From August 9th through August 12th I had the pleasure of taking part in the ASAE annual conference in Nashville, TN. ASAE stands for the American Society of Association Executives. That’s right; the dedicated professionals who run the association you are a member of have an association of their own.
Walking through the enormous exhibition hall, which contained over 500 exhibits for the 5,000+ attendees, a lesson in conference exhibiting was on display. The visual appeal of many of the booths was stunning and the giveaways were very generous. Many of the exhibitors represented convention centers, cities, and popular hotel chains. An attendee tried to sum it up simply for me “it is the conference for meeting planners”. But it’s actually more than that. The conference is attended by all types of executives within an association.
This conference is one of the most sought after conferences in the country. A city hosting the conference sees it as an investment for potential future conference bids from a variety of associations. Nashville lived up to its promise. The new Music City Center was impressive, with large rooms, new features, and in a great location in downtown Nashville. The conference organizers made sure to fill the evening events with performances from many famous Nashville singers (such as Dierks Bentley, Phil Vassar and even a special performance from Lady Antebellum for an additional fee).
But the real ASAE experience came during the day, when we were able to meet with conference attendees, attend learning labs, and visit the exhibition hall. It was interesting to hear the common themes of our market research industry brought up within a different context. Many of the presenters had done their own pieces of research. They spoke of sample, base sizes, and representivity. Not all of the presentations had research, but a good amount of them did. Many of the challenges our industry faces were also common topics during the conference, such as big data, customer retention, and the shorter attention spans.
I had the pleasure of presenting alongside of Patrick Glaser from McKinley Advisors and Curtis Nunley, CAE from the American Society of Civil Engineers. We presented on a joint piece of research that has been in the works for over a year. The research included a MaxDiff exercise to uncover what benefits are truly important to business professionals when deciding whether or not to join an association. When asked what one word comes to mind when they think of professional associations, our survey participants were most likely to say “networking”, but our MaxDiff exercise showed that “expert advice” mattered most to participants. Curtis replicated this study among his association members and compared and contrasted the results during the presentation. It was a great all around experience.