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by Leo Jakobson | April 26, 2016
Registration closes on Saturday, April 30 for the Incentive Research Foundation's (IRF) 23rd Annual Education & Incentive Invitational at the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa in Las Vegas. 

If the event sounds both a bit familiar and unfamiliar, there's a reason for that. Over the half dozen years, both the organization and its main source of annual funding have evolved to the point where adding the word "education" to the show just made sense, said Melissa Van Dyke, the IRF's president. 

"When we released our Vision2020 [five-year-plan] last year, we articulated our mission: to continue to lead the global recognition and incentive industry with actionable research and education," Van Dyke says. "As part of that vision, it only made sense to ensure that education be known as a core, not tangential, part of our key event."

That decision did not come lightly, however. When an association relies upon one event for a great deal of its annual budget, the trustees are generally loathe to fiddle with it. That was certainly the case with the IRF when its trustees began adding an educational component to the Annual Invitational six years ago. Traditionally a networking event built around a golf tournament and fundraising auction, adding some education to the event that paid for all the incentive industry research did make sense. Besides, attendees were asking for it. But they were very cautious about it, adding just a little bit of education at first and expanding it as attendees kept asking for more every year. Now there is an entire day dedicated to education and it has proved hugely successful. 

The 2015 Annual Invitational was a breakout year for the IRF. There were more than 200 buyers -- up 20 percent over the previous year -- representing 60,000 corporate incentive events and meetings, as well as 150 first-time attendees out of a crowd of 420. And the trustees are working on doubling the amount of industry research it produces annually in that time. 

"As you know, there is a brilliant legacy of networking and access to destinations with our event, which we will not lose," Van Dyke said. "By adding Education [to the name] we are able to ensure the Annual Education & Incentive Invitational also continues to be known for the knowledge and insight it brings to the industry as well."