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.


  1. Give yourself some credit. You totally dance like an 8th grader.

  2. If I could only learn those moves Jeff...but my Worm is out of practice....

  3. You offer us so much too Lowell and it is always a pleasure to share a chat, a beverage and some of the dancefloor with you. I agree, Great Ideas and ASAE13 are both on my calendar - just need the leave pass to fly that far and get amongst it all again.