How can a conference produce all of these outcomes? Our goal is to plan and deliver an extraordinary conference--every year! I hope the attendees had as positive an experience as I did at the 2013 ALR Annual Conference.
Informed: The presenters did not disappoint. They demonstrated that the research is becoming more sophisticated methodologically and conceptually, while becoming more relevant to policy-makers and practitioners. My only disappointment is that I could not go to more of the oral sessions, and I was not able to see all the posters. But the slides and abstracts will be posted on the ALR website so we can all catch up on what we missed.
Energized: To me, the magic of the ALR Conference is that people from so many disciplines, sectors, interests, and backgrounds come together, you never know what you are going to learn next. Hearing about the progress in our field energizes me. I learned about new research on Walk Score, Bike Score, and Transit Score. I heard that school physical activity policies are improving the lives of children. I learned about the progress in passing and implementing shared use policies in my home state of Mississippi. This evidence of research making a difference in people's lives across the country (and in other countries) is what keeps me excited about this field.
Active: I danced to Beatles music played by the Baja Bugs. I led a bike tour of the beach and boardwalk. I participated like many of you in the filming of an ALR Instant Recess® activity break. You’ll be able to find it on the ALR YouTube channel soon. I danced the Pata Pata from South Africa. Active Applause made a long conference active and tolerable. It has been difficult to convince other groups to include these kinds of active components in their meetings, but once you experience an active conference, you don't want to go back.
Connected: At the opening of the conference I challenged attendees to meet 20 new people, and I know I reached that goal. I met students from Germany who are trying to get more active living research in their country. I met a grantee who rode her bike across the US as well as her physician-mother, both of whom are advocating for evidence-based policy change. I met practitioners from transportation, parks, physical education, public health, and planning fields who attended so they can improve their practice.
Inspired: I was inspired by Mayor Mick Cornett's story of how he has engaged citizens to transform Oklahoma City and his explanation of how sidewalks, trails, and parks are playing a key role in the economic redevelopment of a major city. I was inspired by Laura Brennan's tenacity and creativity in creating the concepts and measures needed to evaluate Active Living by Design. She made it clear that improving active living is not easy, but there are many coalitions around the country who are creating healthier communities. I was inspired by the high school student who led a workshop tour and who has been a health advocate for four years already. The Story Slam was both inspiring and entertaining. I salute the brave storytellers for their creativity and vivacity.
Relaxed: Though the ALR Conference is a non-stop event for me, I was oddly relaxed throughout. The physical activity, the warm social interactions, the welcoming atmosphere, and being surrounded by water had a calming effect. And the perfect weather did its part too. I appreciate all the public and private compliments on the meeting and thanks for the positive role ALR has played in the professional lives of many.
Grateful: Thanks to the superb co-chairs, Maya Rockeymoore and Christine Economos, for making our vision of an integrated research and policy/practice conference a roaring success. Thanks to the Program Committee for choosing outstanding presentations amid tough competition that led to more than 25% of submissions being rejected. And thanks to our dedicated ALR staff for their year of planning and to other staff and students from our office for pitching in. Now it's time to look forward to ALR 2014.
That's my ALR 2013 experience. What's yours?