Dear Editor:
In response to your call for ideas in the February issue on what we must change about association meetings, here are some of mine:

  1. Use more formats for learning/idea exchange — both to make the meeting more interesting and to enable people with different temperaments and interests to get to know each other better, learn in different ways, and find others with common interests.

    In addition, bring in more experts from way outside attendees' industry or professional area to get a fresh perspective.

    You might consider trying three 30-minute, expert-led table sessions in a ballroom, with the bell ringing to notify attendees to move to the next table. Attendees reserve their seats for each session via online early registration or upon arrival at the meeting.

  2. Create more memorable multi-sensory moments that reinforce the meeting's “story line.” Storyboard more of the moments along the main paths and byways that attendees will walk, from the moment they enter the meeting space to between meetings. Involve more sensory cues and points of interest, from “Burma Shave”-style signage along a hallway to localized “overheard” audio conversations.

  3. Record via audio and video more of the meeting sessions, plus on-site interviews with experts (including attendees, exhibitors, and speakers) and offer them as streaming downloads from a site, perhaps free to some and for-fee to others (members and nonmembers of an association, or attendees and non-attendees of the conference).

  4. Provide year-round follow-up for continuous learning and community-building. Pre-meeting, announce a contest or a way that people can keep learning and interacting with each other so that the meeting is the launching event for the community of attendees.

Build on the learning, the sense of affiliation, peer-to-peer idea exchanges, and other collaboration. Organizations should consider adopting the features of an online social network; those that don't are at risk of losing their members' (or employees', customers', or other kind of meeting attendees') top-of-mind attention and loyalty.
Kare Anderson, Principal
The Say It Better Center,
Sausalito, CA

Dear Editor,
I enjoyed the article, “Hooked on the Past?: 10 Things We Must Change About Association Meetings,” but when I went to to find the book, there was no listing. How can we get a copy?
Bob Wright
Executive Director

Folk Sport Associates
Leesburg, Va.

Editor's note: You can click on to link directly to ordering info. The book is also is now available at (search for “We Have Always Done It That Way”).

Dear Editor,
I greatly enjoyed the perspective on the need to change monolithic thinking in planning and managing association meetings (“Hooked on the Past?: 10 Things We Must Change About Association Meetings,” AM's February cover story).

More than that, it approaches one of the main problems facing associations, including nonprofits today. Boards and directors are entrenched in their methodology and thinking, so much so that assertive new board members, with real motivation to contribute and “do,” are being crushed by the weight of traditional “we've always done it this way” thinking.

When boards are recruited with their fundraising capability as their main qualification, rather than for their motivation and job skills, then the organization loses, in my opinion. Association boards appear to face these problems with blinders on, and failure to properly set performance standards affects associations, nonprofits, and corporate enterprises as well.

It will not be long before the outcry over corporate compensation issues affect associations and nonprofits as well, and we will see that the adverse outcomes will hurt them all.

Association boards have no less responsibility than do corporate and other nonprofit boards in setting standards of performance, and evaluating and approving management structures, all leading to “best practices” results in achieving association goals.

Dues-paying, loyal members deserve no less.
Barry Dennis
Client Advocate
Timonium, Md.