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Keeping Pace at AIHce
How AIHce Has Changed to Meet Attendees’ Evolving Needs
By Cynthia A. Ostrowski, AIHA President-elect
In a few weeks, thousands of professionals will head to Philadelphia for AIHce EXP 2018. If you’re a regular conference attendee, you’ve no doubt noticed many changes in recent years. What you might not realize is that all of the changes were motivated by feedback AIHA received from attendees and commissioned research. The information below will help both new and returning attendees understand how and why the conference has developed over the years.  THREE-DAY FORMAT Perhaps the most noticeable change at last year’s conference in Seattle was the shortened length, from four days to three. AIHce EXP 2018 in Philadelphia will retain the three-day format. This change was motivated by data indicating that attendance on the fourth day plummeted in 2015 and 2016. By eliminating part of the program that wasn’t attracting many attendees, we’ve strengthened the core of the conference, with better-quality sessions spread across the remaining three days of programming. The shorter length also acknowledges the reality that today’s conference attendees tend to have limited funding for work-related travel. Early-career professionals, in particular, may be less likely to get funding for long trips, and this is the demographic AIHA is most in need of attracting to secure the future of the industrial hygiene profession. UNIFORM SCHEDULING  Another change that debuted in Seattle was the uniform one-hour session length. Previously, session lengths varied from one to four hours, which meant that technical sessions often competed with committee meetings. Varied session lengths also made scheduling breaks more difficult; in both 2015 and 2016, the only official break came after the general session on Tuesday morning. The uniform session length adopted in Seattle allowed conference organizers to incorporate 15-minute breaks between sessions and to schedule committee meetings at times that didn’t compete with educational programming. At AIHce EXP 2018, these changes will result in more volunteers attending technical sessions and interacting with younger attendees. If we’re serious about attracting the next generation of industrial hygiene practitioners, we need our most valuable resource—our volunteers—to participate in sessions alongside early-career professionals and first-time attendees. OPPORTUNITIES FOR CERTIFICATION MAINTENANCE For certified industrial hygienists, one of the most attractive benefits of AIHce is the ability to convert attendance into certification maintenance credits. Rules established by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene determined that AIHce attendees in 2015 and 2016 could use up to 36 hours of educational programming for certification maintenance.  Due to changes in ABIH rules and the adoption of the three-day schedule, AIHce attendees in Seattle could earn CM credits for up to 18 hours of education. To give attendees the option of accumulating more CM credits, registrants for the full conference were granted free access to recorded sessions through AIHce On Demand. Attendees who made the most of their AIHce On Demand access earned a total of 132 hours that could be used for CM credits. In 2018, full-conference registrants will again be granted free access to AIHce On Demand and can earn up to 20 hours on site in Philadelphia and more than 100 additional hours by viewing recorded sessions. RISE OF THE VIRTUAL CONFERENCE Some AIHce attendees and exhibitors have expressed concern that promotion of the virtual conference depresses attendance at the live event and decreases traffic on the Expo floor. However, studies conducted by the Professional Convention Management Association and Meeting Professionals International have shown that participation in virtual conferences doesn’t detract from in-person participation. In fact, these studies found that people who participate in a virtual conference are more likely to attend future live events. Most important, the virtual conference allows AIHA to better fulfill its educational mission. LONGER EXPO HOURS AIHce’s exhibitors are more than providers of equipment and services; they’re our partners in protecting worker health. To allow attendees more face time with exhibitors, we’ve kept the Expo open longer, from a total of 19.5 hours in 2015 to 20.5 in 2016 and 2017. We’ve also adjusted the conference schedule so that exhibitors are competing less with educational programming for attendees’ time: the “non-compete” time nearly doubled from 5 hours in 2015 to 9 hours in 2016 and 2017. On the next page you’ll find a list of exhibitors who will be in Philadelphia for AIHce EXP 2018. I encourage you to make time to visit the Expo—you just might find a partner who will help you improve worker health and safety. FIRST-RATE EXPERIENCE The goal of AIHce has always been to provide a first-rate educational experience. That goal hasn’t changed, but it’s essential for the conference to keep pace with attendees’ evolving needs. For more information about the changes at AIHce, please refer to the research reports on the AIHA website from the consulting companies Minding Your Business and Velvet Chainsaw (PDFs). And as always, don’t hesitate to contact me or any Board member with questions or feedback. CYNTHIA A. OSTROWSKI, CIH, is AIHA president-elect and owner of CAO Consulting near Detroit, Mich. She can be reached at (248) 421-4024 or via email.
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