In November 2014, I attended my first SpinCon with some trepidation. For the uninitiated, I am not referring to a conference for fans of the popular cardio workout on stationary bikes. In this case, SPIN stands for Senior Planners Industry Network.
The event was in St. Louis and the entire city was palpably on edge awaiting the grand jury decision on whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. On top of that, no matter how much I had read about SPIN, I had no idea what to expect, especially from an event that invited people to wear pajamas and slippers. I never have been comfortable in pajamas and slippers, so right off I knew I wouldn’t blend in.
At the opening session, the hotel manager addressed the group, letting us know he was in touch with the authorities and would be notified as soon as a decision came down from the grand jury. He thought that would be reassuring, I guess. Then, he offered some safety guidelines, most of which involved staying in the hotel and locking our doors.
No problem. There were activities scheduled, in PJs or not, from early morning to late at night. Some involved getting in a kiddie pool filled with colorful beach balls, others crafting collage statements from an assortment of magazines. There were keynotes, roundtables and lots of informal discussions in the grand lobby of St. Louis Union Station Hotel. One longtime male attendee affectionately described the conference in which the women definitely outnumber the men as “kind of like a college sorority party.” SPIN’s website describes the organization as “an exclusive—never pretentious—gathering place” for senior-level planners. “We’re absolutely professional, but we’re also hardwired for fun, smart conversations and venting when needed (with people who ‘get’ us).” It promises extreme innovation, collaboration and opportunities. Surprisingly, it delivers on most levels, though not in expected ways.
It is sort of an in-crowd thing, but those who “get it” seem to love it. No one is more passionate than founder Shawna Suckow, who started the organization in 2008 never planning for more than a simple LinkedIn group. From there, it grew and evolved, mainly by word of mouth.