A Walk Through Guide for ASAE’s 2012 Annual Conference: My On-Site Schedule

This is part two of a three-part series focusing on what to do before, during, and after this year’s ASAE Annual Conference. This second post is my in-depth (and probably overly detailed) on-site schedule including sessions and events I’ll be attending. You may also want to see my posts on Five Tips for an ASAE Annual Conference First Timer and A Walk-Through Guide to ASAE’s Annual Conference: Pre-Conference Prep. (Sorry, this is a long post!)

Update August 6, 4:16pm – I added a few other social events on Sunday and Monday I thought sounded interesting but will be unable to attend.

On-Site Tips for Attendees

Have a plan
Know what you want to get out of the conference, what you’re going to do while you’re there – it’s much easier than constantly flipping through your program finding out where to be next.

Pick a few sessions
Line up a number of educational sessions for each time slot. You’ll see below I picked three for each time slow in case some of them are full.

Clear your calendar
Try to be 100% unavailable for work so you can focus on the conference experience.

Spend some time in the expo hall
If you’re responsible for marketing your association’s conferences, talk to the CVBs in the cities you’ll be visiting.

Meet new people
Don’t sit with friends you already know during sessions, lunches, and events. It feels safe but people are less likely to interrupt two comfortable friends and you’ll end up limiting yourself.

Phones to silent
As AMC Theatres always say, Silence is Golden, only when you’re in a session though. There’s always someone who forgets to do this.

Pace yourself
If you try to be everywhere in the first day or two, you’ll crash well before the end of the conference.

There’s something about live-tweeting and conversing with all the other association professionals on twitter that I love doing while I’m at the conference. If you’ll be tweeting at the conference, let me know if I need to add you to my ASAE Annual Conference Twitter list. Follow the list if you’re looking for people to follow during the conference.


If you have the fortune of landing on Saturday, you’re in luck. It’s so much easier getting into conference mode if you arrive on Saturday. This year, my flight plans didn’t get me into Dallas early enough to do one of the Dallas Double Take Tours. I’ll land in Dallas around 1:15pm or so, this will give me plenty of time to get to my hotel and settle in.

I expect to arrive at the hotel around 2pm or so. If you have a little bit of time this afternoon, use it to get settled into your room. I always unpack my entire bag; everything either goes onto a hanger in the closet or into a drawer. Trust me; it’s much easier than trying to get ready each morning out of your suitcase.

Ironing Tip: Once I’ve unpacked everything, the first thing I usually do is take all my clothes and hang them in the bathroom – turn on the hot water and steam all the wrinkles out of my clothes. Some items may require ironing anyways but this usually gets me a solid start. Or you can skip this step and go straight into ironing all of your clothes. I usually find a few steam sessions does the trick for me.

7:30 – 10:30pm
Definitely make your way to the Opening Night Celebration at Cowboys Stadium. ASAE will be providing bus/shuttle service from all the hotels to the opening celebration, so don’t worry about taking a taxi to the party. Hopefully you packed your favorite football jersey – definitely sport that. I’ll be coming in bar shoes, jeans, and my Tom Brady Jersey (Go Pats!). Last year’s opening celebration did not disappoint and this year’s should be stellar as well. Make sure you visit the conference center to “register” and pick up your badge holder – badges will be required to get in.


6:00 – 7:15am
Each year ASAE hosts a 5k Fun Run/Walk during annual. It’s something I’ve wanted to do but a 6am start time is a bit rough for me. This year, I’ll be skipping out on it in lieu for a few extra hours of sleep. Maybe next year

8:30 – 10:00am
The first session of the conference will be Opening Session with James Carville, Karl Rove and Michelle Bernard engaging in a spirited, insightful, and provocative discussion. I’m having some difficulty seeing the purpose of this session to association professionals but how often will I have the opportunity to hear these three speak in person?

10:00am – 1:30pm
More and more I’m starting to realize the Association Solutions Marketplace with Lunch is a missed opportunity for a lot of people. In the last few weeks I’ve noticed myself saying on a number of occasions “I’ll be at ASAE’s annual, I can — look for vendors, talk to our vendor, and meet with our future CVBs — while I’m there. There’s no other place where I’m going to have this kind of access to my current, future, and potential business partners that I’ll have during the Expo Hall. I highly recommending checking to see if any of your vendors will be there; this is a great opportunity to get some one-on-one time if you have any questions, concerns, or feedback about their products. Also, it’s an included lunch!

Visit the On-Site bookstore. This is a tough one for me…while I do love great association books I rarely want to carry them home. If I have space in my checked bag I’ll buy them but I usually don’t want to carry them on board with me. The conference discounts are nice though

1:30 – 2:45
This is the heart of the conference, the learning labs. The good sessions fill up quickly so make sure you pick a few sessions in each time slow you are interested in attending. I think it’s also important to use this opportunity to explore areas you don’t normally get exposed to. I make it a habit of picking three sessions in each time slot and rank them in order. More times than not my first, second, and even third choices have been packed forcing me to scramble to find a new session.

When I’m picking my sessions I’m usually all over the place. My primary focus is communications and marketing but I also try to attend sessions about meetings, governance, membership, and sessions for my own personal/professional development.

For this time slot I’ve selected:

  • Business of Meetings: The Strategic Impact of Digital Events on Meetings
  • Video as an Educational and Communication Tool
  • Conversations that Matters: How Online Community is Changing the Way We Work

 Interesting Session: Story Slam/Coaching Jam

Travel Alberta is hosting baseball game, Texas Rangers vs. Detroit Tigers, immediately following the ASAE tradeshow. Head to the Texas Rangers baseball game in an air conditioned bus to watch from a private suite.

3:15 – 4:30
For this time slot I’ve selected:

  • The Science Behind Member Loyalty
  • Grow Revenue through a Successful Partnership Program
  • The Future of Tradeshows

5:00 – 6:00pm
Community Section Receptions are a great time for you to mingle with other association professionals in the same position as you. Take this opportunity to meet and mingle to develop your network of peers. These will be association peers you’ll be reaching out to when you come across an issue or problem that you need help with. Don’t feel like you have to stay in on reception either, especially if you’re a small staff professional who is responsible for multiple areas. Keep in mind, you don’t want to be one of those networkers who only spends 5 minutes in each place and denying yourself the opportunity to make some genuine connections.

The rest of the evening is open for the conference. This is when most vendors will schedule their social events for clients and/or new prospects. Basically, this is a big “social” night for all attendees. You will find some attendees planning dinners or happy hour with friends, other attendees going to vendor parties, some hanging out at the local pub. Whatever you do, don’t spend the rest of your night in your room. Below are some of the events I’ll be attending:

This is an event I won’t be attending but looked amazing. Fort Worth CVB is hosting a Best of Fort Worth on the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. If you’re interested in attending RSVP to Linda Jingles at lindajingles@fortworth.com or call 817.698.7833 no later than August 8.

6:30 – 9:30pm
I’ll be starting my night off with Higher Logic’s, Fiesta Fabulosa at the Iron Cactus. Their party will feature a Mariachi Band and true Texas food and drink; I’m looking forward to this. For registration information, contact Lauren Wolfe, RSVPs are required.

I won’t be attending this but I thought it was interesting, a CVB Coalition event, Welcome to Our Home Away From Home by Visit Pittsburg, Visit Milwaukee, and Travel Portland at the Belo Mansion.

8:30pm – 2am
Multview’s Party Your Assn Off is definitely on the top of my DO NOT MISS events. Last year’s party was an amazing event and this year is looking to be amazing as well. This event is open to all registered attendees so make sure you sign up for this!


7:00am – 8:30am
Come join your industry peers for this celebration of friends and colleagues as ASAE recognizes the 2011 class of CAEs, Fellows, DELP Scholars, and Leadership Academy participants (that’s me!).

8:45 – 10:00am
For this time slot I’ve selected:

  • Blah Blah Blah: Forget the Ordinary and Learn to Write Marketing Copy That Gets Responses
  • Under the Hood: “Car Talk” Takes on Association Publishing
  • Hot Topics in Antitrust Law

Interesting Session: Strong Associations of the Future

10:00am – 1:30pm
If you’ve never been to ASAE’s annual conference, the Association Solutions Marketplace with Lunch floor is HUGE. I’ll definitely be using this second day to meet with CVBs of our future location meetings and vendors with specific products. Even if you aren’t looking for a vendor now, chances are you will be at some point – take some time to walk up and down the aisles.

1:30 – 2:45pm
For this time slot I’ve selected:

  • Ignite – THIS IS A MUST ATTEND. I’ve attended 3 ignites with two of them as a speaker and everyone says they’re amazing. You get exposed to a variety of content in a short period of time. This is especially great when the speakers are engaging; it’s such a great event. Here are videos from the two Ignite Talks I’ve done at ASAE events, Twitter Saved My Life: Not Really, but Maybe and Go Innovate Yourself: Seven Principles Inspired by Steve Jobs if you want a small taste. I highly recommend taking a look at ASAE’s YouTube channel to see the videos from all the Ignite talks they’ve done.
  • The Hottest Tool in Member Retention: Content
  • 21st Century Pricing: How to Price Dues, Programs, and Products

Interesting Session: Silos are for Farms: Integrating Your Organization’s Content to Increase Member learning, Value, and Success

3:15 – 4:30
For this time slot I’ve selected:

  • Association Marketing is SOOOO Vanilla
  • Creating Social Strategy
  • Delivering Now: Lessons from a National Industry Awareness Campaign

Interesting Session: How to be an Association Rainmaker

4:30 – 5:30pm
For all of you association publishing professionals, join Association Media and Publishing for their Networking Get-Together at Bob’s Steak & Chop House in the Omni Downtown Dallas. If you haven’t registered yet, sign up through their website, you’ll need an AM&P account.

5:30 – 8:30pm
This is the first time I’ll be attending ASAE’s Foundation’s – The Classic VIP Reception at the Meyerson Symphony Center – home to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. I’m looking forward to food from Dallas’ top chefs and restaurants and their local celebrity chefs.

7:00 – 10:00pm
Following the VIP Reception will be ASAE’s Foundation’s – The Classic at the Winspear Opera House to indulge in the ‘new’ Dallas with catering by Wolfgang Puck (this guy seems to be everywhere these days).

9:00pm – 1:00am
The YAPstar network-FEST is always another great social gathering during ASAE’s annual. This year’s event will be hosted at the Hard Rock Dallas. The first 125 guests will receive two free drink tickets thanks to Association Mavens and Aggregage – thanks to both of them for their support this year and of course Hard Rock for the venue!


9:00 – 10:15am
For this time slot I’ve selected:

  • Can You Hear Me Now? Communicating With Members on Multiple Platforms
  • How Relevance is Transforming the Direct Marketing Strategy of Associations
  • Creating and Selling E-Books – Today

Interesting Session: Earning the CAE: your Path to Success in Association Management

10:45am – 12:00pm
For this time slot I’ve selected:

  • Today, Tomorrow, & Beyond: Changing Demographics in America
  • Less is More: Successfully Evaluating Your Programs and Services
  • Advanced Social CRM: Avoid Social Data Silos

Interesting Session: Upgrade to Free: 50-Plus Free and Bargain Tech Tools and Apps to Make Your Worklife Easier

12:15 – 2:00pm
I’m really looking forward to the Closing General Session with Daniel Pink, The Moving Business: The Tender Art and Surprising Science of Convincing, Compelling and Cajoling Others where Daniel will offer a fresh look at the art and science of selling (something we can all try to do better as association professionals).

2:00pm – 7:00pm
If you’re looking for something to do before the Closing Night party and not taking one of the Double Take Tours (I’m sad I missed out on this opportunity), check out the New York Times’ Travel Page, 36 Hours in Dallas. Obviously you won’t have time to do everything on here, but you may find a few interesting things to pass the time Tuesday Afternoon. Of course you’ll want to do some of these activities with your newly found association friends!

7:00 – 10:00pm
On the final night of the conference, celebrate with your fellow attendees at the Closing Night Celebration at Fair Park, the nation’s largest and recently named a “Top 10 Classic American Experience” by CNN.


Have I missed anything for this year’s conference? What are you looking forward to in Dallas?

Five Tips for an ASAE Annual Conference First Timer

We’re just a few weeks away from ASAE’s 2012 Annual Conference in Dallas, TX. If you’re like me, you’ve been looking forward to this since last August. I’ve already started looking at sessions I want to attend, events that look exciting, and can’t wait to connect with old and new friends in Dallas. Last year’s annual conference was my first ASAE conference and I thought I’d take some time to address some first-timer conference questions.

What do I wear?

I’ve always been really good at over packing and returning with outfits I didn’t touch. That’s just how I work and I have no plans to change that. You will probably want a few different outfits for you as a daytime conference attendee and others for evening activities. ASAE’s dress code for the conference is:

We want you to be comfortable so you can enjoy your meeting experience! Therefore, business casual dress is strongly encouraged. We suggest bringing a light sweater or jacket with you during the day as meeting rooms are air conditioned.

This means leave the suits (and ties) at home but look nice. I usually go with a dress shirt, dress slacks/khakis, and dress shoes during the day and dress down for evening events. Check out ASAE’s video, What to Wear to ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo’s Opening Reception as they’ve spelled it out for you this year:

The point is to be comfortable at the conference, so leave the suits at home. Unless you’ll be participating in the Monday Morning Awards Ceremony – you may want to consider something a little nicer for that. I’ve never been though so many someone else can chime in on this?

Do I have to have business cards?

YES! Bring more than you ever think you will ever need. You won’t believe the number of opportunities you will have to meet new people – and you will. One of the worst things that can happen is to run out of business cards at a conference.

Here’s a tip for those business cards you collect. After you’ve finished your conversation with someone, jot down a few notes on the back of the card to remind you about the conversation. Anything interesting they said, something that you want to follow up on, or a few fun facts that will help you remember them. Do it right after the conversation, or at least later that evening.

At the end of each day while I’m sitting in my hotel room I take all the cards I collected and make sure I have enough notes on the back of their card to remember them and the conversation once I’ve gotten back to the office. Most importantly, send a follow-up, “nice to meet you” email (at the least), or a hand-written card/note to thank them for their time after the conference. Isn’t the whole point of meeting someone to develop and continue the relationship? These will be the people you go to for advice, questions, resources on your day-to-day association life. For you younger association professionals, you may have even found a mentor to guide you along the way – I know I have!

What else should I bring?

This depends on your conference experience and how you work/network/learn the best. Below is my Pinterest board of items that I make sure I have when I’m on the conference floor (it’s a lot of stuff but I tend to be over-prepared).

These are just the items for my “day pack” while I’m at sessions and roaming around the conference center. Of course this means that after the daytime activities I’ll have to go back to my hotel room to drop these off before I head out for the night, which sometime can be cumbersome. If you’re looking for a good list of things to help you pack for the entire conference this Pack This Pad from Knock Knock may be useful for you.

Will I feel left out if I don’t know a lot of people?

You can feel left out if you want to be, but I don’t recommend it. Does it help to know some people at the conference already? Sure. Can you still enjoy yourself and have a great time even if you don’t know anyone? Absolutely, but it requires you be willing to put yourself out there and introduce yourself to other attendees. Introduce yourself to people at your table during sessions, in the hallways, at lunches, and evening social events (this is probably the easiest one). The conference can seem intimidating with so many people there but I promise but you’ll rarely meet someone who isn’t interested in meeting someone new.

Putting yourself out there can be scary for a lot of people, I think a great way to start is to tweet while you’re at the conference and converse using the #asae12 hashtag. It’s a great way to find out what’s happening during the conference, ask questions, and meet new people. Check out my twitter list of this year’s conference attendees and let me know if you want to be added.

How do I get the most out of attending?

It’s important to identify your current issues or questions. Pick a few and keep them in mind as you attend sessions and meet new people throughout the conference. The expo hall can be a great place to find solutions for your association as well.

Ask yourself, “Why am I attending this conference?” or “What do I want to leave this conference with?” The answers to these will be different for everyone but asking yourself is important in guiding your conference experience. Are you here for the education? Are you looking to expand your network of association professionals? You can have multiple reasons for attending, but it’s important you know all your reasons. Otherwise, you’ll spend all of your time floundering around trying to take in everything and I think most ASAE conference veterans will tell you, there’s just too much.

The people are the most important thing for me, it’s a chance for me to re-connect with people whom I don’t’ normally see regularly and to meet new people to expand my network of contacts. Expanding my network of contacts doesn’t mean just collecting a lot of business cards. With more than 5,000 association professionals at this conference, there’s just too many people for one person to meet. That shouldn’t discourage you from meeting as many people as you can though, but don’t be one of those people that just works every room. Make an effort to establish some real connections that will prove valuable to you for the rest of your association career. These are the people you will most likely be emailing and calling for advice and feedback on future projects and issues.

Did I forget anything? Ask away. If this will be your first ASAE annual conference what questions do you have? For my fellow conference attendee regulars what advice do you have for this year’s conference first timers?

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.