The American Society of Association Executives and The Center for Association Leadership recently went where few associations dare to go: They turned over a communication tool about their Annual Meeting, coming August 13 to 16 to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., to some non-staff volunteers. And now they’re inviting everyone, whether they’re coming to the meeting or not, to join in, either by offering to e-mail their opinions about a session or two to, or by phoning in a comment to (206) 222-1606. People eager to comment on the M&E sessions are especially welcome.

The tool is the XtremeASAE Blog, a successor to last year’s inaugural annual meeting weblog that was handled by staff members. This year, ASAE and The Center is working with six veteran association bloggers to become the virtual voice of this year’s conference. (Click here for an explanation of what a weblog, or blog, is.) Launched July 12, the Xtreme ASAE blog is already getting noticed by attendees, and non-attendees who want to be able to feel they’re a part of what’s happening at this year’s meeting.

In the first week of its existence, XtremeASAE bloggers had already posted about how attendees can share the photos they take through Flickr; find new networking contacts through ASAE’s IntroNetworks, a social networking tool; and use RSS (really simple syndication, a standard feature of many blogs that notifies subscribers every time something new is posted). They’re also posting highly practical items, like a floorplan to Opryland that people can use to map out their stay.

One of the XtremeASAE bloggers, Jeff De Cagna, chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation LLC. says, "ASAE and The Center trust us to choose the right things to introduce, and that we won’t overwhelm or confuse people." This is important, he says, because when a Pew Internet and American Life Project study finds that 62 percent of Americans don’t know what a blog is, and only 9 percent are familiar with RSS, there’s going to be a learning curve. "We want to familiarize the association community with some of the tools we all use on our own blogs, but only the things that will add value for ASAE members"in terms of enhancing their experience in Nashville, being able to participate even if they aren’t attending, and being exposed to ideas they could use for their own meetings and conferences.

By working with volunteers on the conference blog, and by inviting attendees and non-attendees to comment via phone or e-mail on the daily happenings—or what they’d like to know about the daily happenings, if they’re not on site—"ASAE and The Center are sending a powerful message," says De Cagna. "Demonstrating such trust is a testament to where the organization is going."