Professional Development

In this challenging and changing environment many of us seek new strategies to sustain our mission, tighten our belts, or even reinvent programs.

WAA’s professional development program addresses these challenges by offering educational programs taught by leaders in the field on subjects that range from building critical core knowledge to finding new approaches, techniques, and tactics. Through these workshops, forums, panels, speakers, publications, and mentoring, WAA seeks to strengthen your ability to fulfill your organization’s mission, accomplish goals, and advance your career.

Professional Development Institute (Pre-Conference Program)

Sunday, August 28 and Monday August 29

WAA's Professional Development Institute (PDI) offers tuition-based workshops and seminars using some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the field as faculty. Courses ranging from three to eight hours of instruction are designed to offer practical information for immediate application. Topics in recent years include: Social Media Marketing, Doing the Deal, The Business of Touring, Winning Strategies in this Economy, Legal Challenges of Presenting & Touring Foreign Artists, and Understanding Arts Audience Segmentation Models.

New Colleagues Orientation

Monday, August 29 from 2:15 pm - 3:30 pm

Make immediate connections at the New Colleagues Orientation, a great resource for someone attending the WAA conference for the first time and for any attendee looking for guidance in navigating the week. Come learn from established WAA members and share with new conference delegates about how to set attainable goals, where to start, and how to maximize your conference experience.

Download the New Colleagues Tips here

Opening Plenary: Annual Awards Ceremony & Keynote Address

Monday, August 29 from 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Be sure to join us for WAA's Annual Awards Ceremony! Come be inspired by what your WAA member colleagues have accomplished as we acknowledge their commitment to serving the performing arts community. Awards are granted in the areas of mentoring, service, innovation, and leadership.

Each year WAA hosts a Keynote Address to kick off the conference. You won't want to miss out on the new and thought-provoking ideas presented by our special guest speaker, as you'll hear these ideas resurface in conversation for the rest of the week. Past guests include Alan Pierson, Mark O'Connor, Daniel Catán, Robert Egger, Sherman Alexie, Midori, Libby Appel, Terrance Blanchard, Jaron Lanier, and Shane Koyczan.

Performing Arts Discovery Pitch Session - International Presenter Pitch Session

Tuesday, August 30 from 9:00am - 10:15am

New this year is the Performing Arts Discover Presenter Pitch Session featuring programmers, festival directors, and venue managers from Australia, China, Colombia, Mexico, New Zealand, and Taiwan. Each presenter will have five minutes to introduce their mission, venue(s) and programming. It’s a great way to get to know these international arts leaders with a history of programming U.S artists. Performing Arts Discovery, a two-year pilot program created and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts with additional funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aimed at helping U.S. Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) facilitate trusted curatorial networks and learning opportunities between the U.S. performing arts market and international presenters.


Tuesday, August 30 from 10:30am - 11:30am

These sessions are less formal and more discipline-based and issue-driven. Facilitated discussions are led by conference delegates themselves and often bring targeted questions to pose to those participants in order to learn from and with those attending

Speed Leads

Tuesday, August 30 from 3:30pm - 4:30pm

Take one part blind date, one part pitch session, one part niche-marketing, and two parts of your passion and what do you get? Speed Leads, WAA’s professional mixer. Whether you are throwing or receiving the pitch, it’s productive fun for the whole crew! Artist/managers rotate one at a time through tables seated with presenters, spending two minutes at each table. Make new connections and discover new artists and programs you might not otherwise have the chance or time to find! Twenty-five artists/projects x two minutes = one productive hour.

Presenter Pitch Sessions

Tuesday, August 30 from 4:45pm – 5:45pm

When presenters pitch, people listen. Whether you are a presenter wanting to know more about the work of your colleagues or an artist manager looking for prospective venues, the presenter pitch session is the place to be. Presenters will outline their season, a new project, or series. There’s no better way to get a quick take on presenting and programming around the West.

Mentor/Mentee Check In

Wednesday, August 31 from 8:00 am – 8:25 am

Its probably been a whole 2 days since you met with your mentor or mentee! WAA has reserved some time and space for you to catch up, ask questions, and get leads before the conference wraps up the following day.

Workshops & Panels

Wednesday, August 31 from 8:30 am – 10:00 am

WAA's in-conference workshops and seminars, like the PDI on Monday, also use some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the field as faculty except these are FREE! Popular workshops have included: Making Artistic Cents, Programming New Work – A Curator’s Guide to the Arts and Audiences, In Pursuit of Work/Life Balance, and Legal Challenges of Presenting & Touring Foreign Artists.

Private Consultations

Wednesday, August 31 from 1:00pm - 2:30pm

Each year a select group of grant-makers, consultants, and other professionals volunteer their time to hold one-on-one meetings with individual conference attendees.