ASAE 2012 Annual Conference Hotel Map – Dallas

For those attending ASAE’s Annual Conference in Dallas, TX next August I’ve created a hotel map. If you’re like most people, you’re want to stay within walking distance of the Convention Center.

Note: The Hilton Antole and Ritz Carlton Dallas are not shown on this map.

ASAE 2012 Annual Conference Hotel MapClick to view larger version. Download a Hi-Res PDF.

I’m looking forward to attending my second ASAE’s annual conference this year. Last year was an amazing professional development opportunity. I made so many new friends and turned my online friends into offline friends! Will you be in Dallas this year?

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?

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!

How will generational issues impact retention strategies

I recently responded to a course posting asking “In what ways do you think generational issues will impact association retention strategies?” I have a big problem with companies, associations, organizations thinking they know how to appeal to our generation. How many times have we heard companies pushing their social media (i.e. facebook, twitter, myspace, etc). Only to be disappointed at the lack of substance once we get there. The following was my response to the course posting and I would love some feedback/comments. It personally drives me nuts when I hear a Gen X’er or a baby boomer talk like they know exactly what we want and disregard any opinions from the very audience they are trying to appeal to.

This whole generational issue is something that always gets me steamed up. I’m going to start with the disclaimer that I am a strong member of Generation Y and also this opinion of mine is likely just me being stubborn. With that said, here I go.

It seems as if everyone feels they MUST jump onto the Generation Y bandwagon in order to survive. How often have we heard “we have to get on facebook” or “we have to get on twitter” or ” we have to get onto social networking” because if we don’t we’re going to lose the younger crowd to someone else. I personally find so many flaws with this. The first being that whether a company or association is involved with some type of social media networking has no influence or impact on my decision to join or be involved with them. I’m involved in a number of organizations that have very little if any at all social media presence (and most of the ones that are involved either have no activity or do it very poorly) and I’m also connected to other organizations that do have a strong social media presence but typically find them of little value. The main problem with trying to appeal to generational differences via this medium is that no one really knows how to do it right or even what to do at all. So association XYZ now has 1000 followers on their facebook group – so what? Little purpose is served if those people are not engaged or intrinsically already interested. Does having 1000 passive connected do anything for the organization other than giving these 1000 people a “badge” on their profile?

My second “rant” with the generational issues is that all of the people pushing this generational divide/issue are not members of Generation Y. How many times do you seem someone from generation X or the baby boomer generation on TV talking about how important social media is? I personally think it happens more often than seeing a member of Generation Y on TV talking about the generation as an “expert.” But when a member from Generation Y tries to come of as an expert they are often brushed off with the mindset that “you’re too young, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I recently attended a day-long conference called Social Media for Social Good. It was primarily Gen Y’ers learning about social media, sure everyone there has a facebook account, some of us twitter, I’m sure all of us talk on some type of instant messaging program. Many of our bosses found it valuable enough to send us – but an underlying and repeating theme was “how do we convince our bosses to participate in social media.” Unfortunately no one had an answer – when Gen Y’ers go to their bosses to try and push the issues that are important to us we aren’t viewed as credible sources. We’re just young bucks out of college that don’t know any better because we lack real world experience.

My personal opinion is that if associations want to appeal to Gen Y, they need to appeal to our natural instinct for learning, information, and consistent feedback/praise. We love to professional learn, we want tools to do our jobs well, and we want to do it our way. Our best traits are not reading a 30-page long research paper or memo, we are information disseminators. We grew up on the internet, google, and having 8 different instant messaging chat boxes open. We like lots of information, receiving massive amounts of information and then summarizing it into useful chunks.

The unfortunate aspect involving retention strategies is that its very hard to retain Gen Y’ers – we typically do not remain loyal and if we are unhappy somewhere (work, association, groups) we leave to move onto something better/we like. If associations are to retain this generation they must continually adapt to the ever-changing needs of its younger members.