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June 15, 2015
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Americas: How One Association Reinvented Its 90-Year-Old Annual Conference


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CWEA Director of Education and Training Julie Taylor, CAE

For 90 years the California Water Environment Association had used the same basic format for its 2,000-attendee annual conference for clean-water professionals: A four-hour keynote kickoff session, followed by three days of mainly technical, peer-driven content offered in 12 tracks, organized by specialty. And it worked fine—until the Great Recession hit and attendance started to drop. As attendance began to rebound when the economy did, CWEA Director of Education and Training Julie Taylor, CAE, thought the time was right to grow the annual conference by giving it a much-needed makeover.

In her previous job with the American Management Association, Taylor had become familiar with a participatory learning model “where people would learning something, try it, adapt it,” and then repeat the process, she says. “When people got to participate in their learning, they actually transferred what they learned to what they did when they left the event.” 

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