In our cover story, the executive director of the Independent College Bookstore Association, Stacy Waymire, describes how his organization made the successful change to a hosted-buyer model for the ICBA annual meeting. As you ponder how your association will thrive, the ICBA case study provides one pathway to success:

  1. Listen to your stakeholders, and don't dismiss what they are saying

    In the first half of this decade, ICBA's attendees were not satisfied with the ICBA exhibition. Members and vendors told ICBA that they needed more value from the show in order to justify their investment in attending the event. ICBA at that point had a choice: disregard the criticism and continue with business as usual, or dismantle the existing exhibit format and build a new one to take its place. ICBA acted on the criticism and became an early adopter of the hosted-buyer model, which now is gaining favor rapidly in the meetings industry.

  2. When deciding on changes, put your stakeholders' needs first

    ICBA chose the path that best served its members and show vendors. Finding a marketplace that would be extremely efficient at matching buyers with sellers was the ultimate concern. The result has been a format that delivers tremendous value.

  3. Ask again, then listen again

    In the middle of the ICBA change process was an important step: pausing in order to listen — again — to its attendees. ICBA had conducted research and determined the hosted-buyer model could work. Instead of charging ahead, ICBA approached its most influential vendors and attendees and asked: “If we do this, will you come?” The answer was “yes.” Using your members and key vendors as a focus group — asking them for their objective critique — can reap enormous benefits, as it did for ICBA, and save years of pain for your organization. It's not enough to wait for your members to come to you. Listen carefully before your attendees — and sponsors — turn to other channels to meet their marketplace needs.