The Ultimate Canadian Museum Association National Conference 2024 Guide

How to make the most out of the Canadian Museum Association National Conference 2024 before, during, and after.

The Ultimate Canadian Museum Association National Conference 2024 Guide
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP / Unsplash

If you work in a Museum or Heritage center, April 9-11th, 2024 is when your kind of people come together. Finally, you get to be in a room with people who understand your world, your challenges, and your passion. For these 3 days you can leave behind, that anxious feeling of having to explain your job to people who might not understand it.

You are among friends, enjoy yourself. 

Before the conference

Niagara Falls from the Canadian side showing the tourist attractions around the conference
Photo by Kalen Emsley / Unsplash

Hosted in the Niagara Falls area, I encourage you to try and go a day early, or stay for a couple of days after, check out the tourism scene, and allow yourself a little relaxation, you deserve it.

Review Essential Reports for Museum Professionals

The conference will explore some of the most recent landmark reports such as the CMA's Moved to Action and Reconsidering Museums, along with the accompanying toolkit. I highly recommend you download these documents and read them before arriving, perhaps some reading on the plane. 

Maximizing Pre-Conference Networking

I often take to LinkedIn to connect with some of the other attendees and speakers, prior to the event. If there are speakers or delegates that I know I want to talk to, I will even send invites suggesting a meet-up at a certain break. 

During the conference

If you arrive early enough, I’d also recommend the pre-conference visit to the Woodland Cultural Centre. This former residential school is a site to see, its exhibits are truly moving and its collection of Indigenous-focused libraries and archives is among the most extensive in Canada.

They offer some other great pre-conference opportunities like visiting the Indigenous Niagara Heritage and Legacy Tour or a Niagara on the Lake Museum and Fort Mississauga Tour.

Like all conferences, I get the most out of the networking, so be sure to get there early on the day of the event to take in the breakfast and networking.

I often take selfies with the people I meet, with both of us holding up our name tags - it seems corny but people respond well to it and then when you send follow-up emails, you can attach the picture - trust me it is memorable.

Once you have fueled up with caffeine you get to enjoy the kick-off with Bernadette Lynch – an icon in the museum space – having worked in Museums since the 1980s and having her PhD, this speaker knows your challenges and your opportunities, she is a master space maker.

Lynch's keynotes are always thought-provoking, not to mention the way she delivers stories from around the globe, it will not disappoint.   

Strategic Planning at Museum Conferences

Two open books depicting a museum professional planning out their conference strategy
Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

The next two days will be filled with wise and experienced speakers. To get the most out of the schedule, prioritize sessions that resonate with both your current challenges and your long-term goals. If you have a colleague attending, split up sessions and share notes for maximum knowledge gain.

I also recommend reviewing your strategic plan before you go and doing your best to pick the speakers that are most topical to the direction you are heading.

We are often pulled to the topics we already know the most about or are topical to today's priorities, but I’d argue that you likely know what you need to for the things you are working on today, it's tomorrow you need to consider. All too often I have gone to the wrong sessions because I wasn’t thinking far enough out. Think about where you want to be in 5 years and which speakers will help you get there. Make a plan and be intentional, you will thank me later.

Finding Solutions at the Trade Show

top-down picture of people evaluating software solutions at a trade show
Photo by Product School / Unsplash

The next thing you want to contemplate is the trade show. Similar to my approach to the speakers, I recommend you do the same for the vendors, consider your 5-year strategy, and only look for what you might need.

Don’t lose valuable networking time by talking to vendors you either don’t need or those you can talk to next week when you are back in the office. The vendor space can be a nice ‘taste test’ of what innovations are coming into the industry, but be sure to do your due diligence before landing on solutions.

Learn what you can about vendors, and then go home and do your homework, who are the competitors, the range of pricing, and all your options. Save the meetings until after the conference. 

Keep in mind that the vendors are a small sample size of all your options in the marketplace. Take memoryKPR for example, a new CMA member. Our team won’t be able to be there on the vendor floor this year, but we’d love to meet you.

Our software is a storytelling and digital asset management platform that is focused on privacy, safety, and meaningful storytelling for Museums and Heritage Centers.

We are a great alternative to help you with your digital asset management and digital storytelling. We aren’t saying we are the only ones, we know other systems can do some of the things we can do, but we know we can do it better and for less. 

If you are looking at software solutions at the tradeshow, I have included some questions you should ask. As we are unable to be there, I have also included how we would answer these same questions.

Vendor Questions

Where is your company's ownership and head office? 

We are Canadian Owned and Operated.

What data do you capture and share?

We on access agnostic data, never crossing the line into data collection or commoditization, so you still have good reporting but can feel safe that your visitors and donors are safe.

How private are my stories / archived materials?

We keep them safe, you decide how you want to share and with whom, our pages are not indexed on Google and we believe in consent-driven sharing - so you get to decide on your privacy.

How safe are my archives?

We keep backups and we also keep your content separate from any sensitive information such as payments, log in etc, nothing is 100% but safety is our priority.

Do you observe Indigenous Data Sovereignty Principles?

At memoryKPR this one is VERY important to us, we ensure you have ownership, control, access, and possession of all your assets, you can use and download all your content and we do not watermark your content, our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions all start with our commitment to you, your stories and your data sovereignty, it's in our DNA.

What happens if we don’t like your software? 

Some software companies make this hard, so you won’t leave, not us, we are so confident you will like our software that we make it easy for you to leave if you change your mind, we don’t own your content, you do, heck we’d even help you download it all if you wanted to leave, but we think you’d just get a sense of our great customer service and stay 🙂.

How well do you know Museums?

You can check out our Museum Page and our blog page, where some of our best Museum use cases are highlighted to see just how well we know museums. We are happy to share references as well. 

If I talked to your existing customers what would they say?

Our customers enjoy how easy and affordable our technology is to use, they like that you can gather donations on story pages, and they love how easy it is to gain engagement in stories but consistently, our customers state our customer service and accessibility as the number 1 reason they love memoryKPR.

Museum Conference Takeaways and Actionable Insights for Growth

museum professionals collaborating at a coffee shop on a laptop
Photo by Ilyuza Mingazova / Unsplash

Conferences are investments in your career and your institution. Approach the event with purpose, connect with those who share your passion, and leave feeling inspired. This is your time to learn, grow, and make a lasting impact on the museum community!

Actively participate in the conference to retain information and demonstrate your enthusiasm to others. Take notes, ask questions, and join discussions. This will not only benefit your own learning but also create opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals.

Building strong relationships fosters collaboration and keeps the conversation going long after the conference ends.

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