Annual Meeting: Co-ops Go Marching In

The first NRECA Annual Meeting of the new decade will be in New Orleans, where electric cooperative leaders will gather to celebrate the strength of the co-op network, deepen knowledge of industry issues, and conduct official business.

The 78th NRECA Annual Meeting and Expo will be Feb. 27 to March 4 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the site of the 2016 meeting.

This year, organizers have structured programming around three key topics: beneficial electrification; digital and data transformation of the industry; and consumer engagement and expectations. Breakout sessions and one-on-one learning opportunities will go into detail on these and other important issues.

“Annual Meeting participants have told us that in the time available, we only scratch the surface” of important co-op issues, says Tracey Steiner, NRECA’s senior vice president for education and training. “For 2020, participants will be able to dive deeper and explore these three topics from different angles.”

Changes to the 2020 Annual Meeting schedule include “Spark Sessions,” which will allow participants to engage in small group discussions with their peers. Facilitators will help run the 30-minute sessions, which will take place at the NRECA and Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives booths.

The rebranded TechAdvantage® Experience 2020 will run concurrently with the Annual Meeting. The Expo opening reception will be Monday, March 2, and the TechAdvantage conference sessions will end March 4.

Matheson, a futurist, and secrets to productivity

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson will kick off the opening general session on Monday, March 2.

Inventor, technology futurist, and former hacker Pablos Holman will be the keynote speaker at the first general session. In his speech, “Innovate or Die Trying,” Holman will look at the mindset of the world’s foremost innovators, preview next-generation technologies, and explain how to form a practical relationship with innovation.

Organizational and personal growth will be the focus of the keynote addresses during the second and third general sessions:

On Tuesday, March 3, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg will talk about the differences between being busy and being productive in “The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business.”

In the closing general session on Wednesday, March 4, Harvard psychologist and best-selling author Susan David will discuss “Emotional Agility—The Gifts and Power of Emotional Courage.” David earned the Harvard Business Review Management Idea of the Year for her emotional agility concept.

Entertainment Night on Tuesday, March 3, will feature Wynonna & The Big Noise, country music singer Wynonna Judd’s band and the title of her eighth studio album.

Other meeting highlights

NRECA President Curtis Wynn will address the second general session on March 3. The day will also feature introductions of the Youth Leadership Council and the address of this year’s council spokesperson, Kade McAdams, a member of Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Azle, Texas. The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Annual Meeting and the NRECA business meeting will follow.

And during the March 4 closing session, the association will honor the recipient of the Electric Cooperative Purpose Award.

Meanwhile, for the fifth year, NRECA’s Next Generation Leaders Experience will provide special programming for co-op employees who demonstrate leadership and management potential. In addition to regular Annual Meeting activities, participants will be able to attend special sessions on leadership development, learn about the NRECA resolutions process, and engage in networking opportunities.

Enhancements to this year’s program include an all-day forum on Sunday, March 1, dedicated to accountability and leadership. The program seeks to “help participants understand that when you’re a leader, you’re managing not only others but yourself. You’re also fostering relationships and helping them be the best they can be,” says Christine Miller, NRECA’s manager of executive education and training.

Other national cooperative organizations will hold their annual meetings in New Orleans throughout the week: National Information Solutions Cooperative and National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative on Sunday, March 1; National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation on Monday, March 2; and Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange on Tuesday, March 3.

Finally, don’t forget to purchase your tickets for the March 2 NRECA International lunch and Entertainment Night and the March 3 ACRE® breakfast.

2020 community service project

Annual meeting participants will have two opportunities to demonstrate their concern for community, the Seventh Cooperative Principle. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives will sponsor its 12th community service project on Saturday, Feb. 29, at Rebuilding Together New Orleans. One hundred spots are open for registration.

Can’t volunteer Feb. 29? Keep an eye out for upcoming information on another service project at the convention center in the Expo on Monday and Tuesday.

Learn more at the 2020 NRECA Annual Meeting website.

The Tech Advantage Experience

The TechAdvantage® Experience makes its debut in New Orleans this March, and organizers say the annual conference and technology exhibition will give attendees information and insight they can use throughout the year.

“We’ve rebranded TechAdvantage and enhanced its programming elements to expand opportunities for participants to forge relationships and adapt the presentations they see to meet their local challenges,” says Eric Commodore, NRECA’s director of meeting and event planning.

The TechAdvantage Experience takes place at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, March 1–4.

New to the conference this year is TechAdvantage ENCORE, a living database that launches two weeks after the actual event. Registered guests will be able to access videos and PDFs of all presentations through the end of November 2020.

“You can watch playbacks from your computer, tablet, or smartphone at your leisure,” says Mary Ackleson, TechAdvantage program manager. “We’re also making the experience available beginning in February as an advance-purchase standalone product for people who can’t travel to New Orleans to attend the show in person.”

Representatives of more than 300 exhibitors will be on hand throughout the conference to discuss the challenges electric co-ops face and the products and services they provide as solutions.

There are more than 70 breakout sessions, 14 pre-conference workshops, and 16 TechPark TechTalks on the schedule this year, says Steve Young, an NRECA marketing manager.

“This year’s topics include broadband and communications, cybersecurity, data analytics and data mining, disaster recovery, safety, and facilities management and security,” he says.

A “Women in Power” lunch on March 2 will provide networking opportunities for co-op executives and senior managers, Ackleson says.

“Conference attendees will also hear from some of the top presenters who were featured at IEEE’s Rural Electric Power Conference last spring,” she says.

The keynote speaker for the March 2 opening general session is security consultant Frank Abagnale, whose early experiences with fraud, embezzlement, and white-collar confidence schemes were chronicled in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Catch Me If You Can.

Entertainment night features award-winning vocalist Wynonna. Since debuting with the mother-daughter act The Judds in the 1980s, Wynonna has taken top female vocalist honors from the Academy of Country Music and has sold 30 million albums, while picking up more than 60 other recording industry awards. She now fronts The Big Noise, one of the top acts on the country/folk music scene.

TechAdvantage attendees are also invited to attend a special reception at New Orleans’s famous World War II Museum, where much of the technology on display was created during the early days of the electric cooperative movement, Commodore says.

“The TechAdvantage Experience is a destination conference in its own right and a perfect complement to the NRECA Annual Meeting, offering even more value for vendors and visitors alike.”

Check out the TechAdvantage website for more information.