking questions in person, and witnessing the animation and excitement that comes through when someone shares their passion. And the bonus is gaining continuing education credit to put toward our continuing certification maintenance.
In Region IV, the meetings are designed to meet the needs of the members – varying from a one-day multi-speaker format to several days, with several tracks and numerous speakers. Each Society offers the CE sessions as P.A.C.E.® accredited, thanks to the one-day provider opportunity from ASCLS. ASCLS also offers the convenience of using ASCLS CE Organizer to digitally log your attendance and create your Certificate of Attendance.
Professional meetings also offer a social aspect – from a trip to the local bowling alley, a wine tasting, alumni gathering, or other event, the social aspect ties in with networking. This is the opportunity to mingle with not only our “seasoned” members, but with students and young professionals as well. It provides a chance to develop as a mentor or role model through the casual interaction outside the workplace. To boost attendance, try collaborating with other professional groups, as noted in Indiana (IABB) and Ohio (AACC, CLMA, OABB), which is another way to mingle with other professionals we may not normally meet in the workplace.
In Region IV there is a strong group of dedicated volunteers – members who value the importance of the organization as well as the need for an interactive meeting. The conference team may be small or large, often reflective of the membership activity of the organization. Michigan also employs a meeting management team to assist in the logistics necessary for its nearly 500-person event. However, from the attendee vantage point, we only see the dynamic effects the program provides – not the blood, sweat, and tears that go into the hours and days of organizing logistics, like site selection, printing schedules and nametags, stuffing numerous packets, and helping vendors find their way.
The volunteers are responsible for identifying what matters for the attendee. Some attendees base their participation on location, so societies in the region tend to use large cities with hotel access at reasonable rates. Both Indiana and Kentucky host their meetings at a local university, where space is plentiful and the price is reasonable. Michigan and Ohio, due to the larger number of attendees, opt for a conference hotel to host their multiple sessions. Cost of the conference is also a factor, where you get what you pay for in a three-day event for $185 to a one-day offering for $50. Additionally, there are vendors to visit. Kentucky may be unique in that in lieu of offering lab sales and product supply vendors, they instead target thier student members by bringing in human resource representatives from regional hospitals as a recruitment opportunity.
And speaking of students, there are unique ways to attract our emerging professionals. Michigan hosts a student poster session complete with awards. Ohio ends the meeting with a Student Academic Challenge – always a favorite!
Other meeting activities involve philanthropy, such as fundraising for student scholarships, hosting a silent auction, or collecting food for the local food pantry. If such an event is hosted, report the activity to the ASCLS Promotion of the Profession Committee, where each year an award is presented to the most charitable Constituent Society.
Each Society can also use the meeting to accept donations to the ASCLS Political Action Committee (PAC), where ASCLS takes an active role in supporting congressional reforms vital to the profession. At the ASCLS Annual Meeting, one region is recognized for its overall monetary support. Visit www.ascls.org/governmentaffairs- main/pac for materials necessary for accepting ASCLS PAC contributions at your society meeting.
Your state meeting does not have to look and feel just like all the others – the event should meet the needs of your members and attendees. I encourage you to be involved and stay active through participation – our members and nonmembers will thank you!