Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2012

Pre Con: OSBA Aims for the Head of the Class

Sarah Beauchamp

OSBA ConveneMeeting

The Ohio School Boards Association’s (OSBA) 2012 Capital Conference and Trade Show, convening Nov. 11–14 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  Now in its 57th year, the event is the second most-attended education conference in the country, attracting about 10,000 attendees and more than 700 exhibitors, and featuring more than 100 student showcases at its Student Achievement Fair.  Each year, the conference aims to provide an environment where educators, school board members, and administrators can learn from experts as well as one another, staying on top of the latest developments in public education. 

Challenges

As a result of state funding cuts, some districts can’t afford to send as many employees to the 2012 Capital Conference, or their employees will be forced to attend fewer days than in years past.  “We try to structure the conference so that if a member can only attend one professional-development event a year, this one meets their needs,” said Jeff Chambers, OSBA’s director of communication services.  “It’s a lot for people to take off work nowadays, and while we encourage entire districts to come, from grounds and maintenance coordinators to superintendents, we understand that it’s just not feasible, so we really want to make sure the conference is always worth the time and money.”

OSBA makes the event as affordable as possible by charging school districts only for the first six professionals they send, allowing them to bring more employees free of charge.  “We’re always trying to make it better,” Chambers said.  “After each conference, we debrief and discuss room size and timing of events to see what works and what doesn't, making sure everything is as convenient and accessible as possible.”

Initiatives

Not only does OSBA make sure it’s packing a lot of educational value into its Capital Conference, it also wants the event to have entertainment value, giving attendees more bang for their buck.  “We want to make sure that people see things here that they wouldn't at other educational conferences,” Chambers said.

Every four years OSBA acknowledges the presidential election with a performance by the satirical group Capitol Steps - and this year is no exception.  In addition, the 2012 Capital Conference will feature nationally renowned speakers such as Columbia University Associate Professor of Education Marc Lamont Hill and New York University Research Professor of Education Diane Ravitch. 

This year’s conference will be easier to navigate, too, by “utilizing another area of the convention center for luncheons,” Chambers said.  “It’s more conveniently located near the other sessions and was recently renovated.” And the soon-to-open Hilton Columbus Downtown, connected directly to the convention center, will help cut down attendees’ commute time. 

As part of its programming, OSBA will help prepare teachers for upcoming changes in Ohio public schools, with educational sessions on a new teacher evaluation system set to go into effect within the next year, and revisions to the Common Core State Standards, to be put in place in 2014.  “The people who attend the conference are improving every year in the classroom,” Chambers said, “so we have to improve every year, too.” 

For more information: ohioschoolboards.org/2012-capital-conference.

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