Having literally just touched down from attending the ASAE Annual Meeting in Chicago last week, the team were very keen for me to share my insights with you in time for this newsletter. Whilst my thoughts are not yet fully formed, I have, whilst in transit, tried to share with you some of my initial insights from the meeting.
Firstly, let me paint the picture. The scale of this conference is incredible. Some 6092 attendees inhabited a convention centre the size of a city block with an exhibition floor of 713 Exhibitors. 2 keynotes, 5 mini keynotes and some 115 learning sessions. This is in addition to the amazing networking events – the welcome function was a music concert…. seriously! So what did I learn?
1. We’re doing ok
Whilst our associations don’t operate on the scale of our US counterparts (I had to explain on several occasions that our entire population across both countries is only 30 million) I do believe the maturity of our organisations, the sophistication of membership models and acceptance of associations as part of the fabric of our society is at the very least on par with our US counterparts.
2. Same, same but different
The sessions I attended I noted fundamentally similar challenges for associations big and small. Getting the governance right, providing real value to members, adapting to the changing consumer market, chapter management, ensuring the sustainability of our associations, and the engagement of the next generation were the basis of the majority of the breakout sessions. The way in which we problem solve these challenges are in some ways different (scale allows investment at levels we can only dream of!) however evolving technology is certainly bridging this gap. In fact, my observation from my attendance 2 years ago is that the “technology gap” has closed significantly.
3. We are still not using our data
I had the pleasure of spending some time with our friends at Marketing General, who produce the largest global association benchmarking report and work with 100’s of associations across the country. They report that many associations are still not making data-driven decisions, and no matter what system you use or size you are, there is data in your associations that you can use and learn from.
4. They are all in it together
Whilst culturally we don’t tend to “shout from the rooftops” our achievements, the pride in delivering and communicating the value of what ASAE do for their members is inspiring. I have to say the sector feels very united and indeed fiercely supportive of their peak body. Every member regardless of their classification is valued as part of the ‘association eco-system’ and the strength of a single voice is very apparent.
5. Diversity as a movement
There was a definite and deliberate conversation about diversity (beyond gender) running through the meeting that I would identify as being far more evolved than the current conversations in Australia and New Zealand. With the ASAE advocacy efforts for transgender individuals to a highlight speaker for me being a self-proclaimed queer Latinx millennial woman to the newly elected and first openly gay ASAE Chair, Sal Martino diversity and inclusion as a strategic intent was very evident.
Well there you have it. My top line observations. I would love to have more conversations and share my learnings with anyone who would like to talk further, please just email and or call me.
Wishing you a fabulous September!