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Best of NAMA 2020

It was going to be a remarkable meeting, and it got off to a running start. Well, the armadillos were running. Editors and publishers were down on their hands and knees yelling at the armadillos to put on some speed.

This was the Agricultural Publications Summit, held recently in San Antonio, Texas, and marking the second time the American Agricultural Editors' Association (AAEA), the Agricultural Publishers Association (APA) and the Livestock Publications Council (LPC) joined forces in a single conference for their annual meetings and professional development programs. About 460 registered attendees enjoyed almost four days of seminars and awards programs.

The armadillo races at the Summit's opening night event helped raise money for student scholarship funds. Teams representing AAEA, APA, LPC and a 'wild card' team competed against each other.

"This year we tried fewer but better programs and I think we were successful," says Karen McMahon, AAEA president and Farm Industry News senior editor. "Most attendees had high marks for the programs, including the meal speakers. I heard many wonderful comments about Nolan Ryan and People magazine's Susan Toepfer."

Professional improvement sessions ranged from an all-day workshop by communication design consultant Jan White called "How to Catch and Hold the Reader," to sessions on digital photography, interviewing, editing, recruiting and managing a staff, selling, new technology for journalists, e-commerce, reader research, biotechnology, ethics, web publishing law, using photos and global communications.

"The workshops, like Jan White's, were a big hit," says Greg Lamp, InfoExpo co-chair and Soybean Digest editor. "They offered something for everyone."

"I'd say this was the best editorial professional improvement program I've ever attended," he reports.

Combining the organizations for the Summit was a shot in the arm for the InfoExpo trade show, according to exhibitor and workshop presenter Sonia Wasco, president of Grant Heilman Photography.

"Grant Heilman Photography (GHP) has been exhibiting with the AAEA InfoExpo since its inception," Wasco says. "In this respect, the Summit has doubled the exhibitors in attendance and also doubled the number of attendees at the conference. Though the fee to rent the booth space has gone up proportionately, the increased number of exhibitors and attendees has turned the InfoExpo into a much greater promotional tool for GHP."

Most exhibiting companies reported heavy traffic from editors. InfoExpo sold out early and extra booths were put up in the lobby to accommodate additional exhibitors.

"I believe this was the most successful InfoExpo ever," McMahon says. "We added more hours and activities to the exhibit hall and it apparently paid off."

AAEA and LPC used the meeting to critique photography and articles submitted to contests and to hand out awards to their members recognizing their professional achievements.

In racing achievements, however, it was the LPC that earned bragging rights in the armadillo races.

"I guess since the Livestock Publications Council had the top two teams in the armadillo races, we obviously know our livestock," says Jim Jennings, LPC president and senior director of publications, American Quarter Horse Association.

"It was a great way to kick off the meeting," he says. "Everyone met a lot of new people, and it kind of set the tone for the rest of the week."

APA president Ron Sorensen, publisher, Intertec Publishing, agrees the races were a great start for the Summit, but offers a slightly different perspective.

"As captain of the (losing) APA armadillo racing team, it would have been nice to have had a practice heat or two," Sorensen says. "But, considering the situation from a pure olfactory perspective, I am not sure I could have stood the smell of the Ždillo that long."

Smelly or not, the armadillo races, combined with the auction of a seat at Nolan Ryan's lunch table plus a baseball shirt, and a silent auction, all brought in more than $7,000, which will be split evenly between the AAEA and LPC scholarship funds.

Next year's Summit is scheduled for July 25 through 28 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"When you look at the editorial horsepower that was in attendance, it is clear that the Summit is being viewed a major agricultural event," Sorensen says.

Lamp agrees. "It was a great meeting," he says. "I hope next year's can equal this. It will be a tough act to follow."

After all, how can you top racing armadillos that can bring publishers and editors to their knees? AM

Debby Hartke is a writer and communications consultant based in St. Louis, Mo.

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