Soliciting meeting sponsorships from cell-phone companies and posting greeters at registration counters were just two ideas generated at the American Society of Association Executives’ first Great Ideas Conference, held last week at the Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Attendees were encouraged to post ideas on makeshift "juicy idea" trees and in "cool idea" bins that stood outside the main hall. The suggestions will be sent to all ASAE members and some may be part of the agenda for the next Great Ideas conference, which will take place February 13 to 15, 2005, at The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in Phoenix.

Prior to the conference, ASAE solicited members for session ideas and received 150 responses. Forty were selected and incorporated into the program. Meetings-related content included sessions on designing meetings that enhance communities and building meetings that make money.

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"The concept for Great Ideas focuses on peer-to-peer learning," explained Susan Sarfati, president and CEO of the Center for Association Leadership and executive vice president of ASAE. That’s why the sessions were highly interactive, she said, as opposed to lecture formats.

About 25 percent of the 414 registrants were association CEOs, said Chris Vest, assistant director, media relations. (The percentage of meeting planner attendees was not known at press time.) Sarfati was pleased with the turnout and the geographic diversity of registrants—attendees came from 29 states and Canada. Offering educational opportunities beyond the Washington Beltway was one of the goals of ASAE and the Center after the two organizations merged and the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives was dissolved last summer.

In related news, ASAE is getting set to launch six virtual "learning communities" in January. These password-protected Web sites will provide communities where association members can log on and discuss topics of mutual interest and share resources. Two communities will be based on the demographics of staff size (large associations and small associations); two will be oriented around functional areas (technology and professional development); and two will be oriented around organizational tenure or level of experience (emerging leaders and senior staff). The groups will also be given the option of having their own face-to-face meetings.

After family and work, said Sarfati, "We would like the third place in the life of association professionals to be us."