And expand it did. Having wait-listed many exhibitors in years past, GWSAE added 125 booths this year, for a total of 702 booths, and there were 35 percent more visitors, according to Susan Sarfati, CAE, president and CEO of GWSAE. More than 4,500 people attended Springtime, including 865 exhibitors, a record number of attendees, according to GWSAE.
But the highlight for most was the keynote by Tom Peters, management guru and author of a gazillion management books, and Roger Dow, senior vice president, Marriott International. Rather than a canned presentation called "Winning in a World with No Rules," which we expected, Sarfati posed a series of provocative questions to the two men (whose appearance was sponsored by the Washington Speakers Bureau), about the future of face-to-face meetings and associations.
Peters said that we're no more than 10 years away from having no more lifetime employment, which means that associations will become everyone's community, because physicists, for example, will not form camaraderie at work, but will look to their association for like interests. "That gives you the ability to use your trade shows as the utter centerpiece. So electronically and physically, this can be associations' great moment in the sun."
Dow added, "Get the young people on your education or program committee if you want to deliver the right content. We can't keep offering last year's program with different speakers."
- Make every member transaction a WOW Experience. In 2003, "good enough" is not good enough. I see all too many "normal" shows and marginal publications.
- Apply the Cirque du Soleil standard to every show! You must give people far better and more compelling reasons than before to attend. Why shouldn't this trade show be as exciting?
- Brand the daylights out of the association! Be crystal clear as to what your P.O.D.D. (point of dramatic difference) is. P.S.: Branding is as much or more about what we "are not" as what we "are." Be especially aware not to be "all things to all people (the kiss of death)."
- Get wildly serious about member re-education, continuing education, information exchange. Use the Web relentlessly in education. Peter Drucker has said that continuing education of executives will become the biggest industry in the U.S. You ought to own this industry!
- Get serious about talent. We need highly imaginative, freaky people to seek careers in associations.
- Pay special attention to "Leadfrogs," who are two years ahead of the pack. Innovation stems from being dragged into the future by the obstreperous ones. Beware of conservative, non-representative boards of directors. Enough of boards of associations run by shockingly old white guys.
- I despise motivational speakers who quote old dead people, but, I'll quote Michelangelo:" The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.
And from Dow: Get rid of the word supplier and replace with partner; re-imagine your value proposition; I believe that you do not build long-term relationships by suing people; we should have people from Stanford Business School coming to our meetings; become a sought-after source; recognize and reward your franchise players; and become incredibly convenient.