It's been more than a year since two major Washington, D.C — based industry associations (the American Society of Association Executives and the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives) and their affiliates (the ASAE Foundation and the Center for Association Leadership) formally merged. But at the ASAE annual meeting, held August 12 to 15 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, the entities came together as one.
The 5,300 attendees found much to celebrate: The association unveiled its new brand, including a new name and logo — ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership (shortened further to ASAE & The Center, in most cases) — and announced that association executive attendance at the meeting was at an all-time high at 2,500-plus, a 25 percent increase over the past two years; membership had grown 2.6 percent over the past year, reversing a four-year decline; and its finances had improved greatly.
While crowing about their past successes, it was evident that the association's staff executives — Susan Sarfati, CAE (president, The Center, and executive vice president, ASAE) and John H. Graham IV, CAE (president and CEO, ASAE) — as well as the elected leaders had also been busy crafting what the future of the association would be. They promised that ASAE & The Center would become a model association, one that every association executive in America would want to join, and they infused the audience with their own brand of passion.
“Our new brand is more than a name or a logo. It represents our dedication to consistently improving your experience at every turn,” said the duo as they announced the news. “We have developed the following statements to define what we do and what members can expect from us:
Our cause (why we exist): ASAE & The Center help associations transform society through the power of collaboration.
Our value proposition (what we do): ASAE & The Center connect great ideas and great people to inspire leadership and achievement within the association community.
Our promise (how we serve our stakeholders): We promise to provide exceptional experiences, a vibrant community, and essential tools that make you and your organization more successful.
Our guarantee: Our goal is to provide truly exceptional offerings and service, and we won't be happy until you are. If any programs, products, or services of ASAE & The Center do not fulfill our promise, we will make the situation right or refund your money.”
Educating — Quickly
The Center's thumbprint for excellent education could be found everywhere. A keynote and lively panel by today's top marketing gurus, not all of whom always agreed, fully engaged the audience. Separate thought-leader sessions featuring James Gilmore, co-author of The Experience Economy, and Elliott Masie, president and CEO, the MASIE Center, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., were standing-room-only crowd-pleasers.
Masie (www.masie.com), an expert in the field of learning, led a session about how associations can refocus their educational efforts to become bigger players in the training of corporate America and others. Masie, who hates PowerPoint (“It drove out the telling of great stories!”), cautioned anyone in the learning field to pay attention to the way the younger generation learns.
“They are challenging enormous assumptions that we have [about the way people learn]. We've got to look at learning differently. It's all about velocity and speed. If it takes 18 months for you to develop a program, it will be out of date. You'll need to do it in 18 weeks, in 18 days, even in 18 hours. That's what the Department of the Navy has just asked us to do: develop courses in 18 hours.”
Masie used his experience of filling an immediate learning need as an example: his own recording of a podcast (audiocast) about learning trends, which lasted no more than seven minutes (the maximum time someone will listen, according to Masie). He taped it at 8 a.m. the morning of his presentation at ASAE. By 1 p.m., 19,000 people had downloaded the podcast from his Web site.
“Velocity is a challenge,” says Masie. And one that “most associations don't get.”
In another area of education, The Center announced the launch of its Business of Meetings Certificate Program, a series of four two-day courses, designed for meeting professionals with eight or more years of meeting or association management experience. The courses will take place in November in Washington, D.C., and in Chicago next March.
Among the most popular and memorable experiences at the convention were the performances by a local country-music band at all three general sessions. They put satirical association management lyrics (written by Robert W. Sprague, senior vice president and CSO, PCI Communications Inc.) to the tunes of country music hits. Many favored “Strategic Plan,” sung to the tune of “Stand by Your Man.” So successful were the band and its songs that ASAE and the Center plan to release a CD.