Every industry and profession has it – a yearly gathering event to get together, share war stories, learn from each other and contemplate the future, it’s called the Annual Meeting. It’s ironic that many of us who have spent our careers as Association Execs planning and organizing such events but still look forward to attending these gatherings as members of professional societies. Such a meeting is taking place starting this weekend in St. Louis at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting.
Though these kind of meetings have changed over the years with a greater emphasis on education and less on partying, no one can ever discount the importance of networking with your peers. The value of any association is the opportunity to get together and discuss mutual interests and on occasion actually solve problems that affect all within the profession.
For many who have been attending these meetings over the years, they have fond memories of great speakers (there were a few we would rather forget), spectacular venues, energetic trade shows and never-ending friendships. These are the meetings where we cut our teeth on a profession that has grown and changed with the times and once again is challenged by the future.
Associations, like all in corporate America are at the crossroads of relevancy. Society and it’s needs are changing even more rapidly than in the past. Companies and associations that were created to react to societal changes are now falling by the wayside themselves:
* Borders, which became a huge player in books and music at the end of the last century as an alternative to the family-operated corner book store now finds itself out of business after a long and painful collapse. Can Barnes and Noble be next? Amazon and the e-readers have certainly eliminated the home bookshelfs for many.
* Blockbuster became the nation’s purveyor of video tapes and dvds in the 80’s and now finds itself irrelevant due to such newer concepts as Netflix and Red Box. Direct streaming of movies and tv shows through your game apparatus or iPad has changed the entire industry.
* Associations were the sole caretakers for professional and industry research, information and education while maintaining the exclusive pathway for interaction between individuals within the community; needless to say those days are long gone now with Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Associations are now tasked to improve their value proposition.
Times, they may have changed but there is still a need to get together and that is what many in the Association Community will be doing in St. Louis. Because the weather will not be hospitable for outside cavorting around the Arch, I suggest you will find many not-for-profit types mixing it up at local eateries and pubs. This is a golden opportunity for many to make new contacts and welcome back old friends. There is nothing like an Annual Meeting to bring out the crowd and find answers to pressing concerns.
For those in transition, such a meeting as the ASAE Annual Meeting (or any other similar event) can provide a non-stop occasion to “rub elbows” with those who may know of openings or can put in a good word for you with those who are currently looking for a new hire. Such a meeting also gives your contacts an opportunity to engage with you personally and not wonder silently “whatever happened to you know who?”
Networking will never go out of fashion and despite the numerous new means to make contact, person to person interaction will never go out of style. There is no better way to get the sale or for those in transition – a new job than looking into the eyes of the decision-makers. Annual Meetings will continue to be the home for networking and making new relationships and for those who believe the days of attending association meetings are long gone, I suggest you visit the numerous hospitality booths at the ASAE trade show this weekend in St. Louis – they continue to seem to see real value in this community!
Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career. He is one of only 230 in the association community worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives since 1986. He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words and 100 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transition.
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