On Aug. 2–6, members of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) from all over the world gathered at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee for ISA’s 2014 Annual International Conference and Trade Show. In addition to the annual International Tree Climbing Championships (ITCC), attendees — mostly tree surgeons — participated in special invite-only events throughout the city and played around with ISA’s first-ever event app.
This year marked ISA’s triumphant return to Milwaukee. In 2001, the conference — which has existed in one form or another since 1924 — brought a record 2,605 attendees to Brew City. Given that fully one-quarter of the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive or train ride from Milwaukee and that the Wisconsin Center has state-of-the-art wired and wireless Internet capabilities and a strong commitment to green practices, ISA was confident in its choice of venue, Kara Stachowiak, ISA’s associate director of meetings and events, told Convene earlier this year.
Indeed, the city pulled out all the stops to welcome the group. Former Mayor John Norquist, who shepherded the development of Milwaukee’s 3.1-mile Riverwalk, gave the opening keynote speech, discussing the value of “urban canopies” — a topic close to any tree surgeon’s heart.
And while a typical challenge for ISA is finding an appropriate outdoor space for the ITCC — a much-anticipated, two-day event that’s open to the public — that wasn’t a problem this year. Fifty-eight arborists from around the world gathered at lush, 80-acre Mount Mary University in Milwaukee to test their skills. ISA New Zealand Chapter member Scott Forrest took the Men’s Masters Climb title, while Josephine Hedger placed first among female climbers, doing the UK/Ireland Chapter proud.
This year, ISA worked with EventMobi to launch its first conference app, which was web-based and thereby accessible on iPhone, Android, and other smartphone platforms. The app featured a complete schedule for the five-day conference, a list of trade-show exhibitors, and a map of the show floor, as well as built-in speaker profiles and a complete guide to the conference’s education sessions. Attendees could tweet, post to Facebook and LinkedIn, and even upload videos to YouTube directly from the app. There was also a unique “info booth” that included information about ISA and highlighted local attractions and tours. An “app helpdesk” was set up next to the conference registration booth at the Wisconsin Center, so attendees couldn’t miss it.
In addition to the focus on social-media networking, ISA offered an abundance of face-to-face networking opportunities. A cocktail reception and auction was held on Aug. 4 to benefit The TREE Fund, which sponsors arboreal research and education programs as well as arboriculture and urban-forestry scholarships. A ticketed “Women in Arboriculture” breakfast on Aug. 5 brought in prominent female tree surgeons and other industry experts, and a “field day” on Aug. 6 let attendees explore Milwaukee well beyond the Wisconsin Center. In addition, there were coffee networking sessions held each morning on the final three days of the conference.
Convene’s Pre-Con/Post-Con series asks meeting planners about their challenges and how they intend to address them (Pre-Con), and then circles back around after the meeting has occurred (Post-Con) to see how well they worked out.