We asked Tom Reiser, Executive Director of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis, and Holly Byrd-Duncan, Membership and Marketing Manager for the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine to give us their on-the-ground accounts of ASAE15.
Q. What were some of the standout sessions you attended at ASAE this year and what did you learn?
Tom Reiser: As every year, ASAE provides excellent and broad education in all aspects of association management that helps us to do a better job and advance our organizations but also fuels our own professional development. The programming also inspires us to think outside the box, which I think is very important.
Four big ideas stood out for me:
1. The importance of challenging the status quo and the need for innovation. Associations, as much as businesses, must not take anything for granted or risk becoming obsolete. Josh Linkner, in his presentation on innovation at the opening session, illustrated this in a very entertaining and impactful way. Some of the models and products/services of associations may easily fall prey to disruptive approaches from either a different organization or a for-profit entity. Associations are not necessarily known for rapid change, so it becomes even more important to not become complacent.
2. A more strategic and thoughtful approach to international development. I was very energized by the focus on how to be successful internationally and to embrace and approach global opportunities. As we all know, this is not easy and some huge companies have failed. To a certain degree, associations may have it easier but at the same time they need to be smart and informed about it and they need to decide how to be most successful – be that through leading with mission or margin, membership and/or product. It's also very important to be culturally sensitive.
3. The importance of partnerships. This stood out for me as a topic that was interwoven throughout many tracks and presentations. Associations are often dealing with tight resources and limited experience when it comes to international dynamics, research, or particular products. Partnerships with other societies or with strategic vendors and partners are critical to the success of our activities.
4. The role of diversity as well as having four generations in the workplace. It was interesting and very relevant to look at the impact this has on organizational cultures as well as in society memberships (and the implications of these varied demographics' different preferences and expectations for engagement, communication, benefits, etc.).
Holly Byrd-Duncan: The standout session for me was on Monday with "because I said I would" Alex Sheen delivered a compelling message that captivated the entire audience. There was laughter and tears, forcing us all to look deeper into ourselves professionally and personally. For me, it reconfirmed the message that I try to deliver within SAEM: follow through on what you say you're going to do. Members deserve your commitment to them and success of the organization as a whole.
Q. Did any themes emerge at this year’s meeting? Did you have any a-ha moments?
TR: Certainly, there were the themes of innovation and how quickly your organization’s life could be disrupted. Actually it was particularly appropriate that this was a main theme for a meeting in Detroit because – as Linkner illustrated with his home city’s example – this used to be a city at the forefront of innovation globally that became complacent, and instead of looking ahead and reinventing itself, it was forced to deal with an incredible decline. But it is great to see that the city is starting to come back.
HBD: My ah-ha moment was during the "Magic of your Marketing Message". Recently SAEM developed our elevator pitch, because quite simply we didn't have one and there wasn't a consistent message being told throughout the organization. During this session, I realized that we hadn't been alone, many organizations are struggling with the same dilemma: "So, now we have an elevator pitch, what do we do with it?" During this session they provided several additional steps that followed, laying the framework for SAEM to continue to progress in building our brand and awareness consistently. It was great to see we were on the right path, but now have tools to continue the journey
Q. What learning points can you put into practice as soon as you return to the office?
TR: I took many good and practical ideas away with me. One is to more precisely evaluate programs for their mission-focus, value for the organization and return. Another is to be more curious and challenge our thinking on some things we may have always done in a particular way (my team is not going to like this). I also now realize how much more carefully we need to listen to our partners and stakeholders in different countries (and, as in the case of India, even regions within countries). And lastly, how, particularly in our increasingly fast paced and “always connected” lives, meditation (formally and informally) is important to keep you grounded, focused and clear.
Q. What was the best part of having this year’s meeting in Detroit?
HBD: It allowed associations from across the country to see that Detroit has really come back and you should too....
TR: First of all, the best part was that it was in Detroit and what it means for this city that over 5,500 association professionals came here and supported its remarkable comeback. To a certain degree, this is the spirit many associations are representing.
As with the organizations we lead and work for, association professionals appreciate the opportunity to connect face to face, network, and learn from each other. We don’t make enough time for this throughout the year but it is very important to escape your own bubble to be inspired, challenged and stimulated for your own continued development and growth. It is also good to be reminded that you're not alone and that the opportunities and challenges you face are often similar to other organizations.
Thanks Tom and Holly!