The conferencegoer's survival guide.
Sam Wade, director of professional programs for the National Rural Water Association, Duncan, Oklahoma, says that for the first-time attendee of an ASAE Management Conference, choosing sessions is like "flipping through 150 channels on a TV satellite dish." And the speaker presentations are only one component of ASAE's 10th Management Conference, December 13-16, in Washington, D.C.
As association professionals who must cover a lot of ground during the meetings you attend, the following tips from long-time Management Conference attendees can help you accomplish your meeting goals and stretch more out of your conference dollar.
With 255 sessions offered during four days, a little planning does go a long way. Wade suggests listing three individual needs and three association needs. Then read program descriptions and match available sessions to your six priority needs.
If more than one staff member is attending from your association, it may help to go over the schedule as a group to decide which topics are most important. Then assign one person to cover each chosen session. This approach increases your meeting mileage, says Jan Kinzler, director of membership and public relations for the Oncology Nursing Society, Pittsburgh.
Beverly Barsook, executive director of the Museum Store Association, Inc., Denver, spends a great deal of time before the conference poring over the program brochure. If three sessions that capture her interest are scheduled opposite each other, she ranks them in order of importance.
But she admits that it's not enough to plan ahead. Once she registers, she reads the conference proceedings included in the registration packet and reorders her choices depending on whether the information in the paper tells her what she needs to know. (A Sharing of Expertise and Experience is an annual compilation of papers written by conference speakers on the topics they will address and is free to all attendees when they register at the conference.)
"I'm not a slave to what I've planned, but I do make a plan," says Barsook, who "moves a lot." Coming from a small association, she has to accumulate information for more than herself. If a presentation doesn't grab her attention in the first 15 minutes, she quietly slips out the back and moves on to her second choice.
3. SAY HELLO TO STRANGERS.
Hope Crawley, director of communications and education for the National Art Materials Trade Association, Clifton, New Jersey, takes every opportunity to sit with someone she doesn't know. For her, the connections are the best part of the entire program.
Harmon O. Pritchard, Jr., CAE, is senior vice president of marketing for the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association, Frederick, Maryland. Of all ASAE meetings, the Management Conference is his favorite. "In the day-to-day, I can get insulated from the rest of the industry. I enjoy sharing with others who are in the hunt for new ideas."
As for your business card, don't leave home without it. Jan Kinzler carries a supply to hand out to new acquaintances and speakers. Starting the conference as a stranger doesn't mean you should leave as one.
4. TAKE YOUR PROBLEMS WITH YOU.
Jane Jarrow, CAE, knows from personal experience that the best way to figure out solutions to your business problems is to pick the brains of others who have already weathered the storm. Executive director of the Association on Higher Education and Disability, Columbus, Ohio, Jarrow attends each conference with two or three pressing issues she is determined not to leave without solving. For her, networking dinners are among the most valuable time spent during the conference.
"As a small association, we don't have the time or resources to develop every program or procedure," says Jarrow. Several years ago, her association had to determine the best way to set up a membership renewal plan that would make sense for the association and be acceptable to the membership. Jarrow asked a dozen different attendees until the answer unfolded during an afternoon "bull and beer" conversation with a colleague.
Peter DuBois, controller for the National Restaurant Association, Washington, D.C., agrees that "people are your best resource." DuBois teaches a finance and administration class in one of the ASAE certificate programs offered during the conference. He tells attendees to look for one or two good ideas to take home that will "pay for the conference" in terms of the financial benefit brought to their organizations--and to remember that the real value of the conference is not only in the material brought home but also in the interaction.
"Some of the best information comes from your peers. You get to see how they deal with laws, procedures, applications--you can't get this from a textbook or a classroom." In regard to classes offered in the conference certificate programs, DuBois considers the learning to be solid "on-line info"--the application-oriented style of teaching translates into "education you can use."
5. KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE FOLKS AT HOME.
Bryan Silbermann, CAE, executive vice president of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Delaware, also believes in the power of networking. He attends the conference with an advance list of colleagues and friends from whom he'll seek feedback on the hot issues. Silbermann regularly travels with a cassette recorder and laptop computer--not to record or take notes during sessions but to jog his memory and to communicate with staff members at home. By sending messages to his office by voice mail and electronic mail, he allows his co-workers to get a jump on the good ideas he passes along. And he alleviates the pressure on himself to remember what to tell whom when he gets back home.
6. SHOP AROUND.
Jarrow believes the Management Conference is as close to one-stop shopping as it gets. When she first started attending, she assumed the exhibit hall would have the most appeal to larger associations with more money and members.
The truth is, the 150 exhibitors--composed of companies providing business services to the association industry, from car rental agencies to insurance companies to printers--have something to offer everyone. Through contacts made browsing in the exhibit hall, Jarrow found her current publishing house.
In addition to exhibitor space, attendees will want to peruse the ASAE Member Services Display and Bookstore to talk to staff and to learn more about member benefits and available resources, including tapes of conference speaker sessions. Letting ASAE staff members know what you want will help them bring you an even better product next year.
7. EXERCISE YOUR EDUCATION.
With such a demanding daily agenda--from early morning breakfasts to late-night dinners--"you have to watch that you don't go away exhausted," says Silbermann, whose decision to book a hotel depends in large part on its fitness facilities. Surviving the schedule takes a physical as well as a mental conditioning, he asserts. Maintaining his exercise routine helps him get more from what he considers the most important aspect of the Management Conference: the educational workshops and seminars. "Remember that the conference has to be to your benefit to be worth anything. Association executives have to take back something of use."
8. TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE HOME.
After all of the networking, the seminars and educational workshops, the browsing through exhibit hall displays, there remains one element of a well-rounded meeting experience: a little T and R--tourism and relaxation.
If it's a city she hasn't traveled to before, Kinzler buys a Fodor's guide. "Sightseeing and shopping make the experience doubly memorable." And she packs comfortable shoes. "They take priority over fashion."
As you look forward to helping ASAE celebrate its 10th Management Conference and 10 years of improved professionalism in association management, remember that it's your meeting.
Karla Boyers is editorial secretary of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT.
ASAE BARGAIN DISPLAYS
It's hard to pass up a good bargain. With so much information at your fingertips, you won't want to miss the ASAE Member Services Display and Bookstore. Purchase ASAE publications on the spot including your choice of the new "best of" series of Management Conference proceedings. Collections of the finest presentations from the past ten years, compiled in seven categories (such as Finance & Administration and Membership Marketing), celebrate a decade of expertise and experience in each subject.
Be sure to browse through membership materials including section newsletters and information on membership benefits such as discounted carrier rates for your association through the ASAE/Airborne Express program. You'll also find information on ASAE educational programming and how to earn the CAE designation.
And if you aren't already a member, you're still in luck. ASAE is offering its biggest discount on membership with $50 off new member dues if you join at the conference.
Plan to attend ASAE's orientation reception, open to all Management Conference registrants, Tuesday, December 15, from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. in the Washington, D.C., Hilton & Towers. Learn what ASAE is all about and how you can get the most from your ASAE membership.
COME AND GET IT
All you have to do is show up. When you stop by the registration table at the Washington, D.C., Hilton & Towers you'll receive your free copy of A Sharing of Expertise and Experience. This compilation of papers written by conference speakers will help you map your strategy for attending the sessions of your choice. You'll also receive your name badge, special events and meal tickets and information, and answers to any questions you have about the conference.
LET'S MAKE A BUSINESS DEAL
You just might find your printer, insurance carrier, or software vendor among the 150 exhibitors at this year's Management Conference. The Business Services Expo at the Washington, D.C., Hilton & Towers features a complete display of the products and services you need to operate your office or organization more efficiently. Participate in the hands-on demonstrations, get answers to your questions from knowledgeable vendors, and strike a business deal.
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|Date:||Dec 1, 1992|
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