Society For Incentive Travel Excellence CEO Annette Gregg on introducing a Community Lounge at SITE Global for peer-to-peer conversation.
Are meetups with peers to discuss hot topics an important model for association education? SITE CEO Annette Gregg thinks so. In an interview with Prevue, she shares insights on why there will be a Community Lounge at SITE Global Conference 2024 for three peer-led conversations on issues members feel passionate about: Women in Leadership, Sustainability and Young Leaders.
Prevue: What motivated you to add focused peer-led conversations to the conference agenda this year?
Gregg: When I first started at SITE in 2022, I learned that we had wonderful work being done by groups of volunteers in sustainability, women’s empowerment, and developing young leaders. While our Young Leaders community actually has a board level position leading the effort, the Women in Leadership and Sustainability groups were grassroots efforts formed organically by people passionate around these causes. It’s our vision to continue to grow these communities and give opportunities for other people to get involved in them. As an internationally dispersed association, we need to create ways for our members to connect in addition to chapter events. These communities are one solution for that, and if the model flourishes we envision many other special interest groups forming that bring people together around a cause. For our 2024 Global Conference in Istanbul, the Community Lounge is a place for these communities to gather for peer-to-peer learning and networking.
Prevue: What role do these communities—Women in Leadership, Sustainability, and Young Leaders—play in the association?
Gregg: SITE began focusing on young leaders in the early 2000’s, around the time we changed our name from Society of Incentive Travel Executives to Society for Incentive Travel Excellence. We wanted to attract those that were starting and ramping up their careers, not just senior leaders. We added a board position specific to the Young Leaders Community to solidify this commitment, and many of our chapters also have that area of focus. The largest activation for that community is our Young Leaders Conference during IMEX America. The other two—Sustainability and Women in Leadership—have also been working as smaller groups for several years. We thought it’s time to give them more exposure and resources to attract more participants. For example, the Sustainability Community has created a chapter certification program that all of our chapters have now passed. They’ve also created templates to include sustainability clauses in RFPs. Women in Leadership have launched a mentor program with our Young Leaders community, and they regularly hold webinars and podcasts to help women elevate.
Prevue: How will the Community Meetup sessions at SITE Global work?
Gregg: Each community is using their time in the Community Lounge for a short presentation, and then tabletop discussions and open forum. It’s meant to be interactive, driven by the participants’ needs. We are excited to hear some of the trends that come from these community discussions, and are confident they will be valuable to all involved.
Prevue: Will SITE will continue to offer this model, along with traditional speaker and panel sessions, at events?
Gregg: Effective adult learning programming at conferences like ours involves a variety of learning modalities, and peer-to-peer engagement is a powerful option. We want to provide timely topical discussions, with space for intentional connection. We’ve tried different versions of this at our past conferences. The peer-led learning environments continue to resonate with participants and we will continue to include them as an option.
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