Planning an Unconventional Conference in an Unusual Time

Planning an Unconventional Conference in an Unusual Time

In addition to being on The Booth Experience team, I am also a co-chair of the Corporate Management Group (CMG). In my role as co-chair, I played an instrumental role in planning our biggest event, the CMG Symposium. Keep reading for insights behind the scenes of planning the event, my reflection on what it means to be a co-chair, and my takeaways. Special thanks goes to my co-host and another CMG co-chair, Nathalia Castro.

When I first applied for the CMG co-chair position, I knew that the CMG Symposium would be something I would love to take on because I had such a great experience last year attending the event; it allowed me to connect with companies, learn about their cultures, and hear their perspectives on key issues across different industries. Though we contemplated a limited-capacity, in-person event, we ultimately decided to have the event virtually in order to ensure the safety of our participants. We also understood that many companies had travel restrictions in place and wanted to be as inclusive and mindful as possible for the students doing remote learning this quarter. The topic of this year’s conference was Agility, Flexibility, and Operational Success. We wanted it to be relevant to the current situation, and also offer companies a platform to show students their cultures and values.

There were many challenges when it came to hosting a virtual conference. We asked ourselves questions like: How do we keep attendees engaged throughout the event? How can we deliver the most value for our members and our sponsors? How do we make sure the networking session is efficient?

Answering these questions and navigating unanticipated hurdles, like a decrease in our paid sponsors, meant we had to be nimble and think differently about how we approached things. With each decision we made, our top priority was to deliver a valuable event to our members. Given that the current situation had already made it an altered recruiting cycle for our first year members, if we could help them by hosting a different kind of Symposium this year, we needed explore those opportunities. This meant expanding the outreach to various companies to attend, which I’m extremely grateful that our student group advisor was onboard with. He even suggested that we involve Career Services and Employer Relations who not only helped us to navigate appropriately, but also provided us with helpful tips on getting high response rates from companies. As a result, we were able to get a great variety of industries represented at our conference from tech to CPG to healthcare, including representation from companies like Amazon, P&G, and Amgen to name a few.    

We also pushed other creative approaches to keep people engaged and present for the entirety of the event including remote dining for those who stayed for the entire event, encouraging students to turn on cameras, and assigning networking breakout room rotations for each student. The outcome? We saw the highest participation in years, most students stayed for the entire event, we received great feedback from companies and students, and we could further explore potential partnership with non-sponsors down the road.

I have to acknowledge that when I applied to be a co-chair, I did not anticipate any of the changes that occurred this year. I quickly realized, however, that I was empowered with so much autonomy and responsibility to shape the event and apply creative solutions. COVID-19 is a challenge, no doubt, but it also offers us many great opportunities to exercise our leadership skills, apply innovative thinking, flex, and adapt. This is a time that we could do things completely different and experience minimal pushback. It’s also important to recognize all the great resources and help offered by the greater Booth community as we explored the unchartered territory.