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Taking Charge of Change

Changemaker Becky Williams led a task force that reimagined both the educational and exhibit-hall experiences for her medical association’s annual congress. 

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 15 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Becky Williams, CMP

Assistant Director, Education and Meetings
Society of Surgical Oncology

For leading a task force that reimagined both the educational and exhibit-hall experiences at SSO’s annual congress


Making Change

Prior to 2019, the Society of Surgical Oncology’s annual meeting format had essentially remained unchanged for decades. The majority of our core members were not attending every year; the meeting was competing with other societies’ meetings; there was declining industry participation, and educational grants were tougher to obtain. The annual meeting task force was appointed to examine all components of the event, with the goal of a reimagined meeting that increased member engagement, expanded the society’s brand globally, and met the educational needs of members. SSO invested in consultation services for all meeting elements while the task force also identified potential solutions for a modern, innovative meeting. The work resulted in 28 recommendations to be rolled out in phases over two years, beginning in March 2019. The reimagined annual meeting included an exhibit-hall transition that made it an engaging educational hub. 

The focus on the attendee experience continues through data-driven decisions across all of SSO’s live offerings. This work has resulted in meetings with a vision that better reflects the society’s brand and the educational values the organization brings to members.

What’s Next?

Our virtual event offerings. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the live annual meeting [set for August 2020], leadership’s goal is to keep delivering scientific content through other mediums. The challenge lies in shifting to engaging virtual events that deliver leading-edge research and allow for knowledge exchange between cancer surgeons to improve patient outcomes, while maximizing members’ limited time and resources. And once we resume our in-person meetings, we’ll focus on how to integrate the new technologies and the lessons learned from virtual meetings to further reach the organization’s global audience.  

Managing Change

Stay open to new ideas. Don’t start a project with a specific vision in mind—ask questions and keep revisiting your target audience and objectives in every step of the process. You might end up with something that looks totally different, but also much better, than you could have imagined.

Best Business Advice Received

I’m a big Brené Brown fan: “Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”  

Spare Hour

If I have some free time, I like to take a walk with my husband and dog, catch up with a friend, or dive back into my current book—I’m an avid reader. 



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