31 August 2010

Reflections on #ASAE10

Before you read what I have to say, go read Maddie's thoughts, since she says a lot of what I'm thinking, only way better than I could (and notice that she liked a lot of things, too), and Jamie's awesome post on why passion matters.

Let me open with my favorite part of the experience:  I LOVED that the CAE recognition was back in the general session (although I heard a rumor that it was just because of the 50th anniversary, which I hope is not true). I know a lot of association professionals have no real idea what the CAE is and think reading all those names is boring, but new CAEs have worked hard for a major accomplishment.  You can sit through a 30 minute commercial for ASAE (aka the Joy Behar interview)?  You can sit for 10 minutes while people who've achieved a significant professional milestone get to walk across the stage and be recognized.  I sincerely hope it's not being bumped back to the CAE breakfast next year.  That would be a shame - I rarely go, not only because I'm not a morning person, but also because it's an additional fee (even for people who, for instance, have busted their asses for the CAE program for 6 solid years. Which is a whole 'nother post). Doing the recognition there ghettoizes it, just like Maddie notes happened with the GIVE Award.

Speaking of, although it wasn't perfect in execution, I loved the GIVE Award.  I have to give a major shout out to ASAE staffer DJ Johnson, CAE, for coming up with it, and I hope they'll use the good and bad this year as a platform to make it bigger and better next year.

Speaking of DJ (aka the Membership Section Council staff rep), I loved that the incoming MSC member who will be taking over my team's projects from this past year reached out to me to help keep continuity.  As far as I know, that wasn't officially recommended, but way to go above and beyond, New Volunteer!

Another thing I loved was the emphasis on service and partnering with Midnight Mission.  ASAE's been talking a lot about social responsibility for the past 2 years or so, but so far, it's mostly looked like talk to this observer.  Putting muscle behind it (literally, for the Build a Bike teams) is a VERY welcome development.  I helped with the service projects this time, and that's a definite on my agenda for St. Louis next year.

I also, in common with many, have to give a some major love to the ASAE staff.  Me and my co-presenters were being recorded, and we just HAD to be difficult:  Prezi AND Macs.  And in practicing what we preach, we were planning to draft an official back channel rep, so we HAD to have Internet access.  We had pointed all this out in advance and been assured we'd been good on all counts.  When we arrived in our session room about 30 minutes before our presentation was due to start Monday morning, the wi-fi didn't reach the back corner of the LA Convention Center, the AV staff had never heard of Prezi, and no one had a Mac VGA connector.  Brian Kirkland and (new CAE) Rosario Ortiz-Davis had everything fixed and ready to go with plenty of time to spare.  Just another example of how the staff will fix ANYTHING for you really most of the time in general but always particularly at the Annual Meeting.  Association professionals do meetings for a living, so we're tough and we know - great job dealing with a sleepy and slightly anxious/pissed off team of presenters, Brian and Rosario!

Even though I made sure not to overschedule myself with presentations this time (unlike Toronto), I only got to two breakouts. The "Innovate like Pixar" session left me cold, but I LOVED LOVED LOVED the "Fresh Perspectives: Insights from Young Professionals" session (and not just because my padawan was presenting).  As someone who's not too far removed from her YP days, I'm so pleased to see all the efforts ASAE is making to reach out to and support YPs.  The session consisted of presentation from 3 of the 5 thesis groups in the inaugural Leadership Academy class:  recruiting and retaining YPs, the "Volunteer Dating Game," and bridging the communication gap.  If someone knows where the handouts and slides are, please put the link in the comments?  The session was also recorded, which would be worth checking out (it took place Tuesday, August 24 at 10:45 am). 

And of course I have to give a shout out to all the YAP shenanigans:  the pre-event mani-pedi party, the flashmob (the Austin CVB rocks, by the way), the YAP party, and the live Sweetspot broadcast (not technically YAP, but hosted by YAPstars Maddie Grant and KiKi L'Italien).

Of course, it wasn't all great. 

Last year I hadn't gone to ANY of the general sessions.  I made a point of going this year.  Mistake.  Cavalcade of (as my boss calls them) white male landowners. And why did the opening general session feed DIRECTLY into 5 hours in the exhibit hall?  I appreciate that ASAE's trying to compress exhibit hours - we're trying to do the same at NACHRI - but way to kill the buzz.  Oh wait, there WAS no buzz from the opening general session speaker (Bill George). I was with the Mojo guy (Marshall Goldsmith), at least sort of, until he made that ridiculous "media addiction is more serious than drug addiction" comment.  I admit, I might be reading too much into one comment, but....Look, I'm old skool.  I have only a dumb phone, and yes, I do find it somewhat annoying when my smartphone-having friends pull them out and get sucked in while we're sharing some rare F2F time.  But the last I heard, heroin can still KILL you.  Nobody ever died from iPhone overuse.  And don't get me started on Gen-Xers and "inspirational" speakers.  Un-mixy things.

Diversity, or lack thereof, struck me as a big problem. I loved the recognition of the DELP scholars.  But...well, Mads hits on this way better than I could.  I also want to throw in:  the ASAE Fellows (this one's close to me because I applied this year and wasn't selected).  Two men and two women, sure, but four middle aged CEO white people (yes, I know that they could be diverse in ways that aren't apparent to the naked eye).  No young or even younger professionals.  No non-CEOs.  And then they were introduced, but we didn't learn ANYTHING about them.  Not even what, in my mind, would be key:  what do you plan to DO for the profession now that you're a Fellow?  Some of the Fellows kick some serious ass, but a lot of those names?  Never heard of them.  Who the hell are these people?

As a matter of fact, I think that might be my new mantra: 
That's lovely, but WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?
Speaking of doing, we all MUST do a better job welcoming first time attendees, new members, new volunteers - anyone going through that awful "I'm the only one with no friends" ordeal.  Toni Rae Brotons makes this point far better than I could.  (One small note on this: if you're going to have people in the general sessions stand up to be recognized, BRING UP THE HOUSE LIGHTS.)

In closing, I go back to one of the comments to Maddie's post:  One of the comments (from Tom Morrison, natch): "Sometimes not learning anything 'significantly new' means you are leading in the area of innovation."  I'm hoping that's true.


Tony Veroeven said...


Great thoughts. I hope ASAE and more importantly associations of all sizes are listening and taking Maddie's and your posts as constructive criticism.

Frankly, I'm tired of major organizations associations and nonprofits that censor, delete, & shutout those who disagree. And I'm not talking about ASAE even, but they've certainly brought about that sort of criticism upon themselves as of late.

Matt Baehr said...

Great post Elizabeth. I want to echo the first time attendee thing. I had a co-worker attend for the first time. She specifically looked for first-time attendee things (since we do them at our show) but didn't find anything.

Jeff Hurt said...

Love this Elizabeth and it was fanstastic to finally meet you face-to-face.

I echo so much of what you've written. I also want to stress, bring up the house lights for all general sessions. Why do we turn down the lights? What's up with that? It makes the audience feel as if they are there to be entertained like a movie or play? Time to rethink that.

Toni Rae said...

Great post, Elizabeth! Thanks for the shout out. And in re: to Tony's comment, please take a moment to read my latest blog post: I got a response from ASAE on the weekend to something I posted on Thursday night. They did right by me, at least.

Tracy Thompson-Przylucki said...

As a first-time attendees I stopped by the ribbon table seeking a "first-time attendee" ribbon that would alert the veterans to talk to me! The closest I could come was a "new member" ribbon which wasn't actually true but I hoped would have the same effect. Maybe a zebra-striped 1st-timer ribbon next year????

Lisa Junker said...

Hi Elizabeth! I'm looking into those slides and handouts for you--I checked on the Annual Meeting website but didn't see them there. Once I find them, I'll drop you a link.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share all of your feedback--it's all helpful and constructive for us to hear. I hope you're having a good week so far!

Thomas Getchius said...


I wish I had the opportunity to meet you. I presented at the Young Professionals session on Tuesday and am taking e-mail addresses of individuals who are interested in receiving the slides and our data from our generation y survey. I'm working with ASAE to get the content on the website, but for anyone else that's interested, you can submit your info at this link.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great comments - and everyone do make sure you read the follow up to Toni's original post (that she linked here). ASAE really hit it out of the park in their response.

Lisa Junker said...

Hi Elizabeth-

One set of slides from the Fresh Perspectives session is available on Slideshare now (with thanks to Tom Getchius for posting it).

Once the remaining slides are available I'll get you links to those too. Thanks so much!

Scott Briscoe said...

With thanks to Brian Kirkland and Steffanie Feuer, here are two more of the slide decks from the presentation: Motivation and Dating Game.

Rosario Ortiz-Davis said...

Thanks for the love Elizabeth, it was my pleasure to help.