What I learned on my first day at Great Ideas

Yesterday was the first day of ASAE’s Great Ideas conference. For those who are unfamiliar with either, ASAE is the American Society of Association Executives, a professional membership association dedicated to the growth and development of the association community and those who work within it. The Great Ideas conference is held in March and serves as a medium for new strategies, new ideas, and new tactics for association and association-related staff.

I’m fortunate enough to be here due to ASAE and its Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy is a new program from ASAE specifically focused on developing the next generation of association leaders (those with 2-5 years of association experience). During the two-year program students embark on a professional development journey of monthly webinars, professional growth readings, four conferences each with a pre-conference session designed specifically for the Leadership Academy. Acceptance to the leadership academy is based on an application process requiring short answer responses, resumes, and letters of recommendation.

If you’ve never been to one of ASAE’s Great Ideas conference, I strongly recommend you do. Being surrounded by 500 passionate and innovate association professionals is a rush. There are so many wonderful people to meet, stories to share, and new information to soak up. Below are some of the themes I’ve learned from the first day. These aren’t concepts I’ve learned during the idea labs, but wonderful advice, stories, tips shared from seasoned professionals outside of the idea labs. I was fortunate to have a handful of amazing conversations with some genuinely interesting people during the reception and throughout the evening.

The easy route isn’t always the right route
Break the habit of keeping yourself in a comfortable environment. If you are here with your colleagues, or a group of people you already know, take the opportunity to introduce yourself to a new group. It’s easy to share space with people you already know, but it’s always exciting to hear a new story from someone you just met

Never underestimate the power of your story
Everyone has amazing stories to share; about their personal and professional lives, family, how they turned an obstacle into an opportunity. People want to know your story, so go out there and share it. Never feel that your story isn’t interesting enough to the person next to you.

Network to build relationships, not for the sake of networking
It’s not about the number of business cards you collect. It’s about the number of conversations you have 6 months down the road. Meet with the intention of creating long-lasting relationships. It may not always work out that way but it should be your approach. I would rather spend the entire night developing potential long-term relations than have a stack of 25 business cards.

The only way to fail is to not try
What’s great about conferences is that everyone is always willing to talk and share. Sometimes it may not go beyond a brief conversation but imagine the possibilities if it does. Every conversation, no matter how long or short, is going to provide you value and interest, but you have to be willing to engage. The worst conversations are the ones that never happen.

Ask yourself the why & what question
Why do you want to go to this session? What do you hope to get out of it? Have a purpose for everything you do. Why do you want to meet them? What do you want to happen after you talk to them?

Flair is fun!
Enough said 🙂

I want to thank everyone who took the time to speak with me yesterday. Whether it was a quick introduction during a session, a hallway conversation, or an in-depth conversation over drinks at the end of the night. You continue to energize my passion for the association world. If you see me over the next few days, please say hello and share your story.

A special thanks to Jeff Hurt (@JeffHurt), Cynthia D’Amour (@CynthiaDAmour), Kiki L’Italien (@kikilitalien), Greg Melia (@gmeliaCAE), Holly Duckworth (@hduckworth), Glenn Thayer (@glennthayer), and Dean West for your insights and stories yesterday.

Lastly, a shout out to my leadership academy class of 2012. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to speak to one of us please do (look for the leadership academy blue square button on our name tags). I look forward to our two-year journey together.

I’d love to hear what you learned yesterday!

I can’t wait to get today started!