by Ron Taber
Northern Essex Community College
What better location for a conference intent on rejuvenating and engaging attendees than a place that bills itself as “The Sweetest Place on Earth?” What I found waiting for me after my seven-hour drive from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania was a professional development experience that exceeded all of my expectations. I’ve attended more than 15 District 1 conferences since becoming a member of NCMPR back in 1998, and this year’s event reinforced all of the reasons why I keep coming back year after year.
Hershey, Pennsylvania, is the home of Hershey chocolate, a renowned amusement park, and a long list of local attractions to fit a variety of tastes (pun intended). The air practically smells like chocolate, and even the street lights are built to look like Hershey Kisses. The conference took place at the Hershey Lodge, a welcoming complex that features wonderful amenities with interesting names like the chocolate ballroom, the cocoa suite and confection hall. My room was located in the Peppermint Patty wing of the facility. I think you can see they stay committed to their brand. This locale definitely helped prove the age-old theory that consuming large doses of chocolate can, indeed, heighten one’s creativity.
Opening night included a Hershey Trolley Works history tour, as well as a chance to rekindle old friendships and network with new colleagues while enjoying a delicious District 1 dinner at a local restaurant known as The Mill.
Day two began with an opening keynote, “Everyone Can Innovate!” which was presented by Erik Falck, an innovation excellence leader at The Hershey Company. The session set the tone for a robust program that featured six breakout sessions and 11 roundtable presentations. Some of the timely topics included: Engage Your Audience in the Mobile Space With an Interactive App; Print and Digital Publications for Today’s Audience; and How to Use Market Research to Effectively Position and Promote Your Community College.
Several deserving individuals were also recognized at this year’s event. Dr. Mark T. Brainard, president of Delaware Technical Community College, received the District 1 Pacesetter of the Year award. I was thrilled to see my good friend Sally Chapman Cameron, vice president of college communications at Bristol Community College, receive the coveted District 1 Communicator of the Year award. And last but not least, Sally’s colleague from Bristol Community College, Patrick Stone, was the well-deserving recipient of the Rising Star award.
Day two also featured a free afternoon, where, rumor has it, even more chocolate was consumed; it culminated with a festive Medallions reception, dinner and awards ceremony.
The final day of the conference was highlighted by a fun and informative closing keynote by Amy Bobcheck from Comcast Spotlight. Then, after several door prizes were given away, it was time to close the curtains on another successful District 1 conference, where more than 100 marketing professionals were on hand to learn together and laugh together. Once again, D1 District Director Mary DeLuca and her talented team of conference volunteers pulled together an event that sent everyone home energized and informed – and probably suffering from a bit of a chocolate-induced hangover. I’ve already got next year’s D1 conference in Newport, Rhode Island, marked on my calendar.
Ron Taber is immediate past president of NCMPR and the chief marketing officer at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Massachusetts.