Denver really rocked for the near record-breaking 5,700-plus attendees of the American Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting, held August 18 to 20. From an Earth, Wind & Fire concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater to a reception at Coors Stadium that featured a climbing wall, Denver — which announced during ASAE that it had picked the Hyatt Corp. to manage a 1,100-room headquarters hotel close to its convention center — pulled out all the stops.

While the raves were close to universal for the social activities and the association executives' education, there was lots of grumbling during the M&E (meetings and expositions) sessions. “No take-away value at all,” said one meeting planner of the panel discussion on the first day. And while it was interesting to hear how Westin developed its Heavenly Bed campaign during a marketing and branding session, “This just has no relevance to my work,” said one M&E attendee.

Of Nurses and Neuroscience

General session speaker Marcus Buckingham, author of “First, Break All the Rules” and senior consultant with The Gallup Organization, mingled neuroscience with management to explain Gallup survey results showing that 70 percent of U.S. employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged in their work. The problem, said Buckingham, is that most managers focus on improving employees' weaknesses instead of encouraging each employees' strengths while working around their weaknesses. For example, a study on nurses who give painless injections found that these nurses, who shared a talent for empathy, said, “This is going to hurt a bit. I'll do my best to make it hurt less.” Patients perceived less pain. But if you had a nonempathic nurse say the same thing, it'd sound more like a threat, making patients tense up so it hurts more. Since those nurses haven't developed the neurological equivalent of a T1 line for empathy, it would make sense to place them in a more administrative role, for instance.

While ASAE was an uneven M&E ride this year, most said they had high hopes for next year in Honolulu. “Sure, I'll still go,” said one M&E attendee. “There are so many hot topics in meeting planning — I can't imagine they won't figure out a way to cover them at the executive level they're shooting for.”