AORE Annual Report 2015 - Page 8

Who is Event Garde?

Event Garde is a professional development consulting firm that employs a versatile skill set and a wealth of experience to create well-connected leaders. The Event Garde team is committed to lifelong learning, for themselves and for their clients, believing in its ability to produce transformational experiences that advance innovation. Sharing their deep knowledge, Event Garde is dedicated to performance improvement for the professionals they serve and those who attend the events they facilitate.

While Event Garde helps others learn differently, network successfully and transfer effectively, they:

-Advocate for programs that engage participants as active learners;

-Promote out-of-the-box networking strategies with a purpose; and

-Emphasize post-program learning transfer to foster workplace application.

Event Garde is led by Michigan native Aaron Wolowiec. Wolowiec is a talented and passionate learning strategist and meetings coach whose diverse achievements guide and propel association goals and initiatives, especially as they relate to professional development. Wolowiec has more than a decade of experience in the meetings industry, has taught for three years at a Michigan college and is a newly minted Wilderness First Aid graduate.

Additionally, Wolowiec is a certified association executive, a certified meeting professional and a certified tourism ambassador, has earned a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University (with a concentration in leadership) and is an Association for Talent Development Master Instructional Designer. An active member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Wolowiec is chairman of the Professional Development Section Council, as well as past chairman of the Young Association Executives Committee and a 2009-2011 Diversity Executive Leadership Program scholar.

Both Cally Hill and Kate Pojeta support Wolowiec’s work with AORE. Hill serves as the firm’s director of client relations. She drives organizational growth by building and maintaining relationships with both existing and prospective clients. Additionally, Hill leads many of the firm’s strategic marketing initiatives, including outreach to association leaders nationwide, and facilitates a number of financial recordkeeping responsibilities in collaboration with the organization’s accountant. Throughout the year, Hill coordinates meetings with AORE staff and volunteers, and is responsible for the annual conference emergency management plan, inventory, shipping and purchasing.

Pojeta is Event Garde’s conventions and exhibitions manager. Early in her career, Pojeta served as association coordinator for the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, where she managed two associations focusing on developing leadership students and advisers. Coordinating about 40 conferences, meetings and camps annually gave her extensive experiences in event and information management. On top of the conferences, boards, marketing, membership and other duties that came with the job, Pojeta was also responsible for the association’s in-house technology projects and websites. For AORE she now focuses on meeting management, including audiovisual, food and beverage, housing and transportation.

Leading AORE to Success

As part of its work with AORE, the Event Garde team recently mapped the association’s mission and vision statements, core values and strategic plan (where it specifically addresses AORE’s strategic education, learning or professional development outcomes) to:

Specific and narrow objectives intended to help achieve the association’s strategic goals; and

Clear metrics intended to measure/evaluate attainment of these goals and objectives.

Additionally, a mission statement specific to the annual conference was developed to ensure all association stakeholders universally understand the event’s purpose. It reads as follows:

The mission of the AORE Annual Conference is to provide professionals, students and organizations who advance the field of outdoor recreation and education the opportunity to learn, network and improve performance while ensuring the association’s financial viability.

Finally, financial goals were established, including board-approved revenue goals for registration, the silent and live auctions, exhibitors, sponsorships and both pre- and post-conference workshops, among others.

Similarly, non-financial goals were established. Following are just a few examples:

Ensure attendees learn both about AORE’s current initiatives and about three to five best practices, products and services to advance their programs.

Create an environment in which attendees are reunited with old friends and meet/network with a diverse audience of at least seven to 10 individuals.

Guide attendees in identifying and then transferring three takeaways in support of performance improvement within the first 30 days post-conference.

Each of 14 total financial and non-financial goals were then assigned an intentional road map of objectives and metrics designed to support, measure and evaluate success.

Engaging AORE Leaders

AORE has expanded Event Garde’s scope of work this year to extend to those action items of AORE committees, the Board of Directors and the National Office staff that directly relate to the annual conference (i.e., only conference-related deliverables). As part of this engagement, Event Garde will:

Establish roles, responsibilities, expectations and norms;

Seek understanding of all National Office-approved volunteer outcomes;

Support the breakdown of high-level outcomes into step-by-step action items;

Provide input on timelines for the completion of all action items;

Establish benchmarks, metrics and reporting mechanisms for status updates;

Help volunteers and staff work within established budget parameters;

Facilitate effective communication across committees, the Board of Directors, the National Office staff and the conference host team;

Unify education design across all platforms (e.g., breakout sessions, Summit Series, Research Symposium, pre-/post-conference workshops, experiential learning and Career Center sessions);

Hold meetings by phone/video with volunteers and staff, as necessary;

Facilitate and respond to email/phone communications with volunteers and staff between meetings; and

Encourage the establishment of standard operating procedures and standard documents/forms.

In this capacity, Wolowiec and his team will have a greater presence among AORE’s volunteer leaders. They will also have greater flexibility to combine their knowledge of the AORE annual conference with their substantial meeting management expertise to ensure conference-related initiatives are planned and implemented in a cohesive and collaborative way.

Get Connected

Event Garde: Learn. Network. Transfer.


By Aaron D. Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA

advancing a field one conference at a time