Connection and Lifelong Learning at CalSAE Seasonal Spectacular 2023

SAFE Credit Union Convention Center
The SAFE Credit Union Convention Center

The California Society of Association Executives annual event, CalSAE Seasonal Spectacular 2023, saw Sacramento’s SAFE Credit Union Convention Center transformed into a holiday wonderland, with attendees from across the Golden State, and even representatives from its neighbors to the north and the east, Oregon and Nevada. As guests entered the convention center, they saw attendees dressed in festive red and green garb all around, from ugly Christmas sweaters to stylish holiday patterns.

This year’s Seasonal Spectacular took place from Tuesday, Dec. 12 to Wednesday, Dec. 13, and welcomed over 1,000 attendees and exhibitors. At the annual event, West Coast association professionals gather for an expansive tradeshow, business solution appointments, education programs and networking to close out the year with a festive twist.

“Our collective aim for this year is to create a platform where each participant not only gains valuable insights but also cultivates lasting connections that extend far beyond the event itself,” wrote Seasonal Spectacular co-chairs Flavia Olivera, director of sales and travel trade at Visit Santa Cruz County, and Rachel Hickerson, CMP, association executive and senior event manager at Advocacy & Management Group, Inc., in their official welcome. “The diversity of perspectives and wealth of knowledge within this community promise an experience full of inspiration and growth.” Inspiring, it certainly was.

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Education for Prosperity, in Life and Work

On the first day, attendees met one-on-one with select industry partners to efficiently connect with organizations that offer solutions specific to their association’s needs. Day two kicked off with a keynote speech from author and public speaker Lisa Braithwaite, M.A., who specializes in mentoring purpose-driven business leaders to deliver their own meaningful presentations that help grow their businesses.

Her book, “Presenting for Humans: Insights for Speakers on Ditching Perfection and Creating Connection,” addresses this in depth. In her keynote, “Networking for Humans: Connecting with Purpose,” Braithwaite discussed the difficulties within networking, such as stress and lack of follow-up, and encouraged listeners to view the exercise as connection first, business second.

We are all humans, at the end of the day, and this means that being seen, heard and valued is the most essential part of networking for everyone. Braithwaite’s keynote sought to offer listeners insight into tools and strategies that make networking an experience of both connection and business success.

After the keynote, attendees took part in their choice of two concurrent education sessions, addressing everything from AI-powered engagement to mastering negotiation.

Also offered was a workshop called, “The Artful Conversation.” Participants took part in an interactive session that blended presentation, discussion and exercises to gain a deeper insight into how people perceive and process conflict to improve their communication skills, as well as how to adapt their work style to work more effectively with friends and colleagues.

Networking with Joy

Following a decadent Christmas-dinner style luncheon, finished off with a rustic apple pie and house-made whipped cream, attendees headed to the shining star of the event: the tradeshow.

Smart Meetings Editor Eric Hasse with Ventura County Coast's Surfin' Santa
Smart Meetings Publisher Eric Hasse with Ventura County Coast’s Surfin’ Santa

In the nearly 38,000-square-foot Exhibit Hall A which housed the tradeshow, only part of the renovated venue’s total 240,000 sq. ft. of programmable space, rows upon rows of exhibitors manned extravagantly decorated booths and met with attendees as they milled through the isles.

Every booth offered a taste of the exhibitor’s unique character—See Monterey featured round walls that displayed Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jellyfish, where attendees could stand on a 360-photobooth platform as a video camera whirled around them and captured a memento video clip; Ventura County Coast snapped photos of attendees with Surfin’ Santa Claus; and the Visit Visalia, Visalia Convention Center, Visalia Marriott at the Convention Center and Wyndham Visalia booth served champagne and featured a harpist in an elegant set that transported visitors into a lounge setting in the middle of a trade show.

An Event with Impact

Harpist at Visalia Booth at CalSAE Seasonal Spectacular 2023The holiday season is the time of giving, and CalSAE Seasonal Spectacular 2023 made certain it wasn’t overlooked. While the names of attendees who had won gifts from exhibitors were called, attendees and exhibitors alike visited the Julie’s Purse Project booth, where they could make donations and even assemble purses filled with essential items that would be given to women in need.

Lindsay Poss, CMP, CalSAE director of meetings and events, headed the team, which dedicated six months of the year to organizing the annual one-and-a-half-day event. They are celebrating a few notable accomplishments this year, including sponsorships exceeding the budgeted goal, over 40% new exhibitors recruited and over a quarter of the total attendees being first-timers.

What a fantastic way to close out the year—we’re already counting down the days until the next one.

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