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Conference 2023 - T-41 Weeks (Long Post Warning!)

19 Dec 2022 2:30 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)

Where did the last three weeks go???

I'm sure we're all in the same boat and this month has been BUSY for all of us outside of conference planning. BUT we did get some things accomplished this past week. I met with the PR Committee and it was such a great meeting. Mandy Keziah has this group off to a great start. I was thrilled to see how she took our humble initial ideas and is running with them and making them even better. They will start really going in early January. Be on the lookout for information from them on their side of conference planning. 

Heath and I met with Colleen Graham to go over Vendor stuff. We’re going to have a larger vendor space and while that is awesome for our attendees (and bottom line), it does make for more work, so we needed to get on the same page and get ready for the craziness that will be January. During this meeting, we promoted Colleen to Assistant Co-Director of Conference, which isn’t exactly a title yet, we made it up, but it seemed appropriate since she’ll need to know everything going on conference-wise to be the vendor liaison. :-) We had a really fantastic brainstorm session and decided to change some things up so we can keep our Conference fresh. 

  • Change #1:The cost of food at Benton is ASTRONOMICAL. Like, seriously, ridiculously high, and went even higher for this past conference, with no sign of coming back down. Our food minimum is $12,000 and meals start at $36 per person. Snacks start at $10 per person per 30 minutes. Check out the menu here to see what we’re working with:
    We discussed and discussed and discussed (we met for almost 2.5 hours!) and decided we had two options: 1) Increase the cost of registration by $20 across the board to be able to cover the big meal for everyone. 2) Ask that people who want the big meal to add $20 to their registration to cover half the cost. It’ll be an Italian buffet, $40-$50 per person. We chose Option 2 because when we go to conferences, sometimes it’s fun to find your own food and do we really go to a conference for the convention center food? There will not be a keynote during this lunch time. It would be a time for relaxation and camaraderie. There will also be no extra tickets, so if you don’t buy the ticket up front, you will need to eat in one of the fantastic restaurants around Benton. But fear not! Our PR Committee will be putting together a list of restaurants that support NCSLMA. 

  • Change #2: We are making sure there are times for breaks, snacks, and drinks throughout the day. By having part of the big meal covered, it helps us spread the love around. 

  • Change #3: Instead of having an author panel, we will have a storyteller’s panel to match this year’s theme. We are working on getting professional storytellers from all different points of view to share with us how they make magic happen via storytelling. Storytelling is such a huge part of our jobs and I am really excited at the prospect of having professional storytellers there. 

  • Change #4: (tentative) The Vendor Reception may be going away. I have reached out to some vendors to see what their thoughts are on it. It is not well attended and the food for it would cost around $6,000. It may be time for something new. 

  • Change #5: We heard from a lot of you that the workshops weren’t well-attended. So in 2023, we will only have a couple of workshops, but they will be given by our storytellers and/or keynotes on Saturday. We know Saturday is usually sparsely attended, but with our main keynote (fingers crossed) being Saturday morning and these professional workshops afterwards, we are hoping you will stay and get the full conference experience. 

Then I met with Bitsy and Cindy to talk about some ideas they had that jived exactly with the changes we had in mind and we talked through all of those and potential issues that might come up. It helps so much to have the guidance and support of people who have done it before. I looped Heath in on that and he has sent off a request to Benton and Embassy to see if we can make some of these happen. Due to meeting space constraints at Benton, there may have to be more and bigger changes, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, hopefully sooner rather than later. I'm a planner and not having things lined up in plenty of time stresses me out. Heath is having a heck of a time getting people at Benton and Embassy to return e-mails. The struggles we're having make Koury Convention Center and its one-stop-shop look really good right now. 

I say it every time and I still can’t say it enough. I am so grateful for the people who are helping with Conference. I don’t know how anyone can do all this with just a couple of people. We literally have a minimum of eighteen people helping with all of this. It is definitely taking a village and I hope we are laying the groundwork for an easier conference-planning experience for everyone in the future. 

If you have questions, ideas, comments, etc., feel free to e-mail me at or Heath at


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