Sessions - SYTA AC 2019
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Friday  |  Saturday  |  Sunday  |  Monday


“New” This Year – Table Talks

Table Talks are informal conversations on a wide variety of topics led by thought leaders, speakers, members, peers and colleagues. They will happen each day in SYTA Central on the Showcase floor.

If you have an idea for a Table Talk, please email [email protected].


Friday, August 9, 2019


4:00pm-4:30pm, BJCC

New Attendee Ice Breaker and Preview of Showcase Floor

Sponsored by Whisper USA

New attendees to the SYTA Annual Conference are encouraged to attend this fast-paced fun networking session with mentors and SYTA and SYF leadership.  Gather outside the entrance to Showcase Hall at 3:45pm.


4:30pm-5:30pm, BJCC East Meeting Room

Broadway Classroom Workshop

Sponsored by Group Sales Box Office at

Since 1998, more than 500,000 people have participated in this exceptional program, which combines a Broadway show with a unique, interactive workshop. Broadway Classroom is the industry leader in providing arts and educational experiences. Offering 17 unique workshops, Broadway Classroom will complete your group’s itinerary with an experience they will remember for years to come. Workshops are customized to the specific interests and abilities of attendees and students of all ages are encouraged to participate. This session will give participants the opportunity to experience a Broadway Classroom workshop for themselves.



Saturday, August 10, 2019


8:00am-8:45am, Sheraton, Birmingham Ballroom

President’s Welcome, Candidates’ Speeches, CSTP Graduation

Enjoy a cup of Joe with your colleagues as SYTA President, Justin Shuler welcomes everyone to the 2019 SYTA Annual Conference. Meet the current SYTA and SYTA Youth Foundation leadership teams as they welcome the slate of candidates for 2019-2020.  CSTP members and “new CSTP’s” will also be recognized for their commitment to the profession.


8:45am-10:00am (Immediately following President’s Welcome), Sheraton, Birmingham Ballroom

How using Gamification in your business drives better outcomes

Sponsored by Medieval Times

Thinking like a game designer is a great way to craft experiences that attract customers, retain employees and promote learning.  Gamification is the concept of using “game-based mechanics, aesthetics and dynamics to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems.” What does this mean as a practical strategy for you? How does an organization decide what to gamify and what not to gamify? Explore how game elements are used to generate curiosity, create immediate feedback and hold people’s attention. Learn how to balance the elements of story, action, and uncertainty to simulate thinking, engagement and fun! Join Karl as you experience the “player’s journey” first-hand as you are immersed within a gamified experience where you will laugh, ponder and debate how you and your youth-centered organization can gain a competitive advantage through games and gamification.

Speaker: Karl Kapp, Instructional Graduate Professor, Bloomsburg University


10:30am-11:30am, BJCC East Meeting Room

Why Tour operators and Suppliers Should Consider the China Market?

Research shows that China is the No. 1 source country for international students worldwide.  Sally will share her experience and knowledge of this important market and how you can get your share of this business.  She will also demystify WeChat – China’s most popular messaging app with a monthly user base of more than 1 billion people.

Speaker: Sally Davis Berry, Owner, Bristol Creek Tourism Consulting


11:45am-12:45pm, BJCC East Meeting Room

Fast and Furious: 60 Minute Travel-Themed Game Design

Hold onto your hats! Design a learning game prototype in under an hour during this hands-on, fun, hectic session. Consider this as an accelerated version of designing and playtesting a learning game, and we won’t waste a minute! Experience and learn the process that game designers use when conceiving, prototyping, and testing a learning game. Work in groups to create learning and game goals, design game play, and choose game mechanics/dynamics to achieve the desired learning outcomes. In this session we will distinguish between game goals and learning goals and we will take paper, pen and game pieces and create our own learning game centered around travel experiences. It’s fast, hectic and fun!

Speaker: Karl Capp


3:00pm-4:00pm, Annual Conference Kick-Off & Luncheon

Wow-Worthy Video for Tourism Pros

3, 2, 1 Action! Video is the hottest way to reach more fans and amplify your social marketing. We’ll focus on providing tips to produce your own videos as well as tools to fire up your imagination.

Learn how to:

  • Captivate with live-streaming & 360 video
  • Market your videos socially and amplify your messaging
  • Create short videos of still photos

In this intermediate/advanced session you’ll walk away with examples, tools, best practices and techniques that will have you integrating video into a variety of social platforms and marketing strategies.

Speaker: Catherine J. Heeg, President, Customized Management Solutions


1:00pm-2:30pm, BJCC East Meeting Room

Pushing the Boundaries of Immersive Experiences at Disney Parks

Sponsored by Disney Youth Programs and Disney on Broadway

With a focus on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the largest and most technologically-advanced land opened at a Disney park, this talk will provide an overview of how interactive experiences and activities at Disney Parks can help drive immersion and engagement with guests of all ages.  This talk will explore how Walt Disney Imagineering approached leveraging the technology that guests bring with them into the parks through the Play Disney Parks app, inviting them to explore further, play longer, and actively immerse themselves into a galaxy far, far away.

Speaker: Anisha Deshmane, Assistant Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering



4:30pm-5:30pm, BJCC East Meeting Room

Orientation Session: CSTO Standards, Application and Validation Process

This session provides a practical guide to the new Certified Student Travel Organization Certification program for student travel organizations.  The session includes an overview of the standards, application process and annual validation process.

Presenters will be available at SYTA Central on Sunday morning during the Tour Operator Breakfast from 9:00am- 9:30am to share the presentation and talk with tour operators and on the Showcase floor.  Stop by the Center booth and/or SYTA Central to catch a Table Talk on the new certification program.

Speakers: Michael Bowers, Travel Safety Solutions, LLC
Bill Caldwell, Lisa Curtin, Caldwell & Associates



Sunday, August 11, 2019


8:30am-8:45am, SYTA Central Table Talk

Orientation Session: CSTO Standards and Assessment (Repeat Session)

This session provides a practical guide to the new Certified Student Travel Organization Certification program for student tour operators.  The session includes overview of the application process, approved standards and annual assessment process.   The session is offered repeated so that all tour operators may attend.

Speakers: Michael Bowers, Travel Safety Solutions, LLC
Bill Caldwell, Lisa Curtin, Caldwell & Associates


10:00am-11:00am, BJCC East Meeting Room

Transforming Students into Global Citizens with Super Travel Safety Skills

An Introduction to Travel Heroes Safety Training by Depart Smart

Depart Smart is an award-winning, online travel safety platform designed to teach travelers how to advocate for themselves to avoid risks and get home safely. The program contains practical skill building and tools to help travelers of all ages prepare for global travels.   Through global speaking engagements, Sheryl Hill advocates for the life saving power of safe travel habits. In particular, she is passionate about how standardized travel safety transforms students into global citizens with super skills so they can be their own heroes wherever they travel.

Speaker: Sheryl Hill, Founder and Executive Director Depart Smart


11:15am-12:15pm, BJCC East Meeting Room

Facebook Advertising Class

Delve into advanced savvy practices to grow your fan base and social influence. We’ll focus on ways to fine tune your audiences and assets while growing your lead generating capacity.

Your core competencies will include:

  • Eliminating Analysis-Paralysis
  • Elevating ad strategies
  • Using unique content to offer added-value

When you decide to leverage your Facebook advertising efforts and get serious about marketing, this is the session for you. A comprehensive worksheet will be provided.

Speaker: Catherine J. Heeg, President, Customized Management Solutions


3:00pm-4:00pm, BJCC East Meeting Room

Automate, Delegate, Replicate- how to be more efficient in your job

What is the 80/20 rule and how can Tourism pros like you benefit!

The 80/20 rule is a principle that seems counterintuitive- work less and be more productive. But it works! In this session Sally will show how this principle can be used in the tourism industry and how you can implement it with your clients, your staff, and yourself. This session will have you making changes in how you work before you even leave SYTA!

Speaker: Sally Davis Berry, Owner, Bristol Creek Tourism Consulting


4:15pm-5:15pm, BJCC East Meeting Room

Building a Data-Driven Marketing Plan

The right data will allow you to make strategic decisions that help your student-centric tour and travel marketing efforts become more successful. Nearly 90 percent of marketers feel that data is their organization’s most underused asset. How do you incorporate data-driven marketing into your business and start reaping the benefits? MCH Strategic Data will illustrate 5 steps you can take to ensure you’re using data to effectively drive your marketing strategy.

Speakers: Angela Ridpath, Vice President of Marketing, MCH Data
Tracey Cochran, Senior Relationship Manager



Monday, August 12, 2019


8:00am-9:00am, Sheraton, Birmingham Ballroom

General Session “Speaker to Be Announced”

Sponsored by Ripley’s Entertainment


9:30am-10:30am, BJCC East Meeting Room

Technological Applications to Address Safety and Security Gaps During Tour Events

The session will provide attendees with the latest technology platforms designed to bring effective security solutions to a real-time, location-based format.

Components of the session include:

  • Security gaps in the tour industry
  • Availability of Apps to supplement onsite security
  • Review of technology options
  • New technology advantages to address todays needs

Speaker: Robert (Bob) Aromando, Chief Operations Officer, The K Street Group


10:45am-12:00pm, BJCC East Meeting Room

How to In-House your Company’s SEO

There’s a lot of confusing misinformation floating around the Internet when it comes to search engine optimization. Do keywords still matter? What’s a rich snippet? Why set up Google Webmaster Tools? Should I trust this nice prince from Nigeria looking to help me generate backlinks? We’ve all read the same blog articles and attended the standard search engine optimization seminar. This is something different. We’re going to debunk the myths and give you actual strategies that you can put to work immediately.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to measure organic traffic, competitors’ rank, and opportunities for growth.
  • Framework for a content marketing strategy that can improve search rank

Speaker: Peter Ross, CEO, 829 Studios


3:15pm-4:15pm, BJCC East Meeting Room

How to Measure the ROI of your Marketing Strategies

There are myriad different ways to market your business and all of them require time and money. In this session, we will review data from dozens of mid-sized companies to determine where exactly you should be focusing your resources. Using these successful businesses as our guide, we’ll analyze their approach to marketing online and identify a few of the most effective marketing strategies. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll have this discussion within the context of a marketing plan so you’ll be able to take home a comprehensive framework for use with your business.

Key Takeaways:

  • A framework you can use to evaluate traditional and digital marketing
  • Metrics to track and analyze the success of your business’ performance
  • Marketing strategies with the best ROI

Speaker: Peter Ross, CEO, 829 Studios



SYTA Strategic Partners