The 2023 OWAA Annual Conference was held in
 Gulf Shores, Alabama Sept. 9-11, 2023

It was all about engagement. It was all about community. It was all about connections. And, in the end, it was all about furthering professional skills and business opportunities. Outdoor media and other professionals came to OWAA’s 2023 annual conference to connect, mingle and learn from more than 230 outdoor storytellers and the brands that support their work. They networked with other professionals, honed communications skills, found a mentor/mentee, and discovered more and better ways to sell their work – or promote their brand.

Attendee breakdown:

  • 134 individual media members
  • 60 people representing brands, agencies and organizations 
  • 25 not-yet members (most of whom were media)
  • 21 spouses/partners
  •  10 staff & volunteers

Post-event survey results:

  • 62.1% said the event was ‘Outstanding’
  • 29.7% said the event was ‘Very Good’
  • 8.1% said the event was ‘Fine’ 
  • Zero respondents marked the survey options that suggested dissatisfaction

“Thank you, OWAA for such an educational and fun time. The Southern hospitality, awards, writing workshops, and new industry friendships were pure perfection!”
– Candace Dantes, freelance writer & Outdoor Afro Communications Director

“What an amazing event this year’s conference was! The community and energy and positivity surrounding it were positively electric!”
– Katie McKalip, VP of External Affairs and Communications, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

“The conference was way beyond my expectations and thanks to it, magic is happening, doors are opening – it’s a dream come true. I really can’t say enough good stuff about my experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
– Robin Motzer, Wildlands Restoration, LLC

“Please accept my sincere thanks for all the work you did putting together a fabulous gathering. The workshops were informative, and the lunch speakers were particularly moving and powerful.” 
– Steve Maslowski, Freelance Photographer

“We really enjoyed the conference, made great contacts, and learned a ton.”
– Amanda Nalley, Communication Manager, Gulf of Mexico Alliance

It was an amazing group of outdoor enthusiasts. I took so much away from this conference and can’t wait to attend again.”
– Sonya Staples, Staples in Tents

“The conference was absolutely amazing. I wasn’t expecting to connect with so many people with similar interests. I especially enjoyed seeing people with disparate views come together for common goals.  It was inspiring.”
– Susan Bickel, Science Department Chair, The Benjamin School

“Thank you for putting on such an awesome event! Me and my colleague got to meet some pretty incredible people and it was so great hearing about all the amazing things people are doing in the outdoor industry.” 
– Quinn Faeth, PR Account Manager, Gunpowder PR

“The meeting was fabulous & productive! The information was great and the people were even better! The breakout sessions I attended were extremely informative and the networking was off the chain. Thank you for having such a great organization!”
– Troy Basso, Freelance Writer

“I think Gulf Shores might well have been my favorite conference to date. Really encouraging to see so many new faces there who seemed to be loving the experience, and I thought the sessions, keynotes, activities, etc. were all superb as well.”
– Paul Queneau, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Conservation & Wildlife Editor

“The OWAA conference in Gulf Shores was terrific!  Lots of fun, good conversations, new friends – and neat swag. Great job!!!”
– Scott Dailey, freelance writer

“The meeting was fabulous & productive! It was perfect! I always look for an ROI and I honestly felt like this meeting was net positive in that regard. The information was great and the people were even better! The breakout sessions I attended were extremely informative and the networking was off the chain.”
– Troy Basso, freelance writer

“As a new member I felt very welcomed and would encourage any new member to attend the next one.”
Katie Hamilton, editor, Bring Binoculars

“OWAA has been by far the best conference I attended ALL year. The location, food, people, members, events… Everything was well-timed and well-curated for an excellent networking experience. We will definitely continue to support this organization as a sponsor for many years to come!”
– Brandie Herrell, Friesens Corporation

“Attending the OWAA conference was invaluable. Gulf Shores was my first OWAA conference and I don’t know why I haven’t been to more sooner. The members and board were incredibly welcoming and inclusive. I also gained a lot of insights and information from the speakers and workshop leaders. I left inspired and with more story ideas then I know what to do with. Such a great experience!”
– Jessica Baltzersen, journalist

“If you enjoy traveling to beautiful places, meeting fascinating people and learning new things that will help you grow your network or career, attend the OWAA Annual Conference. You will have a blast!”
– Brewster Rhoads, co-founder Adventure Crew & The Ohio River Way

“There was an element of fun and emotion to the Gulf Shores conference. I laughed, I cried and I felt inspired. It’s nice to be in a place filled with outdoorsy folks that feel like ‘my people’!
– Anonymous

“The conference was packed with useful sessions on a wide variety of relevant topics, and it provided a fantastic opportunity to meet potential collaborators and customers.”
– Mandy Morrissey, Communications Manager, World Nomads

“This was my first OWAA conference and I was blown away at how welcoming and friendly the participants were. It made the entire conference that much more enjoyable.”
– Anonymous

“Best conference I have ever attended in my life.”
– Gerry Seavo James, Deputy Campaign Director, Outdoors For All at Sierra Club


View down a secluded boardwalk across a wetland in Gulf Shores, Alabamba

About the Destination

2023 marked the first time OWAA took its conference to Sweet Home Alabama! The coastal towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, located on the northern Gulf of Mexico, may be known for their 32 miles of sugar-white sand beaches, but as OWAA members discovered, the beach was truly just the beginning.

Conference attendees stayed near Gulf State Park and explored the park’s nine different ecosystems, all accessible by the 28-mile Hugh Branyon Backcountry Trail (home to Lefty, the resident alligator, as well as bald eagles, bobcats, gopher tortoise, coyotes, white-tailed deer and more). Birders “flocked” to the Alabama Coastal Birding Trails – including the 7,000-acre Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge – as the area is on the migration flyway for more than 300 species of birds (as well as monarch butterflies). They added in a “boat load” of water activities – kayaking, standup paddle boarding, deep sea fishing, inshore fishing, pier fishing and more – and  OWAA members were quickly singing along to “Sweet Home Alabama.”

The hosts, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, showcased their sustainability efforts to OWAA members. From “Leave Only Footprints” to keep their beaches clean and protect nesting sea turtles and shore birds, to the Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism & Sustainability offering Jean Michel Cousteau’s “Ambassadors of the Environment” programs, to oyster farming and restaurant oyster shell recycling efforts, OWAA members found endless stories to tell! The tourism office worked closely with the Alabama Tourism Department and other destinations across the state to provide stellar pre/post trips for media attendees.

Proud OWAA Conference Partners

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