CUNA Mutual Group’s Free ‘Discovery Conference’ Gives Leaders a Peek Into the Future

Attending a leading credit union conference in your pajamas might sound like the makings of a bad dream. But according to Christy LaMasney, Discovery Conference Manager for CUNA Mutual Group, pajamas are just a small part of what makes the company’s annual Discovery Conference so special.

“Theoretically you could be in your pajamas and no one would know,” said LaMasney. That’s because the Discovery Conference uses cutting edge, web-based technology to give attendees a rich conference experience in the comfort of their own homes—or offices, hotel rooms, or wherever they happen to be.

“Some credit unions bring their entire leadership team and Board into their conference room so they can experience it together,” said LaMasney.

The free, day-long conference—which offers advanced learning for credit union leaders, and this year falls on Wednesday, October 21—takes place completely online. Attendees join via their personal computers from all around the world, and are treated to a rich conference experience, including world class keynotes, topical breakouts, a solution-packed exhibition hall, and networking that can be easier and more effective than being there in person.

Virtually Attending

Most people know exactly what it’s like to walk into a physical conference—the registration booth, the lanyards. But what’s it like to enter a virtual conference?

When credit union leaders enter the Discovery Conference online, they are greeted by a simple visual layout—the conference agenda is front and center, with handy links to different events. “It’s very graphically oriented and user friendly,” said LaMasney.

Just like a physical conference there are different events throughout the day, some happening simultaneously. Each participant has a profile, like an electronic nametag, and they have a digital folder that organizes any documents they ‘pick up’ throughout the day.

Keynotes and breakout sessions look like video webinars, so attendees can watch the presenter speak. And in breakout sessions they can type questions throughout the presentation that can be addressed during Q&A at the end. This year’s content builds throughout the day, starting with issues impacting credit unions today, and then advances into future-oriented talks like “Seeing Around the Corner” and “Beyond Disruption.”

“This year more than ever we’re focused on what leaders at credit unions need in order to move forward with confidence to help their credit unions and members grow,” said LaMasney.

The Solution Center offers a grid of various booths, and hovering over a booth gives attendees details on what it offers. When you enter a booth, a short video greets you and live product experts are on hand to answer any questions. The Solution Center even offers ‘Hot Topic Chats,’ where a live facilitator with expertise in an important topic kicks off a conversation on video, and participants can keep the conversation going and ask questions of the presenter and each other using text chat.

Social Networking, Virtually

It would be easy to assume that, without gathering together in the same building, it would be hard for attendees to meet and get to know each other. But according to LaMasney, the virtual conference actually makes networking easier in many ways, much like social networks like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to connect and stay in touch.

“It’s such a rich experience to be there when everyone is in the space,” said LaMasney. In each virtual room, attendees can see how many other people are in the room and can use the “Who’s Here?” feature to connect with specific people. They can then chat with each other and, if they like, exchange virtual business cards to keep in touch. (And all that contact information gets filed away in their folder, so no more losing business cards in the bottoms of swag bags.)

“At a physical conference you can look around and see how many people are there, but it can be hard for people to meet and interact,” said LaMasney. “In this event it’s easy to start a chat with an old friend or with someone who asked a good question.”

Never Miss a Thing

One of the most important benefits of a virtual conference, said LaMasney, is how it offers credit union leaders enormous flexibility and ease in getting the content they need to make important, forward looking decisions.

“These are busy people,” said LaMasney, “and the virtual conference allows them to attend from anywhere with an internet connection. If they need to work from home that day, no problem.” Hence the pajamas.

“And of course,” LaMasney added, “no travel expenses.”

Better yet, all the keynotes and breakout sessions are available to attendees to stream even after the conference. So in case they wanted to go to two simultaneous sessions or they need to step away for an emergency, they can come back and catch up on whatever they missed.

“All except for one,” LaMasney clarified. Futurist Bob Treadway, who will give a keynote on what credit union leaders should expect over the next three to five years, does not allow his talks to be streamed after the fact. “For that one,” said LaMasney, “you’ll just have to be there.”

The Discovery Conference takes place online October 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT. You can view the full agenda, see session descriptions, and register for free at the conference website.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

Posted in Events.