In Case You Missed It: Takeaways from IPRA 2020

There’s much to learn from the largest state park & recreation conference in the U.S.

Helene Fleischer
Helene Fleischer
February 21, 2020 4 min read

That’s a wrap on this year’s IPRA Conference! Soaring to New Heights is the largest state park and recreation conference in the U.S. It was an honor to link up with so many professionals that put community engagement at the center of what they do.

As we often say, we built SmartRec based on agency feedback and collaboration. So, we were incredibly excited to showcase our software platform to this large network a couple of weeks ago.

Beyond having the opportunity to put SmartRec on full display, there was a lot to learn! The event boasted 200 education sessions and workshops. And there were 300 exhibitors on display – talk about a show!

If you couldn’t make it, or perhaps you were too engrossed in conversation to take it all in, we’ve got you covered. We’re sharing our key takeaways from the event:

Hot Topics from the Education Sessions:

With 200 education sessions spanning 2 days, IPRA presented a huge opportunity for park and recreation agencies to impart and absorb knowledge from each other. Topics ranged from board participation, to financial forecasting, facilities management, and recreation.

Most talks in their respective categories trended towards:

  • Prioritizing diversity, inclusivity, and social equity
  • Developing stronger environmentally conscious practices
  • Leveraging technology and insights to make better business decisions
  • Building departmental sustainability and securing funding

Jamie Sabbach, President & CEO of 110%, strategy and planning consultancy for P&R agencies, gave a series of talks on cost recovery. For some agencies, untangling the mess that is their financial structure can be an intimidating undertaking, but doing so is essential to the agency’s sustainability.

Jamie ties this back to how technology can be employed to get the full picture of the agency’s health along with extracting true, actionable insights.


A Few Perspectives on P&R Software Needs:

We heard a lot of opinions on what kind of software solutions that P&R agencies need to get the job done. Many agencies have been using technologies for quite some time, so we opened the floor to get their opinions on the tools they were using:

Software usability & interface

P&R teams are trending younger and it’s challenging to get them up to speed on older tools with weak UI or low UX maturity. But, in most cases, age doesn’t necessarily inform how proficient someone is at navigating a platform. As consumers, we’re all accustomed to the smooth usability of platforms like Gmail or Facebook – and we expect it from the businesses we engage with online. Agencies ahead of the game have taken note!

System updates and downtime

A majority of park and recreation software have clunky update processes. We heard many complaints about other tools with updates that require sizeable downtime, or even updates that are behind a paywall! The downtime can have an impact on the team’s workflow and the paid updates create frustrations if budgets are already set and can result in many agencies uses older versions. No agency should work with impaired data quality and slower operations. (SmartRec brag: our software boasts 99.99% uptime and updates are pushed to the platform live.)

Support staff quality

Not all agencies’ needs are the same, this means that a one-size-fits-all approach to software isn’t ideal. In addition, not all agency staff’s technological competencies are the same! We were told that being able to hop on a call or a live chat and get answers to their questions efficiently was a huge need. (Psst –SmartRec customer support is consistently rated at 98% CSAT week-over-week!)


Connecting with the SmartRec Network:

We had the pleasure of taking some time with a few of our Illinois-based clients that were in attendance! Lindenhurst Park District works with SmartRec to strengthen both their staff and resident experiences in order to continue supporting their community.

Park District of Oak Park served up a frictionless experience for their residents by launching their massive summer camp program online last weekend. As a result, they logged $1.34 million in registrations in just 60 minutes -- more details can be found here.

P&R software with a human touch?

We are leading the digital transformation to help Parks & Recreation departments transform their communities and create sustainable futures.​

Discover More