Online friends turned offline at ASAE’s annual meeting

This week, I attended the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) annual meeting in St. Louis. I can’t begin to express how excited I was to be there as a first time attendee. Adding to the excitement (and a little nervousness too) was the fact that I presented an Ignite talk; my first professional presentation and my first stand up presentation since grad school. For those of you unfamiliar with Ignite, it’s a fast-paced 5 minute talk with 20 slides set for auto-rotate every 15 seconds.

My talk was titled How Twitter Saved My Life; Not Really, But Maybe? It was the story of how I used Twitter to meet new people in DC and develop most of my social circles. I’ll write more about the Ignite talk in a future post. The focus of my talk was about connecting to people and building relationships; both online and offline.

Developing online relationships

One of the reasons I was excited to attend this conference was because I was eager to meet all of my association twitter friends. People I had been connecting with through #assnchat, #asae11, #asae, and #asaeyp. There were so many I was looking forward to finally see in person I don’t dare name all of them for fear of leaving some out. Chances are if I approached you, or asked you to meet somewhere you were one of them.

Photo of John Chen & Mandy Stall Online relationships and connections are great; I value every single one of them I have. Trust me, it’s the only way that I’ve been able to manage in DC. It’s how I’ve met new friends and connected with old ones. It’s how I’m able to keep in touch with so many people and not miss a beat when we hang out offline. We spend hours reading each other’s content, sharing links, and conversing online.

It is one of the main reasons I have such a large community of association colleagues and friends. I can’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t have #assnchat on Tuesday, or the likes of @Laurenhefner, @ElizabethB, @ewengel, @ltwhite, @chatterbachs, @teritally, @maryvig, @gmeliaCAE, @laurenawolfe, @kikilitalien, @maddiegrant, @maggielmcg, @sfeuer@mandydc, or @hduckworth (just to name a few, there are so many more out there) to help me through this association journey. Sometimes, we need to take it one step further.

Isn’t an online relationship enough?

During my Ignite talk, I spoke to the fact that the real power of twitter is when you take it offline. As much as I love all of my online friends, there’s something to be said about taking that online relationship, offline. Here’s the strange thing, we expose more of our inner selves through online relationships while at the same time hiding (or perhaps just sharing less) of our outer selves. Like John Graham, CEO of ASAE said during the annual conference, those of us tweeting are certainly not shy.

Photo of John Chen & Lauren Hefner As much as we are open with each other. As much of a social media junkie as I am. As much as I love to connect and share with friends online. I know it can never fully replace the power of an in-person interaction. I need that physical presence that you get from a friend sitting next to you. I need the warmth of a hug from you and to be able to read your body language, and the tone in which you speak to me (how many times arguments and misunderstandings have happened because we can’t convey tone through text? BTW, I like to use a lot of emoticons but apparently they’re not appropriate for work emails). My online association friends mean so much to me and they fulfill a very special role. Why are the important to me?

What makes association friends special?

Our happiest, saddest, and scariest moments are shared with your friends. My recent scariest moment was presenting my Ignite talk on Monday. I can’t believe how much support I received before, during, and after the talk; the number of people that came to the room to cheer me on was unbelievable. They help me learn, lift me up when I am down, and support me in more ways than I can imagine. They’re proven themselves time and time again to be a huge resource in my life.

Photo of John Chen & Andrea Holovach The association friends I’ve made online are just as important as the ones I have made offline. The young association professionals I have met through ASAE’s Association of the Future Project, Leadership Academy (Go class of 2012!), and veterans through conferences such as Great Ideas or Marketing, Membership, & Communications and Annual Meting & Expo 2011 have been amazing. I truly cherish each one of you.

Beyond being there to support me, I know they understand me as well. They face the same things I face everyday in their own jobs. As association professionals we’re all doing what we can to serve our members. Sometimes, it’s not as easy as it sounds and there are lots of things that get in the way of us being able to do that. The support of this community (evidenced by the 5,000+ attendees at the conference this week) is what helps me each and everyday in career.

Thank you

My association friends comfort me when I am sad, laugh with me when I am happy, and cheer me on when I succeed. They always give me good advice, help me solve my problems, and I can always count on them to treat me nice. Thank you to all my association friends past, present, and future. I wouldn’t be where I am without you all.

Why I am Looking Forward to my First ASAE Annual Conference

Yesterday, I arrived in St. Louis for my first ASAE annual conference. It would be an understatement to say that I was fired up to be here. To be honest, I was (and still am) more excited to be at my first ASAE annual conference than I was the first time I went to Disney World. If Disney World is the happiest place on Earth then what does that make ASAE?

ASAE has been an amazing professional home to me since I joined the association world after college. I’ve been fortunate to have an organization who supports my professional development and a professional home that has welcomed me open arms.

How Did I Get Involved With ASAE?
Association of the Future. I first got involved with ASAE when I applied (and was accepted) for a new pilot project, the Association of the Future, . The Association of the Future (AOTF) was collaborative project that created a mock association “staffed” purely by young association professionals. Mock staff and board of directors participated in a yearlong simulation address a variety of current and future association trends. After participating in this project, I was hooked on ASAE.

Leadership Academy. After AOTF, I was encouraged to apply for ASAE’s Leadership Academy, a two-year program designed to provide learning opportunities and develop the next generation of association executives. I’m only 8 months into this program, but I’m serious when I say; this has been a career altering experience for me already. I’ve met amazing classmate whom I now call friends, connected with veteran association executives whom I would have been had the opportunity, and learned so much about myself and what I am able to achieve.

Why Do I Love ASAE so Much?
Reason 1. The thing that has made my professional home absolutely amazing has been the people; the members, the staff, the volunteers have been so open and willing with their time. I’ve been paired up with a handful of mentors (both officially and unofficially) whom have provided so much personal and professional guidance to me. Complete strangers in the association world have taken time out of their busy schedules and lives to sit down with me and provide me with valuable insight, direction, and wisdom which would have taken me years to figure out (and probably a lot of hardship along the way)

Reason 2. The staff at ASAE is top notch. As association professionals, we all know what’s involved in doing our best to service our members. Members who work in a variety of industries from aerospace to zoology. Each day we strive to provide the best professional home we can. The interesting thing about ASAE for me; their members are also their industry colleagues. I can’t imagine what it is like having your members work in the same field as you. On the flip side, it’s interesting to me to have a professional home full of staff who do the same things as me. It creates an interesting dynamic on both sides of the fence.

I’m looking forward to a great annual conference this week and a life long relationship with ASAE. They won’t be getting rid of me anytime soon. What are you looking forward to this week?