Uniting the 1,200 Conferences

by Dafina McMillan

in National Conference,Uncategorized

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A conference of 1,200 attendees is not just a single event: in many ways, it is 1,200 entirely unique conferences—1,200 different experiences that overlap, collide or pass each other by. This was one big take away from the very different responses to our 2012 National Conference: Model the Movement in Boston. We also learned from our 2012 Fall Forum on Governance: Leading the Charge—that having a clear focus, as we did with diversity and inclusion—allowed us to go deeper than we ever have before.

But how do we really plan 1,200 separate conferences as we gear up for our 2013 National Conferences in Dallas? How can we create more focused and impactful programming so there still is a shared experience? How do we create meaningful journeys for everyone who attends?

At our 2013 National Conference: Learn Do Teach in Dallas this coming June 6-8, we’ll match need to knowledge—and mobilize action groups around shared goals—to make this our most focused, impactful conference yet! We realize we can’t have 1,200 separate conferences, but we can have clear programmatic arcs, and ensure plenary and breakout sessions are as responsive and uniquely tailored to attendees as possible.

And, well… we just can’t do it without you. Please take a moment to share what you want to Learn, Do and Teach in Dallas through our Conference Planning Form. Here are four things to know about this Conference that make it special:

  1. The Conference Planning Form replaces the traditional RFP: Rather than guess which breakout sessions attendees might find valuable, we’re identifying key needs now. What do you want to Learn? We’ll identify others ready to Teach for breakout sessions that make the most of your precious time.
  2. Learn Do Teach is for everyone: No, really, for everyone. While only Member Theatre staff are guaranteed admittance to the Conference, we strongly encourage all theatre people to fill out the Conference Planning Form. Individual Artists can be nominated by our Member Theatres, and anyone that makes a persuasive case for what we should Learn Do Teach will be considered.
  3. Just Do It: Want to transform how our field thinks about audience engagement? Set some audacious outcomes for an equitable theatre world? This Conference will also be an opportunity for mobilizing and action-planning around shared goals. How do you want to change the world today?
  4. You can fill out the form more than once: If you have nine things you want to Learn, five things to Teach and three goals for the field you’re burning to Do, keep filling the form out—there is no limit, and the more we know, the better your Conference will be.

In coming weeks, my fellow conference and communications team members—the amazing Devon Berkshire and Gus Schulenburg—and I will explain more about how we intend to use this Conference Planning Form beyond the National Conference itself—and share some programmatic arcs we’re considering. But for now, please take a moment to share what YOU want to Learn Do Teach. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty—learning, doing, teaching—and take ownership of this movement we share.


Dafina McMillan serves as the director of communications & conferences for Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for not-for-profit theatre. In this role, Dafina oversees the overall internal and external communications strategy – as well as programs TCG’s convenings, including the TCG National Conference, which gathers more than 1,000 theatre practitioners annually. Prior to joining TCG, Dafina served as the associate managing director of Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul, MN, where she managed the day-to-day operations for the theatre, which included communications, fundraising, overseeing the annual fundraising gala and working directly with the board of directors. While previously in New York, she was an account supervisor at global public relations agency GCI Group (now Cohn & Wolfe) and implemented communication strategies for Fortune 500 companies. Dafina has served as a speech writer, led executive visibility and corporate social responsibility campaigns, supported brand launches, and worked with national media to secure online, print and broadcast coverage for her clients. She also consulted with the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on marketing and community engagement initiatives. Dafina is an alumna of The John F. Kennedy Center’s International Arts Management Fellowship in Washington, D.C. Originally from Houston, TX, she received her bachelor of science degree in public relations from the University of Texas at Austin.

  • Cindy

    Where will the conference be located in Dallas, and what is conference fee?