Tuesday, June 25, 2013

10 Questions Answered About Association Jam

When I first heard Shelly Alcorn's idea about having an association gathering in multiple cities across the country at the same time and shared virtually(!), I thought she was smart, but crazy.

Though 100 percent behind the idea, when I considered the logistics of managing such a thing, I shuddered and thanked the stars it was her idea and not mine. That's why I thought it would be great to ask the creatrix herself 10 questions that would illuminate her genius (and fortitude) in thinking up this big event. Happily, she obliged. :)

Enter Association Jam

Shelly answered 10 questions for me about the upcoming event to share with the association world.

1. What gave you the idea for the Association Jam?

Like most ideas, I'm not completely sure I can take 100% credit for it because it started out of a conversation. A few years ago when I was  at CalSAE we decided to try an experiment with our educational roadshow concept.  We asked Jeff De Cagna to develop a series of four workshops that built on each other and had different content for each session. We started the series in one region and simulcasted the session on ustream, moved overnight to the next region and did the same thing. By the end of the week everyone in each CalSAE region had the chance to attend the entire series either "live" or "virtually". At some point during that week I got into a side conversation on the ustream chat channel with Vickie Lester, CAE and Gina Sutherland, CMP and a few other folks. We were talking about how cool it was to be able to see what was going on in these different regions and what if we did something like this with barbecues just for fun. That is where the idea stopped until Google+ arrived on the scene with the perfect platform.

2. What are people going to do during the Jam?

My hope is that folks have an easy-breezy time, drinking and snacking and just getting to know their fellow association professionals in a laid back non-hotel atmosphere.  It isn't that I don't like or value our association partners, but sometimes I think we all show an "association" face when we are in those more formal settings.  My hope is that as we break bread and socialize in a more intimate atmosphere we can make some deeper, truly authentic connections with each other. Choosing a topic to talk about was actually a secondary activity to let us connect on multiple levels both personally and professionally.....people are being asked to go visit our Google+ community to find blogs and articles about membership to use as a conversation starter.

3. Why did you choose to focus on that particular topic?

The party hosts and I kicked around some ideas and eventually settled on membership because this first Association Jam is kind of a membership-type activity. I do actually try to practice what I preach and a few months ago I did a webinar for Association Universe called, "Beer and BBQ IS a Membership Strategy."  That was the catalyst to meld the previous conversation during the CalSAE days with my newfound love of Google+ Hangouts and just do it. Besides, we usually get our education on and then we go drink, we're just flipping the order and seeing what happens! LOL 

4. How did you get people involved in helping with the Jam?

It was a combination of personal outreach to folks I thought would be game for trying something experimental and using social media to find the rest. It's terrifying to throw a public party and then have nobody want to come so I will be eternally grateful for the peeps who threw their hands in the air and said, yeah, we'll try it!  Our fabulous hosts include Vickie Lester and Maria Nazario in Los Angeles, Elizabeth Weaver Engel in Washington DC, Holly Duckworth in Denver and Wendy Kavanagh in Atlanta. I am also grateful for others who wanted to do it but couldn't due to scheduling conflicts like Maggie McGary, Robert Barnes, Nina Buthee, Gina Ayllon and Tom Morrison. And then of course, you were a huge supporter from the start and I'm so happy that you will be able to co-host Elizabeth's party! Turns out the first lesson we learned is June turned out to be a non-optimal month to try something like this...if I try it again, I may try July because there are less date conflicts with graduations/weddings, etc.

5. Do you think there will be future Association Jams?

I guess we will have to see if it's fun and people think it was something they would want to do again. Really, this is an idea that can be replicated at anytime by anyone. Even better, if this first group has a great experience, they will have one more idea to suggest to their own memberships as a way to create and sustain community.  (And Association Winter Jam 2013 has a nice ring to it :D....)

6. Why does the association world need another meeting?

I don't know that the association world does need another meeting necessarily, but I think we could all use more of these kinds of informal mechanisms to make membership a part of the board room and the living room as well.  Ideas cross-pollinate in informal, unstructured conversations, and the quality of our relationships are a key part of how we learn and grow. Eventually I can see Jams bringing not only association folks together but maybe other cool friends we have like tech folks, business owners, or other creative types as well. We could all use a little shot in the arm of outside ideas. I talk about "modern day salons" on my Association Forecast Google+ community because I think we need to look at outside ideas just as often as we study our own discipline. In addition, by attempting to incorporate the use of social media tools like Google+ communities we are getting the chance to not only share information but to learn how these tools can be used to help create learning collectives.  I tend to believe we can take more risks with our personal time than our "home" associations can with theirs.

7. Where can people find out more about Association Jam?

The best place is on our Google+ Association Jam community. You can also find out about it by visiting my blog - http://www.associationsubcultureblog.com/2013/02/announcing-association-summer-jam-2013.html and also by emailing me at shelly@alcornassociates.com. Also, if you are interested, follow us on Twitter at #assocjam.

8. What would be the absolute best result of having this event?

The absolute best result is having a really great time with some fun people and then getting a charge out of seeing the other groups around the country. Blending the "glo-cal" community in this way is something I couldn't have imagined doing in any other format than a conference twenty years ago.  I think it's neat to see our peers and colleagues cooperating in order to pull it off. There is no way anything like this can be done by one person. It is a joint activity.

9. What else should people know about Association Jam?

I think it's important that people know this is not meant to compete with ASAE or CalSAE or any other association - and it certainly isn't an attempt to start my own "entity" or other such nonsense. I really see our "home" associations as the platform where we may initially connect, but I also think we have a responsibility to not insist that "they" have to build our community by themselves. We are perfectly capable of interacting on our own and this effort is meant to be an enhancement to the member experience, not a replacement. Honestly, we talk a lot about how members organize with or without our associations and I hope this is seen as an experiment on what that actually might look like so we can learn about these new dynamics in real time, (not just in books and articles), and to see how the "home" platforms can stay engaged with members who are organizing on their own.

People should also know this is completely experimental. I have no idea what will actually happen. But no matter what happens, there will be pizza at the Sacramento party so it can't be all bad.

10. Can I record some of the Jam for posterity (and post-party promotion)?

Of course you can...:D

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