Sunday, August 26, 2012

ASAE 2012: Ideas, Innovation and Inspiration

The post-conference Euphoria (capitalized on purpose) that is what remains after an ASAE annual has finally start to wear off, and before all the excitement from Dallas subsides to everyday life, there are a few highlights and thoughts that stand out that I want to make sure don’t get lost in the next eleven months.

      Ideas are everywhere – Last year in St. Louis I think I poured over the guide for hours trying to choose my sessions – which would I try to go to?  Could I do half and half to double dip?   This year the sessions still looked amazing beforehand, but I worried much less.  First, the ASAE twitter feed during conference ROCKS.  Seriously, as a contributor but mainly as a learner – if you follow the conference feed you can get the highlighted learning nuggets from so many sessions.   Compile these after, review them – you can do a whole presentation for your staff on learned lessons from conference just from these alone.  With that said, some of the best ideas that I discovered in Dallas were not in the sessions.  There were three places I found a-ha moments this year:

a.       Innovation Lounge/Social Media Lounge (Sorry Mandy – I don’t remember what this is ‘officially’ called) – these two lounges, situated across the hallway from each other proved to be hubs of conversation that was at once public in who I ran into, but private in affording comfortable space to share ideas.  Eventually, when I walked in – whether it was for a break, to check email, to innovate (see the next section) or it was on my route – I could glance around the people in either place and feel ideas waiting to be discovered. 

b.      Foundation events – I am a big believer in giving back to those causes and places that help you succeed.  For me, as ASAE has given me a stronger career path, giving back to the Foundation has been a logical choice.  The opportunities I had to have conversations with fellow association professionals at Foundation events in Dallas who feel similarly was inspirational.  To hear personal stories of how their lives have been changed by association and Foundation efforts, or how they have chosen to get involved and why only fueled my fire to want to do more.

c.       Best session of the conference – At a break between sessions I was sitting for a moment in the Innovation Lounge when I was joined by a colleague and friend.  Though we had spoken often before, there was an opportunity to just ask – what are you trying to get out of this?  What do you want to do in the association world?  How can we make a difference?  A five minute conversation became well over an hour – by the end of which I had further refined by own career path, educational goals, and what I would like to try and accomplish for associations.  I believe that my colleague did the same.  Daniel Pink was an amazing speaker.  The networking and new contacts were invaluable.  My ultimate learning moment?  Hearing a colleague’s association vision, passion and journey, and sharing my own.

      Innovation isn’t only for Great Ideas – I attended the Great Ideas conference for the first time last year, and can’t wait to go back this year.  I was happy to see an Innovation Lounge this year – and though I fear the term ‘innovation’ is getting overused, the concepts of development, betterment, ingenuity and creation are still cutting edge.  This year I saw different approaches taken to how leaders collaborated and made plans.  I was part of various conversations that weren’t focused on the way things have always been, but rather on the way things ideally could be.  I saw the start of projects, initiatives and efforts that will be months if not years in the making – and they each started from a single point of synergy or debate.  Innovation appeared to be inclusive of anyone who sought it out – and this year’s conference was truly a playground for the concept.

      Inspiration from leaders, colleagues and friends – At each ASAE event I attend I am again and again amazed at the new people I meet who bring such varied strengths, perspectives and approaches to some very homogeneous aspects of the association landscape.  Through these introductions my own perspectives broaden, as I consider options and opinions that would never before have occurred to me.  I was lucky enough this year to either run across or be included in a number of meetings of leaders – both volunteer and staff – who acknowledged the important work that had to be done, but were open and excited to find different, improved paths for greater success.  With so much to learn, and so much to experience, in the end the greatest take away from ASAE12 is still the people.  My colleagues who I am proud to call friends, my new fellow professionals who I look forward to seeing again, the larger community that I want to continually contribute to….the intangibles that truly ‘make it worth it.’

There is of course more….specific experiences, hospitality and socializing (I still dance like a 7th grader, I just care a little less now), volunteering, recognition, appreciation.  One thing I know for sure – ASAE13 in Atlanta is already on my calendar.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A New Resource for Volunteer Management, Chapters, Councils and More

Ok, so I know a blog is a place to express opinion and insight, but I just received something exciting that I want to share with my association colleagues - and this has become my vehicle for that goal.

I was honored this past year to serve on the ASAE Component Relations Council, and besides finding a whole new network of colleagues and friends I got to work on an amazing project with my friends Trevor Mitchell, Holly Duckworth and a host of other association leaders.  And the final product of that work is ready and will be available at the ASAE Annual Conference!

This will be a great resource to association professionals who work with volunteers, chapters, councils, SIGS, or any other type of component.  It will help associations looking to strengthen their relationship with their components, or establish member groups. The chapters were each written or updated by leaders in the volunteer and association world - presenting a host of approaches and insights.

We will have an official book launch on Sunday, August 12 from 1:00-1:30 at the ASAE Bookstore at the Annual Conference where you can come and meet the host of authors and editors and find out how this resource can help you and your association.

Questions?  Want more information?  Just let me know!

Can't wait to see everyone in Dallas!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What a Year Can Do

Though I did not realize it at the time, ASAE Annual Conference 2011 in St. Louis  was a turning point in my career.  I went in literally knowing no one.  One year later and life is very different.  I am a CAE.  I am an active volunteer.  I have found friends and colleagues in the association world.  And I can not wait for the conference in Dallas.

There have been some really great posts lately on how to get the most out of the ASAE Annual Conference – so I don’t really feel the need to repeat those key insights.  Instead, I found that Annual Conference was a beginning to a number of paths that I did not realize I was going to walk this year – and that is what I would like to share:

1.   Path to Learning – So I knew before I went to Annual last year that I wanted to get my CAE, and had been accepted to take the test.  I had NO idea how to exactly get there.  At conference I learned about review courses (I ended up taking the one with MSAE – never guessed I would be studying flashcards again!), study time lines, test taking strategies and met others also attempting the exam this past year.  It was at annual that I ended up meeting my eventual study buddy, and sure enough – 9 months later we both passed. 

2.     Path to Sharing – ASAE ’11 was where I first learned about the process of session proposals for additional conferences throughout the year.  With the encouragement of some new peers I submitted proposals that ended up with me in a Dr. Seuss hat at Great Ideas ’12.  Yes, my whole office has seen that ignite.  Yes, I am still referred to as ‘the rhyming association guy.’  And yes, it was SO much fun to do.   Annual definitely provides a chance to learn about presentation tips, techniques and opportunities during the year.

3.   Path to Volunteering – As association professionals, we know 6 words we can hear from members that can make a huge difference – “What can I do to help?”  Turning that around, and asking that of the ASAE staff has let me meet some amazing people, have thought provoking conversations, and most of all be able to give back to the profession that is my chosen career path and livelihood.  ASAE ’11 was where I first got the chance to start asking, and still do.

4.   Path to Giving – Having seen how much my professional life has been enriched by ASAE, it only felt right to start giving back to the organization that is giving me so much.  Over the past year I have become an ASAE Foundation donor, and though of course I would like to give more, I know that the contributions I have been able to make are going to great causes, research and initiatives.  If we don’t invest in our own profession, how can we hope to see more opportunities for professional recognition and success?

5.   Path to Community – Of everything I have gained, it is the colleagues – many of whom I am honored to call friends – that have made this past year amazing.  At events and meetings, or over meals and drinks, I have been able to learn so much from each of them, meet so many more from their connections – and feel like I have a community where if I have a question, I can ask and not only receive a dozen answers, but two dozen offers to help.  Starting these friendships at ASAE '11 truly was my biggest gain.

So I come back to ASAE Annual Conference this year from a different place.  This time I come feeling already part of the community.  I have times where I am going to be able to volunteer.  I know both what formal learning opportunities I want to engage in, and how to keep my eyes open for those moments of insight that can pass you by.  I get to walk the stage at an obscenely early hour to be recognized for my CAE.  Having gotten so much, I signed up this year to be a mentor/buddy/new friend to a first time attendee.  Though I am only going on my second year, I hope that I am able to share with them that, with an open mindset to learn, connect and get involved, ASAE Annual Conference can be a career and life changer.