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Lessons from Sydney.

A congress of association executives from seven countries offers insights and encourages international cooperation.

The "global village" is becoming a reality for associations as well as for industry. As communication and trade become more globalized, associations find themselves increasingly dealing with issues--like standards setting and agricultural and trade policy development--that transcend national boundaries. That's why some associations are taking the lead in fostering partnerships with their counterparts around the world.

Even large national associations may find themselves working in relative isolation from the worldwide association community. To enhance communication among all associations, a decade ago the first World Congress of Societies of Association Executives was convened to advance the association management profession and build international communication and cooperation among associations from different countries.

Congresses have been held regularly since that time. This past February, more than 300 association executives from seven countries (the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Australia) gathered in the Sydney Convention Center, in Australia, to exchange ideas and hear from speakers addressing the challenges of managing associations in a global economy. The next world congress, to be hosted by the Canadian Society of Association Executives, is scheduled for 1996 in Vancouver.

The main objective of the World Congress of Societies of Association Executives is to advance the profession of association management worldwide by lending prominence to the field. Congresses encourage association executives to understand their roles more fully in light of global trends and interactions--thus encouraging them to respond more effectively to member needs.

Perhaps of even more importance, congresses bring association executives together to exchange information on common topics and concerns with their peers in other countries. Attending a conference not only brings executives into contact in a formal setting, but it offers an opportunity for informal contact with executives in the host country. In addition, attendees can use contacts they have made in the host country and engage in fact-finding after the congress in ways that further a specific agenda.

"It puts into perspective what you do and what your association does," says Anne DeCicco, CAE, corporate vice president for the Center for Health Affairs Incorporated/New Jersey Hospital Association, Princeton, New Jersey. "It gives you a perspective on what the national community of associations looks like in other parts of the world, how it functions or does not function as a national community, where the issues are the same or different and how they're being addressed, and an opportunity to build a network of colleagues that's useful professionally and delightful socially."

DeCicco believes that attending an international congress helps her manage by generating ideas: "I never go to a meeting without coming back with an idea." In deciding to attend any program, she says, she asks herself, "Does the program meet my needs? Am I going to learn something? I don't think it's any different than for me to decide to take the train down to Washington for the day. If your association has a globalization strategy, you are more likely to consider going to a congress overseas, because you need a different network and sources for information."

The recent congress offered participants the opportunity to experience new approaches to leading their associations into the 21st century, as well as the chance to spend time exchanging views with their overseas counterparts.

"I went to Sydney to learn as much as I could from other people," says Robert Moen, executive director of the American Association of Orthodontists, St. Louis. "It's like most educational programs: If the program is good, you're going to get a lot out of it. The opportunity to talk with people who are working in the international arena is very beneficial." Moen's organization has a strong international component. "Our annual meeting is becoming an international event. We had 11,500 in Toronto this past May, of which nearly 2,000 were from countries other than the United States or Canada."

Robert L. Carey, CAE, president of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Delaware, says, "I made some contacts with the New Zealand producers of fruits and vegetables. That's an obvious benefit. And it does expose you to ideas that come from a different culture, maybe a little different base of understanding."

Carey observes that attending an international congress may be more stressful than a domestic one: "You have to do even more advance work than you do for a conference here in the states. You really need to make use of the fax and the telephone to make contacts in advance and make use of your time."

The shape of world policy

One of the most important roles associations can play in the global economy is to shape a particular country's policy. Ian Spicer, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Melbourne, reminded executives at the conference that, properly led and managed, associations can have a tremendous impact on the way a nation approaches critical issues. Associations, he explained, can paint a picture of what an industry or profession can be, can be a force for change in society, and, with a global mindset, can be in a better position to articulate the organization's goals.

Another issue that world congresses help to point out is that in the new world environment, global cooperation is more important than global competition. Quincalee Brown, CAE, executive director of the Water Environment Federation, Alexandria, Virginia, and ASAE's chief elected officer for 1992-1993, indicated that associations are behind the business community in their use of technology and their response to global markets, but they can play a major role in training and re-educating the work force to meet global demands.

In a presentation titled "A Global Community of Associations," Anne DeCicco observed that there is a building of bridges all over the world--a linking together of associations, their members, and national societies of association executives. The result is a global community of associations, and this global community is changing the world. In a recent survey, DeCicco polled both European and American-based international associations. Her study reported four important accomplishments in the process of developing a global community:

* International associations are actively expanding their membership bases to become more worldwide. There is significant growth reported in Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and South America.

* International associations are playing a key role in organizing local and national associations in areas where an association community previously didn't exist.

* The role of associations in the developing democracies is changing; they are evolving away from a close alignment with government into autonomous, self-sustaining, influential issues and industry advocates.

* Associations in the developing democracies are actively taking part in bringing about the desired market economies.

Counterparts and culture

Association executives at the four-day world congress were able to explore issues in discussions with their overseas counterparts. Sessions were organized in a semi-formal manner for executives whose associations served the same industry or for those who held the same position.

International federations have six potential roles, Errol Pickering, director general of the International Hospital Federation, London, England, explained in his paper.

* They allow cross-fertilization of ideas.

* They collect data from around the world on activities in their field and analyze that data to bring about change.

* They link with other international agencies in their field--for example, with the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

* They support activities in developing nations.

* They develop international standards, policy guidelines, or regulations, such as those developed by the International Hospital Federation on the international sale of body organs.

* They raise awareness of international issues and lobby governments.

Collaboration and cooperation

As part of the Sydney meeting, chief elected officers and staff of each of the national societies of association executives met in the Third International Summit. The participants discussed international issues that affect each national body.

At the summit in Sydney, the leaders of the American, Australian, Canadian, and European societies of association executives signed a "Collaborative Statement" in which they agreed to "consult on a regular basis and collaborate in the following areas whenever it is possible and sensible to do so." The issues included defining association management and association executive, determining the location and theme of the next world congress, and exchanging information and ideas on research, certification, continuing professional education, and tax status issues.

As Quincalee Brown stated, "As the globe shrinks, international exchange and cooperation both become more important, and the congress and world organization become more valuable."

International Perspectives

The following excerpts are from papers presented at the World Congress of Societies of Association Executives, in Sydney, Australia:

"Associations professionally led and managed can paint a picture of what an industry or a profession or, indeed, a nation can be.... Associations are, therefore, about lifting performance and setting standards and inspiring a commitment to excellent achievement."

Ian O. Spicer, chief executive, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Melbourne

"Health, my area of involvement, is crying for global leadership.... As an international community of association leaders, we can be pivotal in creating worldwide unity and collaboration. By building our vision together, we tap into our collective power to better serve a new and different world."

Kathryn E. Johnson, CAE, president and chief executive officer, The Healthcare Forum, San Francisco

"|In Latin America~ although belonging to an organization is popular, the dues do not flow with the same enthusiasm. In fact, it is very common to collect dues on a monthly basis, rather than per annum. Like our own organizations, many of the Latin American associations find that dues are not enough and that they must turn to other revenue-producing services (workshops, trade shows, market information) to generate the necessary operating funds.... The challenge of adapting services to the perceived needs (and pocketbooks) of the members is a real one."

Robert L. Carey, CAE, president, Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Delaware

"With the disintegration of trade barriers and the advent of the information age, the nature of the association member is changing. The stateless member is the individual or company, based outside of your nation or region. The stateless member has one priority need and does not interest itself in the traditional services which your organization offers. How we respond to this new member will determine our future."

Jack Shand, CAE, president, Canadian Society of Association Executives, Toronto, Ontario

"A truly international federation is very different from a national body doing some international work. An international organization is one whose whole raison d'etre is to serve an international community."

Errol Pickering, director general, International Hospital Federation, London

Speaking at an International Congress

Attending an international congress as a speaker has many benefits, but it's best to go prepared. Let me share with you some of my experiences from having attended and spoken at the world congress in Australia.

I had left a day earlier than I needed to allow for the time change and to help me become acclimated down under. However, my appearance at "Associations Advancing The World Down Under" suffered a setback when a baggage handler's strike caused last-minute transportation delays, including in my case an unplanned overnight stay in Brisbane.

The strike was soon settled, but it helped me recognize the importance of planning--and planning for the unexpected--in approaching an international event. When dealing with long distances and foreign cultures, accuracy and communication become even more important than usual.

Double-check or even triple-check your information and procedures to avoid misunderstandings from your end. For example, when providing conference organizers with a photograph, clearly indicate the name and affiliation of the person on the reverse side. When prefixes, suffixes, titles, or designations are relevant, be sure to accurately present them every time to minimize misunderstandings.

As a courtesy to sponsors, speakers and program participants should promptly notify their host officials on their arrival. Planners would be wise to request that speakers arrive at least one day early to make sure they've adjusted to the time change and to acquaint them with specifics they might encounter that are different from those to which they are accustomed.

Speakers should also try to be more aware of their own cultural influences. For example, as a speaker, I'm used to working with American audiences. But American English can be colloquial. We have dog and pony shows. People won't play ball with us. It rains cats and dogs. We fly by the seat of our pants, keep low profiles, come up roses, don't make waves, and speak tongue in cheek. We are pleased as punch.

English is a tough enough language to learn and understand without adding Americanisms to it. The examples I gave are quaint but could be troublesome if a speaker fails to understand their potential for confusing non-American listeners.

Here are five tips that can help make the material of speakers clear and accessible to foreign audiences.

* Do your homework. Ask in advance if there will be foreign participants in the audience. Learn their demographics and understand their impact on the industry.

* Slow down and use natural pauses. It is most important to speak slowly with non-native English speakers. A slower delivery allows everyone a chance to really absorb your message. It's especially important if a simultaneous interpreter is translating your words into another language.

* Be aware of saving face. A Chinese proverb states, "Without face, life is pointless." Presenters must ensure that foreign-born participants never feel the shame of losing face while they are in the audience.

* Use visuals. Seeing is believing. Be sure your key points are either on a handout or an overhead. Spoken English is harder for many people to follow than written English. It helps your audience understand if they can read as well as listen.

* Watch for culturally specific examples. Reference to our culture--such as The Cosby Show, a touchdown, or a Fourth of July picnic--will draw an American audience in, but they will only work for cultural "insiders." They should probably be either avoided or explained when used for an international audience.

H. Stanley Jones, CAE, recently retired as executive director of the Quality of Life Institute, Bakersfield, California. He is currently a professional speaker, author, consultant, and traveler.

Flying Down to Sydney

Qantas Airways, the official airline of the World Congress of Societies of Association Executives, probably knows more about flying to Australia than anyone. Here's some advice from Qantas about planning and taking a trip to Australia.

* Obtain a visa before you go. Call the Australian Embassy or the nearest consulate for information about how to get one.

* Pack for the right season. Australia's seasons are backwards from ours, so your January trip will land you in the middle of summer. (Don't forget your sunscreen.)

* If you need a special meal, ask for one when you reserve your ticket, and let the airline know if you need any other assistance.

* Prepare for customs. Fill out a customs declaration on the plane. Australia requires inspection of food, plants, wooden articles, and skins when you go through customs. Items such as weapons and drugs are prohibited.

* Keep some money for the departure tax. When you leave Australia you'll be charged Austl$20 for a departure tax stamp, payable in Australian cash only. You can also pay ahead of time at an Australian post office.

Stephanie Faul is a senior editor of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT. Carolyn Lugbill is ASAE's international activities manager.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:Lugbill, Carolyn
Publication:Association Management
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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