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The nurses parade during the ANA annual meeting's opening session is a highlight for attendees.

A Winning Event Combo: Recognition, Appreciation, Education

The two co-located conferences that comprise the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s annual meeting deliver plenty of celebration along with learning and networking, and the audience just keeps growing.

While any convention in New Orleans doesn’t need much of a reason to hold a parade, the American Nurses Association will kick off its October 2024 ANCC annual meeting in the Big Easy with its own longtime tradition: A parade of a few thousand nurses striding across the main stage in recognition of their healthcare facilities’ designations as “Magnet and Pathway to Excellence” facilities. (See photos above and at bottom.)

In fact, the three-day event, which features the ANCC National Magnet Conference and ANCC Pathway to Excellence Conference, is equal parts celebration and education—a necessity for those in an especially stressful profession, according to Katie Carlin, vice president of business development and growth for ANA who oversees the convention-planning team.

“A lot of nursing teams travel together to this meeting, and the experience gives them a reprieve and lets them rest and recharge together,” she says. “So, we make sure to have high production values with great lighting and DJs and choirs in the general sessions, as well as show-floor experiences that they love.”

MM0624ANAkatiecarlin.jpgFor example, as the nurses move through the 600,000-square-foot exhibit hall, they not only mingle with pharma and medical-device reps, healthcare-system executives, and nursing-school leaders but also with folks showcasing retail and lifestyle products. And “our exhibitors are great about conducting raffles and product giveaways that our nurses get really excited about,” adds Carlin (in photo).

What’s more, ANA and its sponsors make sure there are delightful activations set up in many of the show aisles—wellness lounges, chair-massage salons, puppy-petting stations, coffeehouses, lawn games, and even a ball pit to jump into. Carlin says that “we’re looking into installing a couple of pickleball courts, too.”

One other celebratory and motivational show-floor element that will debut this October: ANA Nurse Innovator Row, a dedicated area that showcases companies, initiatives, and products created by nurses. “Supporting nurse entrepreneurs is a big part of educating the entire nursing community on what’s possible,” Carlin says.

Lessons for Learning
On the educational side of the annual meeting, the 120 concurrent sessions are increasingly becoming 30-minute offerings with another 30 minutes for peer-to-peer interaction, replacing 50-minute lectures or panel discussions that offered just 10 minutes at the end for audience questions.

Carlin’s planning team has developed a presenter-orientation program “that shares best practices plus other guidelines to be more inclusive and engaging with all attendees,” she says. “We’re being very mindful about collaborating with presenters to better engage everyone in the room—how to conduct real-time polling and use other interactive means to make each session more relevant and a two-way discussion.”

Another content element the planning team is focused on: the power of narratives. “Using storytelling to go along with the data is something we know resonates with people,” Carlin notes. “So, we are pairing up presenters in whichever sessions we can in order to allow for more perspectives, and that will encourage attendees to share their stories too.”

Besides the presenters, the planning team itself is also conducting real-time surveying through the event app to gather attendee sentiment as soon each general session and reception ends. “We think it’s more beneficial to do that than to wait until a week after the meeting ends and attendees’ minds are on to other things,” she adds. “That instant feedback is more detailed.”

Trending Upward
With the ANA’s planning team successfully balancing the celebratory and educational elements of the annual meeting along with a stronger focus on luring international attendees—for instance, all general sessions now offer translation into multiple languages—the show’s attendance is taking off.

The 2022 event, the first in-person edition after Covid, had 11,700 attendees, while the 2023 event saw 13,300 attendees. For 2024, Carlin expects about 13,800 attendees—a 38-percent increase from the 2019 edition.
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