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Riding the Virtual Wave of Thought Leadership with SURGE 2017

Arianna Rehak and her team at AssociationSuccess.org had an idea - a very big idea. Design and host a unique three-day summit featuring a select group of noted thought leaders and insiders from the association industry, bringing them together with association professionals from around the world under one virtual roof. And through the gathering, facilitate productive and meaningful conversation around innovation and change for the association world at large. SURGE 2017 was designed to deliver 12 hours of original content over three consecutive days, delivered by more than 30 presenters, coupled with simultaneous live chat between attendees and presenters throughout the event. On the surface, it seems like a daunting task. For Arianna and the dedicated team at AssociationSuccess.org the journey to create SURGE was much more than that - it was a labor of love.


As the work required to develop the concepts behind SURGE grew, so did the technological needs to deliver the user experience needed for both presenters and attendees alike - an experience that would drive conversation and ultimately spark collaborative innovation long after the event ended. In the process of building the content and recruiting the presenters for SURGE, Arianna quickly realized they were creating a totally unique type of event. In her search to find the right platform to host this ambitious summit, Arianna reached out to a number of technology providers, all whom came back with responses ending up at the same stopping point - they did not have the full functionality needed to make the vision of SURGE 2017 a reality. Then while discussing a possible content submission for SURGE with Rick Rutherford, VP of Association Solutions for CE21, the conversation shifted to dealing with the frustration of not being able to find the right platform to host the summit. After Arianna shared both her vision and pressing technology needs, the team at CE21 quickly came up with a strategy to work with AssociationSuccess.org and develop the functionality needed to transform SURGE into the unique virtual experience originally envisioned.

We finally came across CE21 and it was a completely different conversation. They totally understood the vision - they totally understood the importance of this event we were creating. - Arianna Rehak

Utilizing CE21's Classrooms, the Surge team gathered the prerecorded video sessions from each of the presenters and edited them into four hour blocks for each day of the conference. SURGE was presented as a live webcast allowing both attendees and presenters to connect via live chat to discuss the content and ideas being presented, as well as share ideas, opinions and links to additional content and resources. The end result was an experience that kept attendees and presenters connected and in a collaborative state of thinking throughout the event. Even before SURGE 2017 was completed calls for the next SURGE date came filtering in to AssociationSuccess.org. It was obvious the tone and content of the summit had struck a chord with everyone who participated in SURGE. With the underlying goal of "keeping the conversations going," AssociationSuccess.org and CE21 have made replays of SURGE 2017 available to attendees wanting to revisit conference sessions, as well as, anyone else interested in learning about the innovative ideas and collaborative discussions born from this very unique summit.

The partnership that was created there (with CE21) was incredible. They were there with us at any given moment. Surge couldn't have happened without CE21. - Arianna Rehak Contact Rick Rutherford at rrutherford@ce21.com for more information about Surge 2017 and our upcoming Surge 2018.

About the author

Sarah Estes

With a background in operational management and a masters degree in healthcare administration, Sarah brings a wide range of knowledge and experience to CE21. Because of her varied background and willingness to take on any challenge, she has an expansive list of responsibilities at CE21. Sarah is in charge of human resources, on-boarding new employees, technical documentation, sales logistics, and much more.

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