Blog/Podcast: Planning a Conference? Take Notes from This Year’s Legal Marketing Association Co-Chairs
This year’s Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference, held from April 8-10, in Atlanta, was packed with new information and fresh ideas, and the success of the conference was due largely to the work of its co-chairs, Erin Corbin Meszaros and Andrew Laver. They joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast to talk about takeaways from the conference and their advice for others planning professional events. Here are some of the topics they covered.
|Erin Corbin Meszaros
Chief Business Development and Client Service Officer
Eversheds Sutherland (US)
Business Development Manager
Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC.
Why they opened the conference with a discussion about the word “and”
Erin and Andrew opened the conference welcoming guests and talking about an unusual topic: the importance of the word “and.” It’s one of Erin’s favorite words because it represents collaboration. If you share a good idea with your colleagues, inevitably someone will respond with, “I like this, and…” From there, the good idea turns into a great idea, all because you surrounded yourself with a brain trust of people willing to help. “And” means putting yourself out there and being open to feedback in service of the greater good.
This topic isn’t just a good opening for a conference; it’s applicable in nearly every professional and personal situation. If you’re willing to open up to the people around you, everyone can benefit from each other’s information, ideas and thoughts.
How they accomplished their goals for the conference
Erin and Andrew had three main goals for the conference, starting with giving attendees what they wanted. The committee looked at feedback from the last several years to see if there were any common themes. They then took those themes into consideration when planning this year’s agenda to ensure that the voice of the attendees was part of every aspect of the conference.
Second, Erin and Andrew wanted to provide timely information about the changing landscape of the legal industry and the business environment as a whole. They elevated programming to align with what’s happening today and even looked forward to the next year and beyond. Ultimately, they wanted to provide advanced programming that attendees could take back to their firms and foster high-level discussions.
Finally, they made it a point to bring in new voices. Although many of the speakers had spoken at conferences before, 70 percent of them did not speak at last year’s conference in New Orleans. To achieve their goal of providing timely information, Andrew and Erin knew that they had to invite presenters with fresh perspectives, who perhaps had not been heard before. If you’re planning an event, try looking beyond the usual suspects to find speakers who have different viewpoints.
Why location isn’t as important as you think
This year’s conference was in Atlanta, a change of pace from previous conferences that were held in glitzier cities like Las Vegas and New Orleans. Erin was confident that the event would be a success in her hometown but knew they still needed to position Atlanta as the place to be.
As it turned out, Erin was right: the strength of the program was what drew attendees and made the conference enjoyable for everyone. It could have been held in any city, and with the program Erin and Andrew created, it still would have been an information-packed success. While location is important, the content is what really matters. If you’re planning an event, put more of your energy into finding great speakers and topics, rather than finding the perfect location.
What conference organizers need to think about
While Erin and Andrew won’t be chairing next year’s LMA conference, which will be held March 25-27, in Denver, Colorado, they hope that they can pass on some of their success to the next co-chairs. Their words of wisdom are relevant for anyone planning a large event. Andrew’s advice for the incoming conference planners is to listen, reflect and be an agent of change. Service providers, the client base and LMA’s membership are all changing, and conference planners need to stay on top of those trends, especially when looking a year into the future. The co-chairs’ responsibility is to ensure they’re providing the most topical and up-to-date educational programming possible.
And Erin’s advice? Remain flexible. She and Andrew were changing and adding new things to the program six weeks before the conference, making sure that everything was just right. They didn’t want to look back and think, “We had that great idea two months before the conference. Too bad we didn’t implement it.” Her other piece of advice is to spend extra time with the presenters in advance. Erin and Andrew had multiple phone conferences and meetings with speakers to give them feedback on their speeches and make sure they felt comfortable. It showed that the committee was not just invested in the attendees’ experience, but the speakers’ experiences as well, and that helped make their presentations even better.