Do you like to learn how things are made? Preparing for Scaling New Heights takes a great deal of effort on the part of Team Woodard, which includes numerous outside individuals and entities! Take a peek behind the scenes with pictures that show what the team does in the days before the conference and interesting facts about what happens in the years (yes, years) leading up to each conference.
The pictures below were taken on Saturday, the day prior to the start of the conference, when the only activities are set up and early registration check-in.
What is the length of the planning cycle for each year's conference?
It might surprise you to know that there aren't as many venues suitable for the conference as you might think. A venue needs to have sufficient rooms to hold breakout sessions, a large enough space to hold the exhibit floor, and availability of sufficient hotel nights. The space also needs to be located near a major airline hub with easy transportation to and from the airport. Venue contracts are typically signed 3-4 years in advance, but site scouting actually begins five or more years in advance. Conference production literally takes years!
But the work is worth it when we arrive on-site and begin setting up for the arrival of so many amazing people!
Here are Joe Woodard and his daughter - some of you may remember her from the earlier years of the conference when she was quite young. Now she is working at the conference - her first year doing so - and welcoming the early arrivals on Saturday before the conference starts.
Accountant and Bookkeeper Education
Scaling New Heights education development starts with a Woodard team SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of what we anticipate accounting professionals will face over the next two-year horizon. Then the team jumps into passionate brainstorming sessions to develop a theme that will prepare professionals to strengthen their practices and professional skills. The SWOT analysis and brainstorming sessions typically take place 17 months before the conference.
Once the theme is finalized, the education team begins developing session tracks. All told, they spend hundreds of hours creating and orchestrating educational offerings that are aligned with the theme of the conference. Why? They want to prepare each attendee to leverage the strengths and opportunities and face and overcome weaknesses and threats. In other words, the education team is laser-focused on empowering business advisors to transform small business.
Deploying the breakout sessions at Scaling New Heights is more involved than you might think. Mapping out which breakouts will take place in each room is a detailed logistics exercise. We encourage attendees to pre-select breakout selections weeks ahead of the conference because it allows us to predict the size of the room needed for each session. This year, we have classrooms ranging from being able to seat 50 attendees all the way up to the largest breakout session room which holds 600 attendees.
The day prior to the conference, workers from the venue set the rooms with tables and chairs. In addition, an AV company comes in to set up the sound and projection systems for the classroom. Depending on the size of the room, different types of AV sets are used.
For example, the picture below shows the largest room this year (other than the main stage). The room was set on Saturday in preparation for the annual Joe Woodard Brunch that takes place on the first day of the conference on Sunday.
Fine Dining for Everyone at Scaling New Heights
Planning food to satisfy nearly 1,500 individuals is daunting! Our conference production team works with the conference venue food and beverage managers to meet varying dietary requirements ranging from those who have severe allergies to those needing Kosher meals. The conference production team agonizes over the best meal choices that will satisfy and nourish all of us.
I opted not to include a picture of the food from Sunday morning's brunch. It was so good that I didn't want to leave readers out!
Keynote Presentations on the Main Stage
The main stage sessions at Scaling New Heights are considered an extension of the education at the conference. Each year, Joe Woodard hand selects the keynote presenters who have compelling, educational and motivational stories to share.
The setup of the main stage room is a production all of its own! It takes a tractor-trailer to bring all of the equipment needed. Here are pictures of what was going on Saturday afternoon and evening.
The image above shows the rigging that will be hanging from the ceiling in a short time. This rigging set holds lights.
The lights on that rigging will be run with this lighting board shown below.
Software and Solution Exploration on the Exhibit floor
The other area that is high energy and high traffic the day before the conference is the exhibit floor. It is astounding the amount of effort put in by not only the exhibitors at the conference but the logistics companies involved with the production.
At Scaling New Heights this year, we have the largest number of exhibitors in the history of the conference. In fact, Scaling New Heights is now the nation's largest accounting technology showcase. Here are just a few pictures of the setup on Saturday.
Exhibitor materials are shipped in large cases and are preset by the logistics company before the vendors even arrive on site. In the picture above, you can see a piece of an exhibitor's booth that has been set up and see some of the shipping crates in the background.
In the picture below, you can see that the carpet has been covered with plastic. There is a lot of traffic during this stage, including forklifts.
Woodard's booth, below, is still being set up. It will include Genius Theater's A & B, where Woodard hosts "geniuses" within the accounting profession who give 10 to 15-minute presentations with a Q&A.
In the image below, you can see the logistics teams building a component of the Botkeeper booth that has four clear plexiglass walls. I'm not sure what will be happening there, and I can't wait to find out! If you look in the background, you can see the stairs leading to the upper floor of the Expensify booth.
Behind the scenes to the conference kick-off!
I hope you've enjoyed this little peek behind the scenes from the day before the start of the conference. Starting Sunday afternoon, we will begin publishing articles about what is happening during the conference.