Our Guide to Starting a Conference with Therapy Reimagined Co-Founders Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy | PoP 485

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Have you ever wondered how conferences could be more diverse and exciting? What are the challenges when creating a conference? How can you keep the interactive element with a virtual conference?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks to Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy about their new and fresh type of conference called Therapy Reimagined.

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Meet Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy

Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy are the co-hosts of the Modern Therapists Survival Guide Podcast and the founders of the Therapy Reimagined Conference.

Visit their website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Listen to their podcast here.

In This Podcast

Summary

  • The idea to reimagine therapy and conferences
  • Getting speakers on board
  • The format of the first conference
  • Tips from the first year to improve the second year
  • Monetizing the conference by creating a community
  • Making the 2020 conference online
  • Therapy Reimagined 2020

The idea to reimagine therapy and conferences

Curt and Katie’s idea for this revolutionary approach to therapy and conferencing began at a conference a few years back, where they noticed a lack of diversity in the speakers and the content of their talks, to the point where it was extremely boring and repetitive. They realized the need for a new type of conference which focused on the impact of therapists themselves on therapy outcomes as well as addressing new, fresh issues in a way that is interesting, interactive, and accurately represents people from more diverse backgrounds.

Getting speakers on board

Curt and Katie wanted an in-person event with audience engagement, so they reached out to a bunch of fellow therapists and consultants who they thought would enjoy this more interactive format and might be willing to speak at the first conference in 2018. They brought in Kelly Higdon and Miranda Palmer to speak about the business side of things, Dr. Ben Caldwell to speak about the state of the profession, and Ernesto Segismundo to talk about social media. They were set with 6 speakers, including Curt and Katie, but needed some more, so they reached out to colleagues from around the US, specifically those who are underrepresented and could bring more fresh and diverse topics to the stage. The prospect of this new and exciting conference generated a large buzz in the therapist’s community which led to a surprisingly great turnout for the first Therapy Reimagined conference.

The format of the first conference

Focusing on making their conference more interesting than most of the others on the circuit, they wanted to ensure that the talks and activities were all experiential and under 90 minutes, which they called “thought bubbles”. This created more time slots for a conference of the standard length, so they were able to bring in more speakers and cover more topics.

Thanks to the buzz created by their call for speakers, they received about 90 applicants, some of whom were eager to go even further than the conference and get involved with the whole movement of reimagining therapy. “It’s just so humbling to see people come together like that and create this community that wants to kind of disrupt private practice.”

Tips from the first year to improve the second year

  • They realized that the conference would run much smoother with the right team in place, mainly with an events planner, but also including an official photographer, a stage manager, someone to help with contract negotiation, and someone dedicated to handling the finances.
  • Therapy Reimagined 2019 was in a bigger, better venue, had new and exciting speakers, and a handful of returning speakers addressing fresh and interesting topics. Curt and Katie were the MCs and hosted a live podcast with the audience but didn’t have their own presentations, so they stepped back and made space for new speakers and content.
  • In the second year, they also put a lot of effort into finding speakers from even more diverse backgrounds. They reached out to those groups who were underrepresented in the applications, such as those that fall under Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) so that they could have more qualified speakers at the conference and create an even more diverse space.
  • Most of the content for the first year of the conference was Continuing Education (CE), so they balanced that out with more business courses in the second year to add a bit more flexibility to the presentations.

Monetizing the conference by creating a community

The idea is, let’s really nurture the financial stability and the quality of our profession by putting these kinds of relationships in place and really supporting them in how we set up the conference.

They really want the conference to be accessible and therefore affordable, but still, be able to cover all the costs. They have managed to partner with a bunch of sponsors, including brands and people that Curt and Katie truly value and want to showcase, and have created a wonderfully interwoven community of sponsors, speakers, and attendees.

Making the 2020 conference online

  • Fortunately, most of the speakers who were booked to come to Los Angeles for the physical conference are still committed to the conference even though it will be virtual this year.
  • One of the challenges involves people not being able to fly in, such as Dr. Darrell Chow, one of the keynote speakers who is in Perth, Australia, whose his presentation has to be scheduled for the middle of the night in Australian Western Standard Time to be an appropriate time in America.
  • The organizing team has been working hard at minimizing possible technical issues, for example by pre-recording the content of each presentation just in case there is a connectivity issue. This also allows them to increase the production quality of the conference.
  • Working on finding the balance between live and pre-recorded to prevent it from feeling like a bunch of webinars and going against their mission of having a conference that is not boring.
  • They are making sure that there will still be a lot of interaction between the speakers and the audience, such as by having Katie and/or Curt host Q&A interviews.
  • They now have the added element of more panels as opposed to individual speakers.
  • The sponsors are still involved and are contributing to games, commercials, and demos that will still encourage the networking and community that Curt and Katie wanted from the start.

Therapy Reimagined 2020

This year’s conference will be taking place on September 24th, 25th, and 26th. The keynote speakers include:

  • Dr. Darrell Chow talking about the frontiers of psychology and feedback-informed treatment
  • Dr. Harry Aponte discussing his Person of the Therapist (POTT) Training Model and his work with the late Salvador Minuchin
  • Dr. Travis Heath talking about therapy as a political movement
  • Kiaundra Jackson discussing branding
  • Angela Caldwell challenging some of the traditional ideas in therapy

Useful Links:

Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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