Planning the Annual Meeting – A Look Behind the Scenes

By Leslie Pegram 

If you have ever planned an event or continuing education seminar, you know it takes a lot of time and resources. All Paralegal Division CPE planners are volunteers. They take time out of their already busy work days to send emails and hop on phone calls to discuss potential topics, locate speakers and work with Bar Center staff to get the meetings off the ground. While thinking of relevant and useful topics can be challenging, reaching out to attorneys, paralegals and other legal professionals to find potential speakers to ask if they are interested in speaking is even more challenging. All the while, you wait with fingers crossed, hoping that the speaker’s calendar is free on that date.

For live CPE programs, planners start six months out from the date, but for annual meetings, six months is the bare minimum, and it’s really more like 9 to 12 months. The Paralegal Division Council meets and tries to pick potential locations and dates a few years in advance. We then provide that information to the CLE department who work to secure the venue with our preferred dates. Unfortunately, there are times when location and/or date do not line up with the timing or location of previous years.

Once planning begins, in addition to the tasks noted above, an agenda and brochure have to be developed. Ideally, everything lines up perfectly, but in reality, planning is frenetic and unpredictable. Sometimes you are scrambling to get everything together, sometimes speakers drop out at the last minute (sending you into a panic to try to find a new speaker on [very] short notice) and sometimes you try your hardest, and even more is asked of you as a planner.

Each year, at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting, we request that attendees provide feedback, so that next year’s planners can have insight as they organize the meeting. Your feedback can lend value to planners: the most helpful comments are suggested topics/speakers to consider for the next year, while the least helpful comments are about the food, the room temperature, and/or the location. There are just some things that the planners have no control over, and sitting in the driver’s seat of being a planner this year has given me the vantage point and an appreciation for all who serve in a volunteer capacity as a planner. It’s not a glamorous role; in fact, I think it can be one of the least appreciated roles in the Division. We have been lucky to have had dedicated CPE Chairs over the years who strive to continually put on the best Annual Meetings. Historically, the Annual Meeting has had four tracks, which is a lot of speakers to coordinate. For this year’s meeting, we have modified the format, as our space configuration is different than in years past, with two general track options in the morning, followed by two paralegal panels and a wellness speaker in the afternoon. To enhance your Annual Meeting experience, the Division is hosting a low-country boil on the Thursday evening before at the hotel. We hope you will make plans to join your fellow Paralegal Division members at Wrightsville Beach!