I was lucky enough to attend the Nonprofit Innovation and Optimization (NIO) Summit a couple of weeks ago, and it didn’t disappoint. The folks at NextAfter really know how to make an event more than just a break from the office. Here are my biggest takeaways from this year’s NIO Summit.
1. Attendees really wanted to be there
This should probably go without saying, but I was amazed by how engaged and energetic the attendees were. I moved around the theater between each presentation, and I was always surrounded by careful notetakers and attentive listeners. I saw teams of do-gooders whispering about how they can implement practices and strategies into their organizations. These folks didn’t go to NIO to get out of the office for a few days. They went because they care about making their organizations and communities better. Such a great atmosphere.
2. It pays to get involved
Right as I entered the beautiful Aztec Theater in San Antonio, I was given my name tag and a small pouch of what were called “swag jewels.” These jewels could be used to purchase an array of merchandise: shirts, cups, bags and more. Attendees could earn jewels by speaking with sponsors at their booths and attending optional “innovation showcases” each morning and afternoon. It was the perfect way to add value to the conference while keeping attendees engaged between presentations. I was all about those jewels, I’m tellin’ ya.
3. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
One thing the NIO Summit does incredibly well is balance educational content and networking opportunities. On Wednesday evening, before the conference even started, there was a party at the Aztec Theater for attendees who arrived in San Antonio early. There were games, prizes and a whole lot of business card exchanges.
After the first day’s content concluded, NIO hosted a happy hour with complimentary food and drinks, right there in the theater. It was super casual, and it seemed like almost everyone participated. I overheard perfect strangers talk about their respective organizations and communities, and some folks even made dinner plans with each other. So cool.
That evening, there was yet another opportunity to let loose and network with attendees, this time in the form of a party with live music. People were laughing, dancing, singing. It was a beautiful evening and the perfect way to cap off a packed day of amazing presentations.
4. Place matters
NIO 2018 was held in one of the most beautiful theaters I’ve ever seen, right on the historic riverwalk in San Antonio. There were plenty of opportunities to explore the city, admire the architecture and enjoy the cuisine (I had some baja fish tacos that blew my mind). Conferences like these truly are all about what you take away, but it doesn’t hurt if the locale is as inspiring as the stories you hear and the lessons you learn.
Bravo, NIO Summit. You’ve outdone yourselves.
If you want to attend next year’s event in Denver, use the promo code NPHUB and receive $300 off of your ticket!