How to Give More People Access to Conventions and the Information Disseminated There

compiled by Ardis Bazyn

This focus call dealt with the question of how to access new information shared at conventions. We discussed methods of getting more attendance at conferences and conventions – both national and state conferences. We also gathered numerous ideas on how state affiliates, special-interest affiliates, and local chapters could get the information received at convention to their members.
 
For the national convention, more scholarships through the DKM program would be beneficial. One suggestion was to have sponsorships focus more on getting first-timers to conventions rather than sponsoring parts of the convention itself or offering a special sponsorship for first-timers to companies. Sponsoring new members or students to attend the national convention might be of particular interest to companies wanting to reach new audiences. Sponsorships could be advertised to local business owners for assisting newly blind people to conventions. Sponsorships could give stipends to first-timers or pay the whole cost.
 
Some suggestions to get more attendance for both national and state conventions were:

  • Publicity in the local community immediately before and during the convention targeting different populations – seniors losing sight, blind students, and technology enthusiasts.
  • Networking with other local community organizations to attract local people to your conference.
  • Covering part of the registration cost if members pay for all meals.
  • Reminding members and friends that sharing room costs with two or more roommates would reduce the cost of the convention.
  • Urging committees to have extra activities and events that would draw parents of visually impaired students, those recently losing sight, families of people who are losing or have lost their sight.
  • Publicizing these seminars or events to specific groups – low vision clinics and fairs, teachers and parents of the visually impaired, and disabled student service centers in colleges and universities.
  • Events or seminars with different focus could be planned opposite each other.
  • Exhibits are often a draw for members and recently blinded individuals.
  • Give stipend to members, first-timers, or board members to attend state and special-interest affiliate conferences and conventions, asking those who receive them to write an article or give a presentation at the next conference or local chapter meeting.
  • Survey participants to find out what they want – tech, advocacy programs, vision support, low vision fair/symposium.
  • Invite eye-care specialists.
  • Have employment symposium – panel or experiences in the employment process – what job area and what was needed to get the job.
  • Send convention blast – details of convention: the hotel, what's in the convention program, types of workshops, etc.
  • Send pre-convention letter and newsletter articles.
  • Weekly contact through e-mail or phone messages – 800 number like the California Connection, WCB – announcements.
  • Conventions held in more central locations closer to larger population centers and near many transportation outlets.
  • Joint meetings could be scheduled which would lure new people to attend your conventions.
  • Explore ride sharing (both vans and cars).
  • Use online sharing such as meet-ups on topical areas.
  • Using Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to interest outsiders.
  • Suggest that members invite a friend.
  • Inviting other groups for joint activities.

Much convention information is accessible from multiple sources. Audio CDs can be purchased from ACB which cover the general sessions and many committee-sponsored seminars. Those audio files can also be found on the ACB Radio web site after the convention. People can download them to listen and share with others. Members from chapters can share what they learned at convention and play audio files they have downloaded.
 
Affiliates can have their conventions streamed by ACB Radio personnel or record all sessions and meetings for the ACB Radio team to upload on their site as a cheaper alternative. If your affiliate records all your sessions, these can be placed on CDs and sold to members as a fundraiser. Members can share them with local chapters. Affiliates can upload recorded files to their web sites and survey how many access the archives.
 
ACB streams most of its convention activities live – general sessions and many committee meetings. ACB can track how many people are listening during the convention; many web sites can track how many people access files after conventions. At the beginning of convention, interviews can be taken to highlight upcoming chapter events, state events, fundraisers, and products for sale. Downloads can be played during monthly meetings instead of having speakers, in addition to business. Many members of your local chapter would welcome hearing the ACB legislative seminar, the employment committee workshop, the new braille code changes, seminars on access technology, and general session speakers on current news in the blindness field.
 
With ACB Radio coverage available on the Internet, members can track what is happening during the convention. The ACB Twitter feed sends regular announcements during the national convention as well. Some state affiliates also have Twitter and Facebook accounts which give highlights of current news of the affiliate. Chapters and state affiliates can add articles about the national convention and state conventions to their newsletters. You can advertise the fact that members can order audio copies of the national convention and state convention when available. Your state or special-interest affiliate or local chapter newsletter can provide the links to important or interesting sessions as well.
 
The membership committee can assist your affiliates with membership questions or send you specific information on many membership topics. We are currently looking for members who would be interested in helping us reach Spanish-speaking blind or visually impaired individuals. Please contact Ardis Bazyn, abazyn@bazyncommunications.com, or Cindy Van Winkle, cindy.vw@gmail.com, if you are interested. Stay tuned for our next membership focus call.