Annual Meeting Program Chairs Lori Carlin (Chief Commercial Officer, Delta Think Inc.), Yael Fitzpatrick (Editorial Ethics Manager, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), and Tim Lloyd (CEO, LibLynx) took the time to share their thoughts about next week’s 44th Annual Meeting, “Building a More Connected Scholarly Community.”
Please tell us about your previous involvement with SSP and the Annual Meeting – have you served on other committees, have you served on this committee in the past, etc.
Yael: I have volunteered with SSP on various committees and task forces for somewhere around a decade, including membership, Marketing, and I co-chaired the Branding Task Force with Lori. I’ve been on the Annual Meeting Program Committee for a number of years, this is my fourth and final year. I’ll be rotating off after this year’s annual meeting.
Tim: I’ve been on the annual meeting committee for six years and was invited to be a co-chair last year. I first became involved because understanding industry strategy is important to my business and serving on the annual meeting committee is a great way to see what trends are happening in the industry. It’s also a great opportunity to network and meet new people.
Lori: This is my third year as Annual Meeting co-chair, but my first chance to be working on an in-person meeting! Plus first two years, I was responsible for the Pre-Meeting program, as the “junior” co-chair. I’m a serial volunteer. I started being a member of various SSP committees, plus Marketing Committee Co-Chair, Branding Task Force Co-Chair, SSP Board of Trustees member…and now Annual Meeting Co-Chair.
What do you value most about participation in SSP and more specifically attending the Annual Meeting?
Yael: It’s really a combination of staying on top of industry trends, developments, and challenges. SSP is the most welcoming professional association that I’ve ever been involved with. There is just a general kindness and support for one another. Year after year, the committee gets comments that networking is a key highlight for attendees, and I feel that as well.
Tim: I agree with Yael that ours is an incredibly collaborative industry. There are so many trends and policies that affect us all, and I would say it is hard to find people with whom you don’t have some common ground. At this point in my career, I’m less interested in learning how things work and more interested in understanding what the future looks like, and the Annual Meeting is invaluable in developing my understanding of the industry.
Lori: It’s one of the best ways to keep current with what is going on in our industry – both through the educational sessions, which are always focused on relevant, applicable, and emerging content, and for the networking with colleagues. Those side-conversations that happen before and after a session, during a break, in the exhibit hall…they are as much a learning experience as the proper educational sessions. We are a very collegial and collaborative bunch – and the sharing back and forth of insights and observations – you feel like you are constantly learning and growing.
Were there any surprises or special challenges in planning this year’s Annual Meeting?
Tim: Hell, yes. We’ve been planning in a vacuum of information and, even now, we still don’t quite know what the situation will be on the ground. We’re not completely sure about how people will feel about getting back to in-person meetings; what, if any, Covid-related restrictions there will be; and so on. It’s a bit like building a house on ice floes. Sometimes they freeze and stick together and sometimes they just drift apart. Also, just getting ourselves back into the swing of face-to-face participation. We’ve got so used to Zoom and virtual meetings over the last couple of years that planning in-person meetings has been quite challenging.
Yael: The ice floes is a perfect metaphor. The committee has always been nimble, but the last few years have tested that in wholly new ways and sometimes it felt like the ground was shifting under us. I think we’ve done a good job of stepping up to that challenge. After having no meeting in 2020 and then a hybrid meeting in 2021, we’ve been successful addressing things from the hybrid experience and just dealing with the consequences of a global pandemic.
In addition, while our industry has a lot of extroverted people, I do think we tend to skew towards the introverted side of things—and I count myself very much in that group—so this is going to be a test. I’m very much looking forward to seeing people. It will be wonderful, but also challenging on some levels.
Lori: This year? Well…less so than the last two years when we first had a canceled meeting in 2020 and then pivoted to all virtual in 2021. For 2022, the challenge was perhaps getting our in-person legs back, if you will, after the changes in the prior two years. But we were all so thrilled to be back to something near the more usual type of meeting, that it’s hard to think of it…or anything about this meeting as a challenge. Perhaps some concern here and there about two steps forward, one step back related to the pandemic…and wondering how that might impact our meeting. But again, it’s hard to think of any of these as challenges.
Have you been to an in-person meeting recently?
Yael: I have not, but Lori and Tim have!
Tim: I went to Charleston last November and really enjoyed the meeting and connecting with friends and colleagues again. It was delivered as a hybrid meeting, which is particularly challenging to pull off because you effectively have the cost and complexity of both a traditional conference and a virtual conference wrapped into one.
Lori: Yes, I was in Charleston in November and the London Book Fair just this past April. For both, the best part was seeing old friends and colleagues, seeing folks I may have only met via Zoom previously, and meeting new folks. There were challenges being in person – some technical, so logistical, but again, people I spoke to were so happy to have the opportunity to meet in person it overshadowed any of those challenges.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Annual Meeting?
Yael: From a personal perspective I am looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues that I haven’t seen in a while. I’m also excited about seeing the tangible result of a lot – a lot – of people’s efforts. There’s been a lot of satisfaction in the process and seeing the meeting unfold will be great.
I’m also looking forward to our keynote speakers. They are really fascinating and a very complimentary pair of speakers. And then posters! As a committee and as an organization we have been developing posters as a content type for the meeting over a period of years and this will be the first time we have in-person poster sessions. We wanted to introduce another way for people to interact and exchange thoughts, questions, and ideas that we haven’t had before and it’s nice to see it come to fruition.
Tim: I’m most looking forward to catching up with people and what’s been happening for them (and their organizations) over the past couple of years. I’ve really missed the richness of in-person interactions – we can all read blog posts and watch webinars but it’s not the same as meeting someone face-to-face. I’m also interested to see how the conference turns out. We’ve programmed a great conference, and I’m hoping that attendees are as excited to get together again as we are.
Lori: Definitely seeing friends and colleagues…and making new connections. Nothing replaces that in-person connection. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to attend sessions and learn. It can be hard to keep current in isolation. Sure we can read content, attend webinars, etc., but at some point, you need that face-to-face experience added into the mix. When you’re attending a conference virtually, it’s easy to get distracted by email and deadlines and personal obligations too. When you get on that plane or in that car or on that train or bus, etc. to head to a meeting, you are all in. You are there, you are focused on that meeting with a limited amount of distraction or guilt for focusing on something different than your day-to-day workload and commitments. You’re free to learn and absorb in a way that’s difficult to achieve from a non-in-person event. Finally, having worked on this meeting all year, I’m super excited for the three of us – Yael, Tim, and me – to see it all unfold!
Can you give us a sneak peek of something special about this year’s meeting?
Yael: If we did that, any surprises we have in store wouldn’t be surprises! I will say that there are some fun things planned. Something we can share is that we are going to have both structured and unstructured networking sessions along with our educational sessions and a new thing is some improv sessions that will be fun and different. We’re going to have a couple of different sessions where people can do some guided training on improv. Look for those on the agenda.
Tim: We wanted to do something that was not traditional, and we found that with the improv sessions which combine spontaneity, creativity, and opportunities for interaction all in one tasty dessert! We also incorporated some of the feedback from last year’s virtual conference to improve this year’s networking opportunities. Specifically, the value of having moderators to create a welcoming atmosphere for attendees and facilitate a productive conversation. I encourage attendees to check out the range of networking sessions we’re offering. Finally, we added a quiet room at this year’s conference to provide attendees with a place to decompress away from the crowd when they need to, just like a quiet car on a train.
Lori: We have a few extras in store. Some are in the program, some Yael and Tim have mentioned, and some should remain a surprise! All I’ll add is don’t miss the Keynotes!
What is one “don’t miss” place to visit or thing to do in Chicago?
Yael: For me, it’s just honestly walking around the city and seeing the architectural gems around every corner. It’s a beautiful environment and a great walking city.
Tim: I don’t know Chicago well yet, so I’m looking forward to learning about the city.
Lori: I’m an East Coast ocean person – if I’m not on a coast/near an ocean, I can actually feel claustrophobic. Lake Michigan is so expansive – it gives me that open ocean feel. I’d say be sure to take a walk down Michigan Avenue and a bit around Lake Michigan.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Tim: We think it will be an interesting and rewarding event and, with so many attendees looking forward to getting together again, we’re hoping for a great atmosphere.
Yael: We’re really excited about welcoming everybody to Chicago!
Lori: What Yael and Tim said!
News contribution by SSP member, Heather Kotula. Heather is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Access Innovations, Inc.