At this year's American Society of Association Executives and The Center for Association Leadership annual conference in Chicago, the organization released a new book, The Decision to Join, which explores why people join associations and reveals the importance of meetings for providing networking opportunities and delivering information and education to members.

The book features statistical data from a survey of 16,944 people — including those who currently are members, formerly were members, or never belonged to an association — who were asked a series of questions about why they joined, left, or never bothered. It reveals that 54 percent of current members prefer to receive information about their field from conferences or meetings. That's second only to magazines or journals, which 65 percent preferred. A closer look reveals that the younger generations rely less on meetings for information than their elders, as 57 percent of the Pre-War generation (those over 60) and 55 percent of Baby Boomers prefer to get their information from meetings, compared to 51 percent of Generation Xers and almost 50 percent of Millennials.

The most important functions of an association are also indirectly related to meetings. For example, 46 percent of current members said the most important function was providing training/professional development to members. The next most important functions were providing technical information to members (44 percent); providing timely information about the field to members (37 percent); and providing networking opportunities (36 percent).

What's interesting, says co-author Monica Dignan, who wrote the book along with James Dalton, is the greater importance that younger generations and international members place on networking. More Millennials and Generation Xers rank networking as the most important function of associations than Baby Boomers and the Pre-War generation. Further, more international respondents (41 percent) view networking as the most important functions than do Americans (34.7 percent).

For more information on the book, go to

Meeting in Three Acts

At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Society of Association Executives and Center For Association Leadership put on something called The Association: The Musical to deliver the typical business of the general session in a most creative manner. It was even held at a theater, the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place, and the lights went down promptly at 8:30 each morning to a full house.

ASAE hired creative consultancy PCI Communications to put on the musical, which took place over the course of three general sessions. A troupe of professional actors portrayed a small association from Anywhere, USA, wrestling with issues such as generating revenues, globalization, branding, and governance. Throughout the three-day performance, the normal business of the general sessions — presentations, awards, and keynote speakers — was worked into the program.

Among the keynoters were former ABC news anchor Bob Woodruff, who was seriously injured in the Iraq war and who his wife, Lee, calls “a walking miracle”; David Cooperrider, director at the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, part of the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University; and Christopher Gardner, the man who Will Smith portrayed in the film The Pursuit of Happyness.

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