Well another ASAE Annual Meeting is in the books. As usual, I had a phenomenally good time hanging out with friends from all over the country that I typically only get to see at ASAE events. Here’s a quick post of highlights from the event before I get too deep in digging out from five days out of the office.
ASAE caught some flack after Los Angeles last year and they had an important choice. They could have written off the complaints as coming from people who “don’t get it,” and kept doing things exactly as they had done them, or they could have listened, owned up to the fact that some of their choices weren’t right, and try different things this year. Fortunately, they chose the latter path. There were more sessions. There were fewer General Sessions and they were more about content than association business. They added deep dive sessions. They added a room where anyone could sign up to do an unofficial session. Maddie and I did a conversation on the last day with about 15 people on the Humanize book there. Even little things, like moving the Online Engagement Lounge to nearly the very center of where the sessions were (last year it was way off in a corner) made a big difference. Some of these changes were subtle, but the fact that they listened-and showed us that–is very important. Thank you, ASAE.
You never know what you’re going to get with content at an ASAE meeting. The same is true for all our meetings, I think. It’s hard to know which sessions are going to be great ahead of time. So maybe I just got lucky this year, but I had NO sessions that let me down content-wise. And judging by the tweets, the OTHER sessions I wanted to go to in each block looked pretty good too. Joe Gerstandt’s Freak Flag Session was phenomenal. His insight about the power of authenticity really hit home. When you make people leave parts of themselves at home before they come to work, you get, well, less of them at work. The “What Innovation Looks Like Here” panel with Chris Busky, Mark Anderson, Dave Zepponi and Mark Nelson was truly inspiring. It was great to hear of associations who were investing in new possibilities, creating new lines of business, and doing things most decidedly NOT the way they had always done them. Shelly and Mark Alcorn’s session on the power of language led to some very interesting table discussions about what our most basic association terms really mean to us–and some of the challenges of coming up with new ways to describe what we do. Honestly, I don’t usually have THAT many sessions that are that good.
YAP is Just an Acronym
I had several different experiences related to “Young” Association Professionals this year. As usual, the YAP party on Monday night was a big hit. We packed a lot of people into into Jive and Wail, a dueling pianos bar a couple of blocks from the Convention Center. I left “early” (about 1 am) and we all had a great time. Also as usual, it wasn’t only people who would count as “young,” necessarily. But what really blew me away this year was the generosity. One of the central figures in our YAP community is KiKi L’Italien, and her hometown is Joplin, Missouri, which as everyone knows was devastated by tornadoes this year. So we decided to add a fundraising twist to the YAP party this year. Not a huge campaign–just asking people to make small cash donations at the party. We made a few announcements and literaly passed a bucket around for people to drop a $5 or $10 bill in.
Except a couple of people (literally) dropped $100 bills in. And there was a fat stack of $20s too. And by the end of the night, we had raised…get this…$1,318 in cash. YAP had already committed to match $1,000 in donations, and now an anonymous donor has stepped in to match the other $318, so our total donation is going to be more than $2,600. Way to go, YAPstars. Thank you everyone for stepping up and helping out.
My other experience with young professionals was in facilitating a Young Association Executives “Town Hall” during one of the sessions. We probably had about 40 or 50 people there, and about one third self-identified as NOT young. They broke into table discussions on topics like, finance, getting involved in ASAE, career development, and generational differences. The conversations were fantastic, and it reinforced what I said prior to the session in the “Daily Now” publication on site: the qualifier of “young” in “young association executive” is more distracting than helpful. They are simply association executives, and when we put them in the “young” box, I think we tend to discount what they bring to the table. Their insight and understanding were impressive. And even better, they had lots of questions. They were curious. They didn’t assume they already knew the answer. It is amazing how questions and openness can fuel a fantastic conversation. But if everyone around the table already knows the answer (I’ve seen conversations like that at ASAE events), the conversation is usually less rich. So maybe we shouldn’t even mention that the Y in YAP and YAE stands for Young. Let’s just invite them into the conversation and see where it goes.