More than 5,000 communications scholars, teachers, and practitioners came together to discuss the latest research and educational topics in the field — a 20-percent increase over 2012 that was in line with the predictions of Michelle Randall, CMM, CMP, NCA’s director of conventions and meetings. “In 2012, we held our convention in Orlando,” Randall said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be as popular of a destination due to the more resort feel. We very typically go to city-center locations.”
With membership of primarily college professors and K-12 teachers, NCA is sensitive to the fact that budgets are often limited and that it can be difficult for potential attendees to gain approval for conferences and travel. (Read our Pre Con profile of NCA 2013 at convn.org/nca-pre-con.) “[With] the recession and things like sequester — and many state universities forced furloughs — even as the economy is making its recovery,” Randall said, “many institutions have not yet brought those funding sources back.”
NCA’s strategy is to work with host destinations and venues to offer discounts that help defray expenses on site. In 2013, NCA was able to secure free Internet access in one of its headquarters hotels, as well as a discounted block of rooms for student members.
NCA rolled out a mobile app for its Annual Convention several years ago, and initially found that many attendees — as academics — were hesitant to give up traditional printed programs. But “this year we had an incredible increase” in app usage, Randall said. “We more than tripled our page views with our mobile app, and had a 25-percent increase in the number of unique users.”
Because of that, NCA is planning to develop a more robust app for its 2014 Annual Convention. “We’re looking at different features,” Randall said. “Because we are fairly new to the mobile-app world, we were using simply a plug-and-play product, where we just uploaded our information to an existing app.”
The Annual Convention is also a place where alumni who attended the same college or university get together, so networking receptions are a big deal. NCA provides space for different universities to meet, but doesn’t get involved in the planning of the actual events. “We had 44 university parties in 2013,” Randall said. “Quite a few of them drew from the Washington, D.C., alumni pool, which is pretty large. We found that those parties, just by us being in D.C., were very successful for the universities.”
Taking further advantage of the D.C. location, NCA had local political-satire group The Capitol Steps perform at the opening general session. “After the performance, their leading players stayed and were interviewed by two of our members about political communication, their process for selecting material, and not getting on people’s bad sides,” Randall said. “It was really successful and very creative.”
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.