RECAPPING THE 2018 ANNUAL CONFERENCE.

 
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St. Louis's signature attraction, the Gateway Arch, welcomed attendees as they arrived in the city for GFOA's 112th Annual Conference, May 6 to 9, 2018, which was held at America's Center Convention Complex. We had more than 5,700 delegates, guests, and exhibitors in attendance, including 540 first-time annual conference scholarship recipients. GFOA thanks the Local Conference Committee for their support.

During their stay attendees were entertained by St. Louis's popular "Blues, BBQ, and Baseball." GFOA Past President Patrick J. McCoy even threw out the first pitch at the Cardinals-Cubs game on Sunday night at Busch Stadium! It was a memorable night for Pat and his family and an honor for the more than 1,000 GFOA fans in attendance.

This year as delegates walked into the convention center, they were greeted by giant "G-F-O-A" letters. Many attendees enjoyed taking photos by the letters, shared them on social media with #GFOA2018, and the photos appeared on GFOA's social media wall along with conference updates.

WELCOME

Honorable Lyda Krewson, Mayor of the City of St. Louis, thanked attendees for their important service as she recognized that "governments at every level have limited resources." She identified with delegates because she is a CPA and former private-sector auditor and CFO. Krewson encouraged the audience to take advantage of St. Louis's many free attractions over the coming days, saying "The city would be more accountable this week with having you here." She also joked, "Don't forget to keep all of your expense receipts."

President's Address. GFOA President Patrick J. McCoy (who handed over the gavel to Steven Gibson at the Tuesday meeting) expressed his optimism about the future in spite of the challenges many governments face. He reflected that during last year's conference, he focused on the power of GFOA, and that power was demonstrated over the past year by the nearly 6,000 participants of the Annual Governmental GAAP Update, almost 7,000 followers on GFOA's social media accounts, continuous new members, and research cited in the media. "Our story is not just about numbers alone; it's about the people," McCoy said. He recognized how delegates take on new initiatives and tasks in addition to their daily work. GFOA tells these stories through its advocacy in Washington, D.C. He closed by telling attendees that "the market for our bonds is more efficient than ever" and advised them not to forget #builtbybonds.

KEYNOTE SPEECHES

Sunday. New this year, GFOA added a keynote presentation on Sunday afternoon for delegates and guests. Before the address GFOA Executive Director and CEO Chris Morrill kicked off the session by recognizing international delegations from Georgia, Israel, South Africa, and Sweden; first-time annual conference scholarship recipients; the St. Louis Local Conference Committee; home state delegates from Missouri; delegates from California, as they had the largest attendance at the conference; and delegates from Illinois, as their state had the largest increase in attendance from last year's conference.

Shawn Achor, one of the world's leading experts on the connection between happiness and success, then enthusiastically addressed the audience about his extensive research on happiness. Achor is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. His research on happiness made the cover of Harvard Business Review. His TED talk is one of the most popular of all time with over 14 million views, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions.

A key takeaway from his address is that "happiness is not a personal choice. It is an interconnected one." He explained how we as people often "mirror" each other and asked the audience to participate in an exercise with the person sitting next to them to demonstrate this act: He asked "Person 1" to not have an expression on their face and for "Person 2" to smile and look into the eyes of "Person 1" for seven seconds. He found that 80 to 85 percent of people acting as "Person 1" cannot hold their blank expression, resulting in a smile on their face.

Going along with this concept is the "10/5" rule: "When you pass someone within 10 feet, smile, and within five feet, say "hello." He provided an example of how implementing this act for hospital staff in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina significantly improved the quality of patient care with that one positive change.

He encouraged the audience to practice gratitude not just at home, but in the office. For example, start staff meetings with what you're grateful for and save nice notes in a folder to read during challenging times. Write positive e-mails for 21 days to co-workers. He advised that our brains will become addicted to this positive behavior, resulting in feelings of greater happiness.

Achor concluded that a person's "social connections" are the greatest predictor of the sustainability of happiness and an extended life.

Monday. Before the keynote presentation, James Ray, special advisor to the Secretary for Infrastructure, provided an update on the infrastructure initiative in Washington, D.C., during a question-and-answer session with then-GFOA President Patrick J. McCoy.

Betsy Myers, leadership expert, speaker, consultant, and author of Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You, then took the stage. She discussed "true" leadership with delegates and provided practical strategies to help attendees discover who they really are, embrace their personal story, and build better relationships with those around them.

With video examples showing the successes of some of the world's top leaders and CEOs, she explained that leadership is the "humanness of each of us; it's the intersection of the head and the heart." Great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela practiced this intersection, she said. "If you love your employees, they will love your clients, and you will get productive results." Myers challenged the audience to ask themselves, "Why would someone follow you?"

She continued that the number one issue that employers grapple with is talent--"it's building a workforce that reflects the world we live in and retaining people at their best and most productive selves." As leaders, we should want to attract diversity of thought, perspective, age, and background of all of those who surround us. Myers discussed how millennials want to work in an environment where there is "purpose and passion." Furthermore, they want to be trusted to manage their own...

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