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WASHINGTON – CUNA is going all out later this month to host a credit union conference billed as “more interactive and energizing” than anything ever done. Complete with a high tech “Branch of the Future” exhibit, “hands-on” Oprah style talks with Nevada consumers and “personal growth” wall-climbing exercises, the revised Future Forum annual meeting, formerly known as the CUNA Symposium, represents what CUNA sees as a bold new approach to conference programming. “This is one of the biggest meetings we sponsor and one we’ve known from the last couple years that we needed to try something different – create a little spark among the participants – generate a little excitement that goes along with what is happening in our industry,” explained Barry Jolette, CUNA’s outgoing chairman. So Jolette, who also is president/CEO of San Mateo Credit Union, Redwood City, Calif., and other members of the CUNA Board, agreed the trade group could no longer simply “tweak the agenda” but rather asked the staff to come up with a program in which delegates “felt a lot more connected and involved.” The end result is the revamped four-day Future Forum conference slated Sept. 29-Oct. 2 at the Reno Hilton. While the Forum does contain traditional meeting fare including a keynote speech by NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar and a session on the banker attacks in Utah and other states, the programming is a departure from previous CUNA meetings. Particular emphasis, said Jolette, has been placed on giving audience members “a chance to voice their opinions, ask questions and express ideas from the floor” in “Sound Off” sessions. In addition, stationed in the hotel conference hall are “welcome centers” in which participants can voice their views on current topics in recorded video messages. But attendees can also receive individualized and professional advice in such areas as budget planning and marketing in the exhibit area and during breakout and workshop sessions, say CUNA planners. Regarding “Sound Off,” one key session expected to draw one of the larger gatherings focuses on steps the industry is taking to thwart banker attacks. That session on Wednesday, Oct..1 will include panelists Scott Earl, president of the Utah League of Credit Unions; John McKechnie, CUNA’s senior vice president for government affairs; New Mexico lawmaker, Rep. Dan Foley (R), and Rick Pillow, president of the Virginia League of Credit Unions. A separate Sound Off session with University of Nevada students and local residents among participants will feature “a mix of actual consumers and credit union members” selected with the help of the Reno college and other Nevada organizations discussing current trends in financial services. “This will be an eye-opening opportunity to hear first-hand from the public what their thoughts and needs are from the financial services industry,” said CUNA literature promoting the Forum. Leading that session will be Patrick Adams, executive vice president of St. Louis Community CU in Missouri. CUNA said in working with the university and the local groups which it did not identify it will be “looking for four to six consumers who will represent the following demographics: small business owners, the young adult market and the underserved.” For the wall climbing feat, CUNA said it is hiring professional climbing experts and an “executive coach” who will invite attendees to climb a 16-foot high, half circular rock wall. “The attendees can participate at their own comfort level,” explained Todd Spiczenski, CUNA assistant vice president, stressing the exercise demonstrates the experience “of overcoming obstacles.” Participants can skip the wall climbing and instead act as backup players and support for the climbers, said Spiczenski. This kind of experience can “help teach how to overcome obstacles that credit union staff and volunteers may face back at the office.” Based on their “personal experience, participants can take away important lessons whether they scramble up the wall or provide support for another climber,” said Spiczenski. The “Branch of the Future” exhibit also will contain innovations, said Mike Miller, senior vice president of association services. In the “Future Forum Marketplace,” expected to draw some 165 vendors, there will be “Creation Stations,” he said. These are “hands on” booths “designed to actively engage attendees in a variety of interactive experiences.” The Branch of the Future contains a fully operational integrated branch featuring biometric devices, semi-private detour work stations, dialogue towers and remote teller facilities. Providing design and development for Branch of the Future is HBE Financial, a St. Louis vendor. In developing Future Forum programming, CUNA said it decided this year to rely more heavily on its Center for Professional Development under guidance of CUNA Vice President Jill Tomalin, who has stressed “a learn by doing” format. The focus of general sessions, said CUNA will be on “more interactivity and takeaways for attendees” with the emphasis on “experiential hands-on learning.” Beside NCUA’s Dollar, other headline speakers at the conference include: author and senior consultant Marcus Buckingham of the Gallup Organization, Princeton, N.J. discussing employee motivation; Kevin Carroll, a lead spokesman for Nike Inc. the Beaverton, Ore. footwear and apparel manufacturer on sports and exercise and Mari Pat Varga, a Chicago educator and author discussing communication skills. Apart from the unusual, also on the Future Forum agenda are what might be considered “bread and butter” breakout sessions on identity theft, use of the secondary mortgage market , fee income and executive performance based compensation. “I think you’ll find the CUNA staff put a lot of thought into designing this year’s program and I expect the membership will be pleasantly surprised,” forecast Jolette, who at 60 challenged a Credit Union Times reporter, “now I expect to see you climbing that wall with me.” -

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