by Danielle Marquis
After a week in beautiful, warm San Diego, I’m back at my desk in Upstate NY. It’s a balmy 10 degrees today, so I thought I’d throw on an extra sweater, plant my cutest souvenir and recap the fun and learning those of us in attendance experienced at AESP’s 2014 National Conference & Expo.
I arrived a day before the conference officially started to attend a pre-conference training session, Leadership Training for Exceptional Team Performance. This was a new training option and it was fantastic. We learned about the foundations of leadership, leadership models and styles, building exceptional teams and leadership applications within the energy industry. Our instructor, Johnny O, is an experienced business executive in our industry and certified leadership coach. I wasn’t sure what to expect—a former college professor myself and knowing we had a week of presentation sessions ahead of us, it could have been a very long, boring day. But John made the course engaging, interactive and fun. I would definitely encourage anyone who may have missed it to attend if AESP offers this course again.
When the course was complete, I met up with my colleagues to get our booth unpacked and set up in the exhibit hall. We were hoping to sneak across the street for some fish tacos before the conference was officially under way, but didn’t have enough time! The opening reception was super busy and we all met so many new people.
The conference kicked off with an opening plenary in which we welcomed our new AESP Board Chair, Sara Van de Grift of Illume Advising, and congratulated various award winners, including Kate Ringe-Welch from National Grid, who won the inaugural social media marketing award. KC Chief Hall of Famer Nick Lowery then took the stage for the opening keynote, telling the crowd, "The people that will make the biggest difference are in this room."
Our next stop was the Topic Committee meetings, with Kelsey and myself heading over to Marketing, while Art attended Implementation. It was my last meeting as Chair, and I am happy to announce the Marketing TC’s new leadership: Chair, Kelsey Cummings of SmartWatt Energy; Vice Chair, Kate Ringe-Welch of National Grid; and Vice Chair, Dan Zasloff of EnergySavvy. Art Olson was also elected Chair of the Implementation TC. Very proud of our team!
Next on my agenda (which I viewed for the very first time on my tablet—thank you to Michaels Energy for the great app!) was the “Takin’ it to the Streets” session in the marketing track, which I was moderating. The speakers, Steve Lightbourn from WECC, Carl Nelson from CEE and Patrick MacRoy from CNT Energy, all did a great job and their papers were fantastic, so please log into AESP’s Resource Library and check them out if you haven’t already done so! Lots of great stuff on community-based marketing to get the ideas flowing for your own programs.
It was great to get together with AESP MARCh over lunch and brainstorm some ideas for regional events in 2014. Then I saw Bill LeBlanc speak for the first time, in a session on utility branding. And he lives up to the hype! He was fabulous. I so wish his “man on the street” interviews were my idea. Sigh.
Wednesday night we were very excited that the time had come for our special event! Kelsey and I had been brainstorming and planning with the AESP team for months, and we were anxious to see how everything would turn out. We fired up the mix tape we’d made and headed over to the photo booth. The flip books were cooler than we’d imagined (and ended up becoming my kids’ favorite “present” I brought home!).
We were slightly terrified no one would want to sing karaoke, even if it was in front of a live band (!), but happily we were wrong. So very wrong. Thank you to everyone who participated, had fun and released your #InnerRockstar. We posted lots more photos on our Facebook page, along with a pretty funny video.
The final day of the conference featured a couple new sessions—House of Horrors and Lion’s Lair. In House of Horrors, it was a theatrical production with dramatic readings of real life program failures, while in Lion’s Lair a team of experts grilled participants pitching DSM programs in the style of TV’s Shark Tank. John Picard was one of the judges! I definitely geeked out over that one. Both sessions were excellent and a welcome change of pace. As part of the prep team, I was tasked with makeup for House of Horrors—fun stuff.
When everyone else had packed up and gone home, I made my way high up the elevator, to the top floor meeting space of the hotel. It was my very first AESP Board of Directors meeting and I was the very first person there (!). Slightly overanxious and mildly excited. Honored to be part of such an amazing organization.
I hope to see you in Baltimore for AESP’s Spring Conference!