The 10th anniversary edition of the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum is still seven weeks away, but the event is fast approaching a sellout of its 1,250 seats.
In fact, by Tuesday afternoon, the forum that will host the 43rd president of the United States and his family likely will be putting interested attendees on a waiting list, Kim Eason Rozycki, an event organizer, said Monday.
“We’re pretty close right now. We get nervous and we don’t want to oversell it,” said Rozycki, director of events and operations with the Cunningham Center at Columbus State University.
However, she said a waiting list doesn’t necessarily doom anyone’s chances of making it inside the Columbus Convention and Trade Center for the event that will begin 1 p.m. Aug. 24 and wrap up at 5 p.m. the following day.
“So it’s not a situation where people should feel totally discouraged if they end up on the wait list because, odds are, if they get on it early enough, they’ll get” into the event, Rozycki said.
Of course, this looks to be a high-profile gathering with former President George W. Bush, former First Lady Laura Bush, and their two daughters, Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, headlining the opening night.
Both of the Bush parents have spoken at the forum before, he in 2012 and she in 2010. But the event’s namesake, Jim Blanchard, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Synovus Financial Corp., wanted this year’s lineup to be what he calls “the best of the best.” That’s why he invited the Bushes and some others back.
Those attending also will have a chance to see and hear Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin, New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Daniel Pink and retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and International forces in Afghanistan and former 75th Ranger Regiment commander at Fort Benning. Blanchard himself will speak on the opening day.
Others on the bill include:
Tom Mullins — pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in Florida, former coach and author
Scott Harrison — founder of Charity Water
John Maxwell — leadership expert, speaker and author
James Dunne — senior managing principal of investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill + Partners
Simon Sinek — author, speaker and visionary thinker
Patrick Lencioni — best-selling author and founder of The Table Group
Ken Blanchard, business author and management expert
Shana Young, director of The Leadership Institute at the Cunningham Center, and the “speaker wrangler” for the forum, said she is most excited to see Pink and Sinek.
“They’re both really interesting guys who have a unique perspective on leadership development and on marketing and things of that nature,” she said. “Those two guys have got some great books out there that are super interesting, and I’m really excited to hear the message from the two of them.”
Young said she and Rozycki have been meeting once a week to make certain the high-powered forum goes off without any glitches. This year, with the entire Bush family participating, smooth sailing will be of the utmost. That, obviously, will include heavy security.
“I’m just starting to gather info needed for the Bush family,” Young said. “And then, toward the end of the month and the first of August, things will really start to heat up as far as making sure all of the details are together and we’re not letting anything slip through the cracks.”
Young will open the event on its first day with a 20-minute session on the Top 10 lessons in leadership that her organization has learned over the forum’s first decade.
Organizers are anticipating attendees will come from across the United States. Rozycki noted that a couple of years ago there were people from 16 states and Canada. This year, she knows there are at least 115 companies represented, with the firms either sending their own staffers or inviting guests from elsewhere.
“So it’s not just a Georgia event or a Southeast event,” she said. “There’s generally people here from the West and the Northeast and Florida as well.”
Last year’s speakers included billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Spanx founder Sara Blakely and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Tickets for this year’s forum are $529 per person or $4,200 for a table of eight.