#STCONF15: Every Day Is a School Day

This post was written by Lauren Kalina, Social Tables’ business development associate and internal education coordinator!

Each April, we take our favorite core value, “Every Day is a School Day” quite literally by hosting an internal education conference. The creatively named, tweet-friendly #STConf is our way of showcasing what we’ve learned about the hospitality industry after reviewing educational sessions from PCMA’s Convening Leaders.

Not Letting Growth Be a Pain

This is our second year of #STConf (you can read about last year’s STConf here), and as most event planners, we had to review our successes and failures from last year and apply them to be even better for our growing team this year.

What worked for 32 employees last year couldn’t be mirrored identically for our team of 85 this April. In line with our core value of “Constant Innovation”, we made some pretty awesome changes to ensure that Tablers could get the most out of their STConf experience with the least amount of disruption to their daily workflow. Here is a rundown of some of the major changes:

  1. STConf took place spaced out over 3 weeks, instead of just one.
  2. We turned to industry leaders to help educate us, instead of just peer-led sessions. (Note: We did do an evening of peer-led learning, at STConf PechaKucha Night…more on that in future posts.)
  3. All sessions were optional, instead of mandatory, yet still highly attended
  4. Attendees earned “education points” (points awarded to Tablers for attendance and engagement) that go toward additional educational opportunities such as funding for conferences.

Week 1:

In week 1, we hosted two phenomenal guest speakers for breakfast sessions held at the Georgetown Continuing Studies Center, a few short blocks from our office.

On Monday April 6th, Social Tables’ Advisory Committee Member, Carol Krugman, chair of the Department of Hospitality, Tourism & Events Management at Metropolitan State University of Denver, kicked off STConf when she presented “The Evolution of Meetings and Events: Planning and Execution Best Practices.”

Check out how Carol had the crowd in stitches:

 On Thursday, the Senior Vice President of Education and Events for PCMA, Kelly Peacey, presented, An Insider’s Look at PCMA Convening Leaders: A Living Laboratory of Education and Engagement.

We’d love to let you see Kelly’s incredible presentation below, but we got secret access to some exciting upcoming initiatives, so you’ll have to attend a PCMA event to see her magic in action!

On Our Week 1 STConf Speakers:

“I think what I found most useful was the reminder of how complicated the world in which our customers work is. When you’re immersed in how Social Tables works, it’s easy to think of certain actions or behaviors as natural, whereas for a customer with 1,000 other things on their mind, minimizing the cognitive load is really crucial,” said Social Tables’ Engineering Lead, Rami Chowdhury.

Another attendee noted that, “It was an excellent way to ground our organization and gain some perspective. We are transforming the industry in more ways than we know.”

Week 2:

The week of April 13-17, we held concurrent lunch and learns with Social Tables clients and partners. These more intimate sessions gave attendees the chance to ask more targeted questions and interact more with the speakers.

Monday’s lunch and learns saw:

Gene Hunt, Director of Event Sales at Grand Hyatt DC, presented: “How To Manage Events, Increase Business, and Maintain Your Sanity.”

Mary Cline, Director of Catering from Wolfgang Puck Catering presented: “More Than a Pretty Plate: The Recipe for a Successful Catering Operation in 2015.”

 Our Thursday sessions welcomed:

Suzanne Morrell from The J street Group, presented: “I Got 99 Problems But The President Ain’t One: How To Pull-Off An Event for The Leader of the Free World.

Nan Marchand Beauvois, of the Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO), U.S. Travel Association, and the Meetings Mean Business coalition. The session was entitled “Meetings Mean Business: Reviving a Troubled Industry through Advocacy” and was live streamed to an online audience in conjunction with NAMID15, the North American Meetings Industry Day.

 Week 3:

Week three was our PechaKucha Competition, but as promised previously, more on that later!

In a final thought from Dan Berger, “Our goal with STConf is simple: to produce an event that energizes our team about the events industry (ironic, we know). To hit this goal, we did some things differently this year…And we realized that while we can learn a lot from each other, we could learn even more from industry leaders and customers.

Our team may have grown 3x over since last year’s STConf, but our dedication to innovation and education remains the same. Learn more about how we commit to growing consistently every day in this blog post by our CEO, Dan Berger.


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