If you are a regular attendee to the Chamber’s Annual Community Conference there are a few things you have likely come to expect: 1) The hotel room block will sell out within the first quarter of the year, 2) The programs, speakers and sessions will lead you to discover something important happening in our community or shaping our future and 3) The swag bag will be filled with unique, useful and interesting promotional items that have made it a staple of our biggest annual event. This post is about those swag bags.
The bags are a gift that we offer to every single attendee of the conference. For those of you keeping count, that will make 515 bags this year. There is a lot of thought that goes into those bags each summer as our team prepares for what we treat as our Super Bowl.
What kind of bag should we offer? What color? Where do we place our logo on it? Is it big enough? Will people like it? You catch the drift.
All of those decisions are made with a great amount of intent so that when you are handed the finished product at the registration desk, you get the same level of excitement and anticipation each year. Being handed the swag bag symbolizes that you have arrived at a special gathering and our aim is to ensure it remains a signature element of the conference.
The bag also represents the many companies, corporations, and other community organizations that make the conference possible each year. I’m talking about our sponsors. These partners are critical to the success at the Chamber and they are absolutely essential in bringing the conference to life. The items they place in our swag bags are a representation of the work they do, the people they employ and the impact they have on Tallahassee and Leon County. Knowing that, we are very particular about how we treat those items and how we present them to you as an attendee.
This brings me to our team. As you might imagine, the conference requires a lot of work. To put it bluntly, the conference consumes our summer. Because we put on our Super Bowl at the end of this season, we spend the long hot days of June, July and August, piecing together the final details. It’s my favorite time of year to be on our team.
The work for the conference truly begins the week after the last one…Dana needs a few days to decompress before we can all start slinging ideas at her again (Thanks Dana, we love you!). From that week, things slowly start to build until the temperatures outside hit triple digits again. The heat is a bit symbolic of the pressure we face to nail the conference each year, but despite the myriad of challenges presented, it always makes our team rise to the occasion.
Now back to the bags. When you get your bag this year or perhaps when you come to your first conference in the future, you should know that there is something very important in there that you cannot see. It’s carefully loaded with a heavy dose of teamwork. This is where I take you behind the scenes. Every year before our attendees arrive, our Chamber team gathers for the first meeting of the event with one mission in mind…get those bags stuffed. We strategically arrange all of the promotional items into an assembly line that would make Henry Ford smile then turn on some music and have the most fun you can muster while putting thousands of items together into a beach bag.
It’s a lot of work, but it has become something we all look forward to. As busy as we can get throughout the year, we seldom get to work together in one room like that. During the course of the bag stuffing operation, we shares stories about our lives, funny tales of everyday Chamber work and we even have a few strategic discussions about the conference and our company as a whole. My perspective on this is somewhat unique for our team because for my first six trips to the conference I was just an attendee looking to learn about the community. Now, after a few years of spending time on the other side as part of the Chamber team, I have come to appreciate just how much passion and precision is required to pull off our Super Bowl each year.
Because of those long hours together in the “bag room” each August, our team has developed a special bond. During those moments before the conference begins, we all come together to put the icing on a cake that took months to bake. The Annual Community Conference is our opportunity to showcase what we do best and each time we get to hand over a bag to an attendee, we are reminded of what a treat it is to work with the best team in town.
To all of you headed to Amelia Island today, thanks for your attendance at the conference, your sponsorship of the event and most importantly, for being committed members who empower our team.
For those who have never attended, we invite you to experience next year’s Annual Community Conference set for August 14-16, 2020. We will have a bag waiting for you when you get there.