DEC 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 7 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 35 The AWARDS Issue! and advance in their selected technical career paths. By the time the Grace Hopper Celebra- tion is completed, thousands of people report they have encountered a life-changing moment, feel inspired, and are more confident. It's a wonderful reward for all the hard work!" GAIL BELL Conference Coordinator Texas Center for the Judiciary Austin, TX 10 Years In The Business Using A Family-Style Gathering To Help People Connect When Gail Bell was planning her organization's annual Board of Directors Orien- tation Retreat this year, she decided to try an approach that could only work with a smaller group. "Most of my conferences range in size from 150-600 people, so the board retreat gave me an opportunity to plan something more intimate," she explained. "The retreat was the first meeting we had with the board after the board of directors election so I wanted to put together something that would help the new board members get acquainted." Since the meeting was scheduled for the week before Thanksgiving, Bell decided to play on the idea of the holidays as a time for family to get together. "My co-workers and I always talk about being an 'office family' so the board is an extension of that family," Bell pointed out. "I set our meals at a long banquet table so we were all seated at the same table, like a family would gather at the holidays. The hotel served the meals in courses, and we passed the dishes, which created a nice atmosphere and opportunities to ooh and ah at the food. We also played ice-breaker games in between sessions to get to know one another. One of the games involved each person writing something about him or herself that no one in the room would know. The items were placed in a bowl and then drawn randomly and read aloud. We took turns guessing who had put in each item. The board re- ally enjoyed getting to know each other. So much of what I do focuses on professional education, it was a nice change of pace to get to learn things about each other that have nothing to do with our work." Challenges: "The Texas Center for the Judiciary (TCJ) receives funding from a mixture of state and federal grants, as well as some private funding. We don't accept sponsorships, so my budget is pretty limited with elaborate opening receptions and other networking opportunities being beyond my reach. On the other hand, attendees have so many things vying for their attention outside of the conference that I want to keep them engaged and give them ways to connect with each other. I want them to see the value of meeting face-to-face versus getting the information from a webinar. Networking among peers cannot be replaced by webinars and really adds to the education beyond the meeting room." ►

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