ISA, which first came together at a conference in 1924, is a truly international society, rotating its meeting among global locales. “We have the world divided into five regions,” said Kara Stachowiak, ISA’s associate director of meetings and events, “and we have a schedule for which region we go to and when.” Last year, ISA convened in Toronto; in 2012, in Portland, Ore.; and in 2011, in a suburb of Sydney, Australia. As a result, exhibitors and attendees can vary widely from year to year, both in number and in makeup. ISA is expecting a good turnout this summer, since its highest attendance ever — 2,605 — also occurred in Milwaukee, in 2001. But, Stachowiak said, “There is the difficulty of, even though it is a central location this year, winning back the people who didn’t go last year because their companies don’t do business in Canada.”
Another potential wrinkle is that ISA needs a large amount of outdoor space near its venue for the International Tree-Climbing Championships, a two-day, public event that opens the conference. And indoors, the Internet is causing headaches. “Right now,” Stachowiak said, “it’s cost-prohibitive to have enough bandwidth for everyone to be able to be on the Wi-Fi at the same time.”
ISA soon may have even heavier Wi-Fi demands — this year it’s developing its first-ever event app. “Part of the reason it is the first time we’re doing it is because our membership isn’t always the most up-to-date on technology,” Stachowiak said. “The second reason being that we do have a significant number of attendees from foreign countries who don’t have devices that they set up to be able to use while they’re in the U.S.” Since this will be the app’s first year, it will be a supplement to rather than a replacement for the printed program. Stachowiak isn’t sure yet whether the app will be available on iPhone, Android, or both, only that it will contain details about speakers, education sessions, and the trade show.
ISA also is slightly modifying its educational menu this year, adding a new roundtable discussion from 3 to 5 p.m. each day of the conference. “This is in response to feedback about wanting more networking time,” Stachowiak said, “and it’s also based on things I have seen at other events I have attended, and putting them together in a way that I hope works for us.”
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.