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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Page 41 of 75

⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 6 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 42 The AWARDS Issue! AMANDA S. GAYLE, CMP Director, Conferences & Meeting Services American Nurses Association Silver Spring, MD 20 Years In the Business Pulling Off A Large Event Following A Major Storm Planning a party for 9,000 participants can be a major challenge at any time, but when Amanda Gayle was working on this year's opening night welcome party for the American Nurses Association (ANA), which was held in Hous- ton, she faced an unusual situation. "Finding venues that can fit this size group for a fun party, other than stadiums or theme parks, is always challenging to say the least," she explained. "However, this year was even more challenging as it took place just six- weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated many parts of the city. We needed to be very sensi- tive to what was happening there. We talked to our local co-hosts who unequivocally said if we canceled the conference it would be a huge disappointment to their community and their nurses. We also wanted to support the community knowing the immense impact our conference has on the local economy. People needed to get back to work and re-gain some sense of normalcy in their lives. We decided in early September we would move forward with the conference after working closely with our city and vendor partners. As it turned out, this year's event was one of the best opening night parties of any ANA conference. "The party had a 'State Fair' theme, and was held at the Discovery Green Park outside the George R Brown Convention Center in Houston," Gayle explained. "It was one of the best parties we've planned. We had several bands and stages, Mid-Way games, me- chanical bull rides, live steers and photos ops, plus an amazing fireworks finale off the roof of the convention center." To help support storm victims a "text to do- nate" disaster relief fundraising campaign was developed to support a local Houston charity as well as to support nurses affected by the hurricanes. "We challenged attendees to meet our goal of $100,000 and exceeded that in just three days at the conference," Gayle said. Challenges: "Continually thinking outside the box and the need to create an experience that is bigger and better than the last one. Making sure the conference is fresh, relevant and worth the attendees' and the ex- hibitors' time and expense. Also, topping the last event isn't a problem with an unlimited budget, but who has an unlimited budget?" Solutions: "Our pro- duction company scouts for local celebrities and talent to help reduce costs. We also search for national talents that are performing around our conference dates and may be willing to stay in town and perform at our event. It helps that nursing has been ranked as the most trusted profession for 15 years in a row - many are willing to participate just to support nurses." Rewards: "Problem solving—that's what we do." Advice: "There's a reason event planning is consistently listed as one of the top 10 most stressful occupations; it's not for the faint of heart. You must be creative, detailed-oriented, able to remain calm, multi-task, think on your feet and problem-solve. You also need to be an expert in contracting, risk management, finance, logistics, F&B, A/V, technology and social media, not to the mention you need the ability to predict the future. And, You need to do all this while smiling and pretending your feet don't hurt." ► Participants enjoy "State Fair" events at American Nurses Association opening night welcome party.

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