It Takes a Village: The New Conference That Created a Community

2017 Changemaker Tom Bohn, CEO of the North American Veterinary Community, brings everyone together for animal health.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Tom Bohn, CAE
North American Veterinary Community
For improving the meeting experience, expanding education, and creating a community for the animal health industry

Making Change
The North American Veterinary Conference has held a very successful educational program for the past 30 years, but we wanted to include more of our industry. There are a lot of specialty niche associations, everything from animal cardiac specialists to flea and tick organizations for different types of animals. A lot of groups have struggled to hold conferences because the economics are tough. We looked at this as an opportunity to partner with them so they could be part of our conference. We began the process three years ago and two years ago changed our name to the North American Veterinary Community to reflect who we are now. We’ve seen a 28 percent growth in attendance and a 25 percent growth in exhibitors. We attracted so many new exhibitors that we were able to move to the Orange County Convention Center. Next year we are renaming the conference the Veterinary Meeting and Expo, VMX.

What’s Next?
The next big thing for us is to bring the meeting and expo to our community, even if they can’t make it to Florida.  We are looking at technology to let people take part in the clinics and networking at the event, for example using virtual reality to show off innovative hospital designs in 3D, or presentations on best practices. People want to be able to talk to exhibitors during the show and ask questions in seminars. We’re looking at different technologies, hoping to have something in place for the next show in February 2018. We also want to make videos of the sessions available year round.

Role Model
I am most appreciative of the CEO of a health and fitness association I worked for. He was the most difficult person I’ve ever met and I learned so much from watching the way he treated people and the way they reacted that I swore I would be the “anti him.” I remind myself of what that experience was like and I try hard to do things the opposite way. I try not to win ugly!

Best Business Advice
To implement change you have to have a clear vision and be transparent about it.  I tell my team I am not looking for harmony, but I am looking for everyone to do what’s best for the customer. There will be disagreements but ultimately we all put our egos aside.

Think Differently
We are all committed to disruptive management. In this day and age, if you are not looking to disrupt things, you will stay flat or fall backwards. There can be resistance to change, so it’s about making people realize they want things they didn’t know they wanted.

Got a Spare Hour?
I love to watch my son play lacrosse. He is only 14, but has already to playing for College of the Holy Cross. I use him as an analogy at work: You have to be relentless in customer service but to do that, you really have to love the work.


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