Fueled by the Foundation: Celebrating Convention Reinvention

Author: David McMillin       

Learn how one of the recipients of the PCMA Education Foundation’s Visionary Awards helped a 105-year-old institution plant the seeds for on-site innovation.

If the Girl Scouts of the USA had a badge for Convention Reinvention, Phelps R. Hope, CMP, would have earned it — by overseeing the overhaul of the the 105-year-old institution’s national triennial event. While the organization doesn’t offer that particular sign of distinction, Hope did earn the 2018 Event Designer of the Year honor from the PCMA Education Foundation for pulling off a number of firsts for the organization at the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) national convention.

Held in October 2017 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the new event — orchestrated by Hope, senior vice president, meetings and expositions, for association-management firm Kellen Company — was several years in the making, and part of GSUSA’s strategy to “retool how they position themselves,” Hope said, “with members of the future.” Like many traditional associations GSUSA was struggling to remain relevant to younger, tech-savvy audiences. “Young girls today don’t need to join a troop and put on a uniform and earn badges to get a sense of self-worth,” Hope said. “They’re connecting with friends online and getting those needs met through the world of social media.”

Among other things, Phelps led the organization in taking what had been a five-day event and turning it into two events, including a new, open-to-all-girl events called G.I.R.L., an acronym for Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader.

Splitting the event in two made a lot of sense on paper, but “this is where it really logistically became an incredible exercise,” Hope said. The Girl Scout convention had historically attracted 5,000 attendees, and nearly double that was planned for the G.I.R.L. event.

For a full report on how Phelps managed to pull that off, while upgrading the gathering’s production values for a new generation and creating an interactive exhibit hall, see the story “Not Your Mother’s Girl Scout Convention.” And for a full report on the celebration at the Visionary Awards, click here for a photo recap of the evening’s festivities.

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