BPC New Orleans: My Top 7 Moments

What a conference BPC New Orleans was!

After months and months of preparation, meetings, email blasts, planning (and back-up planning), and anticipation, APMP’s flagship event is over for another year.

This year’s BPC was the biggest one yet! We had a record-breaking 1340 registrants, and – after working with the venue to extend capacity – we sold out not once, but twice!  It was also my first US BPC, and it was an Experience with a capital ‘E’! Even though I’m a little biased, I feel confident in saying that BPC NOLA really was an exceptional event.

Right or wrong, the image that has always appeared in my head whenever I’ve heard the word ‘conference’ has been a stuffy grey room, a monotonous voice, and folks in suits trying desperately to stay awake.

The memories I have from BPC couldn’t be more different from that image. Far from grey, the conference areas in the Marriott were decked out in bold, colourful signage courtesy of our sponsors and, of course, our incredibly talented in-house designer Joshua. Our speakers were dynamic, passionate and insightful, and the attendees were the life and soul of the whole affair. The rooms were abuzz with old friends reconnecting, new friendships and valuable professional connections being made, and lots and lots of laughter.

Although I, along with the rest of the staff team, worked really hard over those days, I genuinely had so much fun at BPC, and I’ve talked the ears off my friends and family about it pretty much non-stop ever since. Today, I thought I’d give them a wee break from hearing about it (much to their delight, I’m sure), and write to the APMP community about it instead.

So, I’m going to round up my top 7 favourite things about the conference (I tried to do a top 5 but there were too many!). If you were with us in New Orleans, come and reminisce on an amazing few days with me. If you couldn’t make it this time, hopefully this post can get you hyped up for BPC Nashville 2025!

  1. Certification Day

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cert Day, it’s essentially a day-long course in APMP’s Foundation-level certification, culminating in the opportunity to sit the Foundation exam. We had 149 candidates join us for Cert Day this year, and ended up with a whopping 99% pass rate!

It was so nice to see our newly-certified attendees celebrating, donning themselves with the ‘Jazzed Up and Certified’ beads we gave out, and adding their new CF APMP designation to their name badges.

  1. The Opening Sessions

Three days and three opening sessions, each absolutely fantastic in its own right.

Day 1

Day 1’s keynote speech was delivered by a clinical psychologist dubbed the “head coach for happiness” by none other than NBA star Shaquille O’Neal – Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD.

Addressing the long-standing concern of burnout in the bid and proposal community, Dr Lombardo delivered a captivating analysis of what she called the ‘Red Zone’, a burned-out mental state in which productivity, critical thinking and effective problem-solving are next to impossible. She gave tips on how to recognise when the Red Zone sneaks up on you and – most importantly – how to move back into the Green! Dr Lombardo’s session was so impactful, speakers and attendees continued referencing it for the remainder of the conference, which was lovely to see.

Day 2

Day 2 saw a Fireside Chat with APMP Chair David Gray, Rohirrim’s Steven Aberle, and AutogenAI’s Sean Williams.

They discussed AI, the benefits it has for the profession, the progress made since last year’s BPC, and the amount of progress that’s still to come. Reassuringly, it seems bid and proposal professionals are significantly less worried that AI will take their jobs than they were this time last year. When asked whether they were concerned about AI-related job-loss, only one or two of our attendees’ hands were raised in New Orleans, down from around half the audience last year in Orlando!

Day 3

Despite the TARA and (for many) a night out in the Big Easy closing out Day 2, the ballroom remained packed with dedicated (and possibly hungover) bid and proposal professionals for Day 3!

This session saw Rick Harris and David Gray present a Championship Belt for the best-performing Webinar of 2023 to Loopio’s Andrew Hastings for the webinar ‘How to Use AI in Proposal Management (Limitations & Predictions)’. It also saw a fascinating plenary session where Sodexo’s Danelle Morrow and Responsive’s Michael Londgren discussed the ways in which bid and proposal professionals can level themselves up within their roles.

  1. The Speakers

The speakers this year were phenomenal! I had the pleasure of sitting in on a number of sessions, and learned so much. Obviously, with over 70 sessions, there were so many sessions I sadly didn’t get the chance to see and spotlight – if I could’ve been in five places at once, I absolutely would’ve! – but some my favourite sessions I saw were:

  • Irene Trujillo and Lily Shain’s ‘Avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins During Bid/No-Bid Decisions’ – I thought this was such a creative way to demonstrate the pitfalls people often fall into during decision gates, and I was so impressed that each ‘sin’ was backed up by case studies and personal experiences of miscalculations in bid/no-bid decisions!
  • Bruce Farrell and Mike Parkinson’s ‘Mentoring Matters: Creating a Culture of Mentorship within Your Proposal Team’ – This was a really interesting session highlighting the value of mentorship, and giving advice for both mentors and mentees on making the most of a mentoring relationship. I loved how the speakers designed the session to be collaborative with the audience, inviting and engaging with the insights of the mentors and mentees in the room.
  • Crista Rodriguez and John Quinn’s ‘Taking Control of a Meeting: Keeping Your SMEs on Track’ – This session was so fun! The speakers made use of mock Zoom meetings to demonstrate all of the ways that meetings can veer off track, and gave specific advice for curtailing attempts to hijack a meeting’s focus. A testament to the session’s relatability, there was lots of knowing laughter from the audience throughout.
  • Melle Amade Melkumian’s ‘Beyond AI: Human-Centric Innovation in Proposal Management’ – Melle’s session was the last one I attended, positioned at the end of Day 3, and what a way to end! She talked about how we can look at AI in a human-centric way and stay ahead of the AI curve by keeping curious about it. I found one of her central takeaways quite uplifting: that we all came to this session because, even though we’re learning about AI, we still want a human to learn about it from!
  1. The APMP Members

With a conference this big, it would have been easy for individual attendees to merge into one big crowd of people for me. So, I was grateful for the opportunity to get some one-on-one face time with so many of them. Working the registration desk, networking at the TARA and sitting among them during sessions, I had some great conversations and made some valuable new connections.

I met people attending their tenth BPC, and complete first timers; industry veterans, and industry newbies; New Orleans locals, and people who’d travelled all the way across the world to attend.

It was also lovely to see some familiar faces I recognised from BPC Barcelona and from Member Spotlights I’ve done over the last eight months too!

  1. The Sponsors and Exhibitors

Our sponsors and exhibitors really stepped up their game this year. Walking into the exhibitor hall was like walking into Oz – a sea of colour, goodies, and even something akin to a yellow-brick road courtesy of SMA’s life-size bids and proposals board game.

Exhibitors had dressed up their booths to the nines, and the goodies on offer were also much more creative than I’ve ever seen. One booth even offered branded Tide pens for clothing stains (which proved fortuitous for several clumsy members of staff – myself included – on a number of occasions).

  1. The TARA

Positioned at the end of Day 2 of the conference, I was in desperate need of a nap by the time 5:30pm rolled around. Luckily for me, our Events team had thought of that, and brought out a fabulous gospel choir to re-energise everybody for the party ahead!

The Grand Ballroom had been transformed from conference centre to Bourbon Street, with extravagant feathers spilling out over towering gold chalices; beads, feather boas and flashing glasses for attendees to wear; and a mouthwatering buffet selection of classic New Orleans staples. There were caricature artists, tarot card readers, and a live jazz band to boost everyone’s spirits.

For those of you who don’t know, TARA is an acronym (because we all love acronyms). It stands for ‘The Art of Reconnecting Annually’, and it’s a networking event of the most laid-back, hair-down kind. Conferences, however insightful and dynamic they may be, are also very tiring. The TARA is an opportunity to play a little, enjoy each other’s company on a personal level, and forget about the day jobs for a few hours.

This TARA really pulled out all the stops, and I totally forgot about that nap almost immediately!

  1. New Orleans

New Orleans is quite the city. Having the conference situated on the famous Canal Street put us all right in the centre of the action. Somehow, no matter what time of day or night you ventured outside, there was always music playing; always people dancing and laughing; always the smell of amazing food wafting past.

I was lucky enough to fit in some time to explore the city while across the pond with my colleagues. We visited the famous Spotted Cat, trawled through markets full of handmade gifts, went on a swamp tour where we got uncomfortably close to an alligator, listened to a lot of jazz, and ate lots and lots (and lots) of great food.

Beignets, muffulettas, po’boys, red beans and rice, Cajun spices… Despite the city not being the most vegetarian-friendly place I’ve been (I got serious shrimp envy), I certainly ate well for the week I was in NOLA.

And, seriously, if anyone knows how to get hushpuppies in the UK, please contact me immediately. I’m not kidding.

BPC Nashville 2025

Now that BPC NOLA is all wrapped up, we’re already starting to look ahead to next year’s BPC, which will be in the wonderfully musical Nashville! I can’t wait, and I really hope you’ll join us there. So, mark your calendars for the 18th to 21st May 2025 – BPC gets better every year, and you won’t want to miss it!

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