Karen T. Braeckel
HSPA Foundation

We all lived to tell about it.

Survival through our first combined conference ranked at the top of our staff’s list – and we made it.

Members told us they like the new format of the HSPA & Foundation Annual Conference that began with the Foundation’s Golf Outing, followed by the Governor’s Reception and dinner, then a day of sessions that saw three previously separate conferences rolled into one.

The two-day event culminated with the Indiana Newspaper Advertising Executives Association/HSPA Foundation Awards Gala where we celebrated the best in advertising.

According to a survey of conference attendees, 93 percent of respondents rated the conference as excellent (22.7) or very good (70.7). And 71 percent said the length is about right with 19 percent checking slightly or somewhat too long.

We send a big thank you to all who attended and helped with the event – and more applause goes to the 75 participants who took the time to answer our electronic survey. Our response rate equaled 53 percent – higher than the 41.2 percent average online survey response rate for sample sizes less than 1,000, reported by SuperSurvey.

Four areas stood out in an open-ended survey question: “What did you like about the conference?” Speakers received the most references (27), with Kevin Slimp mentioned most often. The topics and format tied with networking for second (15), while the venue and location came in third (13).

Respondents liked the buzz created by the larger attendance and the mix of departments.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a few things stood out in “What did you dislike about it?” Nothing or similar responses appeared most often (14). We love this one: “To be honest, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like.”

End earlier on Friday came in second (8) with parking and round tables tying for third (6 each). One respondent called the parking rates outrageous. Probably few would disagree.

Ironically, the number of people who mentioned disliking the round tables equaled the number of those who liked them.

Some 82 percent preferred we hold the conference in September or October. (We assume only a few people will miss the drive to Indy in the traditional Annual Meeting snow storm.) Slightly more than half (54 percent) prefer to keep the same events in the conference next year.

When asked what was missing, 19 said nothing in one form or another. One said nothing but Nancy Grossman, publisher of the Leader Publishing Co. (Salem) and an HSPA Foundation board member, who was ill.

Others mentioned topics they want included – design sessions (3), single copy (1), digital sales (1), pay for content (1), and editorial (1). Some said camaraderie after hours (1), more papers involved and more networking opportunities (1), and more round tables (2).

One suggestion would add a little ceremony to the golf outing: “(Foundation Board President) Jack Pate singing the National Anthem before the golf tournament.” (I did not make this up!)

And one added snow.

Some 87 percent of those responding (54) want round tables included.

As we look toward next year, a review committee will evaluate the survey comments and meet by phone in a few weeks.

The committee includes: Brandon Erlacher, publisher, The Elkhart Truth; Kristin Johnson, classified advertising manager, Kokomo Trib­une; Patrick Lanman, publisher, Vevay Media Group; Laurie Ragle, advertising director, Hoosier-Times; Tim Smith, circulation director, Hoosier-Times; Bryan Stur­geon, director of marketing and sales distribution, The Indianapolis Star; Pete Van Baalen, advertising director, The Herald-Bulletin (Ander­son); Terry Ward, COO, KPC Media Group; and Chris White, publisher, The Times (Munster).

If you attended the conference and did not respond to the survey, you may still use the link in your unique email invitation. Or contact a planning committee member.

These individuals won Visa gift cards in the drawing of those who completed the survey by the Oct. 3 deadline: Victoria Dinges, Hoosier-Times (Bloomington) – $50; Anita Emigh, The Tribune (Seymour) – $25; and Andy Wilkins, Greenfield Daily Reporter – $25.

One respondent summed up the evaluation this way: “It was the first one, we all have ‘growing pains,’ but I feel like it’s going in the right direction.”

We agree – on all counts.

Karen T. Braeckel is director of the HSPA Foundation.

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