Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One thing to do for ASAE Annual that nobody talks about

Guest Post by Sandra Giarde, CAE

By now you’ve read about what to bring to ASAE.  Your travel arrangements are all confirmed and reconfirmed. And your schedule is likely taking shape with sessions and parties identified as “must attend” and “might attend.” 

However, there’s one more thing to prepare for at ASAE and nobody talks about it. And it has to do with feelings.

Now before you scoff or brush off the suggestion while humming that classic 70’s cheese song (Feeeelings….whoa whoa whoa), just give it a thought.

The ASAE Annual Meeting can be overwhelming and that’s good because it likely means content is fresh and compelling, activities abound and ideas are running rampant like toddlers on a Red Bull high. In sessions, hallways, bars and parties you’ll hear that “your organization NEEDS to do ________” or “this (activity/program/tool/marketing plan) is very important and those who do it another way should change.”  

Of course, you’ll get advice that pertains to your actual job role where “effective ________’s do this” or “working with your team in ________  way is best” and those feelings that creep up get really personal, really fast.

I’ll admit it...this has happened to me.  I’ve been at meetings or conferences where I start to feel like a failure.  Have you been at a conference and had these type of thoughts?
  • My organization is broken.
  • I can’t do anything right.
  • Our organization can’t do anything right.
  • If we could only do what ________  organization does, things would be better.
  • We don’t allocate enough resources to ________  but allocate too many resources to ________.
  • Our culture needs to shift/change.
  • How our organization presents or does ________ is wrong.
I’ve had those feelings and they suck. They are dark and icky; like the monster that hid under your bed as a kid.  And at ASAE, those feelings might spring up within you.

But, there is hope!

It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to deal with those feelings and if you start having these thoughts, hopefully this will help you.
  • Breathe!
  • Remind yourself that you know your organization better than the speaker/colleague/vendor.
  • Remember, you do plenty of things right and you do lots of things well. If necessary, make a short list to remind you.
  • Reframe the thought: Your organization is not broken. It may need improvement in some areas but, guess what? THEY ALL DO!
  • Repeat to yourself that no person or organization gets everything right.
  • Recollect, that your organization likely does some great stuff…better than others. Remind yourself of those.
  • Mileage will vary…what worked great for one group may not fit your group’s needs, mission, culture or resources.
  • Take what you can use and leave the rest behind.
And, if all else fails, grab an association friend or mentor and talk about this. It’s amazing how just sharing will help make things better.

So, as you make your way to Atlanta remember to go forth, be your awesome self and have a great ASAE Annual Meeting Experience!

Sandra Giarde, CAE is the Executive Director for the California Association for the Education of Young Children. While she's pretty sassy, even she has Stuart Smalley days where she needs to remember "I'm good enough, smart enough and doggone it...people like me!" If you see her at the ASAE Annual Meeting, come up and say "hi!"

Friday, July 26, 2013

8 Ways to Conquer Attending Your Next Conference

Attending a big conference can make you feel like a freak. If you aren't already plugged in to the who's who of your industry, a huge meeting can make you want to hide out and make origami swans out of your business cards rather than pass them out to people at networking events.

There are several ways I prepare myself to make the most of any conference that might help attendees (especially my fellow introverts). Here they are:

1. Get logistical - Scope out the sessions you want to attend, backup sessions, and the receptions and parties you've been invited to and lay them out in an agenda for yourself. You can organize this with paper or using the meeting app and your tablet so you can access at any time. If you can look at the attendee list online, do it! Try to make it a point to meet people of interest while at the meeting.

2. Get chargers - An extension cord, phone chargers, emergency chargers...these all help you to have juiced up electronics and to make friends with others who didn't plan as well as you. Label them with your label maker ahead of time to avoid any confusion later.

3. Get out of your head - Focus more on the other people you meet and less on worrying how you might appear to them. This will make you more comfortable and put your conversation partners at ease.

4. Get vitamins - Make sure to bring B12 with you to help provide an energy boost and to replenish after drinking wine, beer, or cocktails at receptions the night before. Some people (yes, I'm talking about myself here) even have a stash of 8-Hr Energy or Red Bull that they keep in their rooms to help replenish vitamins quickly. It helps.

5. Get protein - Another energy helper, protein, will help you last longer at these marathon events. Protein bars and shakes are good for you to have with you in case you miss a chance to get a meal.

6. Get curious - Ask questions. In your sessions, at your tables, from people you meet, ... questions help you build common ground and foster new relationships. Also, don't be afraid to get on social networks ahead of time and use them to network with other people attending the same meeting. You can ask to meet up with a few of these people while at the meeting and that will help you to expand your circle when you first get to your conference location.

7. Get relaxed - Everyone needs a little down time. Don't forget that you can get some quality discussion time with new friends or just a needed refresher on your own at the hotel pool (or gym or restaurant or spa) during breaks. Some friends of mine have labeled our time at the pool at ASAE Annual, "#poolcon" and we look forward to this as much as the receptions!

8. Get out of your room - I have a tendency to hide sometimes. Don't. These conferences are expensive and rife with possibilities for new connections and learning that can change the course of your career or professional development. USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.

Some other helpers:
1. The stash - I bring a stash of my favorite teas and coffee sticks (like Stabucks Via) in a baggie to keep in my room so I never run out and always have something soothing around. I like to drink tea before going to sleep at night so this is big for me.
2. The clothes - Dress in layers. Conference rooms can be frigid even in the middle of summer, so carry a cardigan or pashmina scarf with you that will help you stay warm if the meeting rooms aren't.
3. The shoes - Have a pair of emergency flats - if you wear heels, or even if you don't, a pair of extra flats will sometimes save you from shoe issues.

What are some of your favorite tips for making the best of your conferences?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Association Chat Meeting Next Tuesday

Association Chat will bring the awesomesauce to Sauciety at the National Harbor next Tuesday, July 23 at noon because sometimes we just need a good networking opportunity to relax. The meeting will be held in place of the weekly online Twitter chat.

The in-person meeting is open to anyone and is not a sponsored event, so each person will be responsible for his or her own lunch.

All association professionals are welcome to attend! Please RSVP to KiKi at dckiki@gmail.com by this Friday at noon or comment below if you plan to attend!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Party List for ASAE Annual 2013

Every time ASAE Annual rolls around, people start making their lists of parties and receptions to attend. I am no different. But this year I decided to make my list public - will I see you at these parties? I'll be updating this list as I hear about other parties and receptions, so leave your info in the comments! Some of these require sign-ups or RSVPs ahead of time, so I'll try to include links or contact information as we get closer to the date.

KiKi's List of Must-Attend ASAE Parties...

  • The Association Chat Tweetup (Go #assnchat!) - 5:30 pm at Park Bar (pre-Opening Ceremony...we can walk over from there)
  • ASAE's Opening Ceremony - 7:30 pm at Georgia Aquarium/World of Coca-Cola (you will need your activated badge to gain entry to the event)
  • Community Managers Roundtable - 12-1 pm at the ASAE Engagement Lounge
  • Tweetup - 2:45 pm at the ASAE Engagement Lounge
  • Aptify Cocktail Reception (invitation only) - 5:00-7:00 pm
  • AM&P's Reception - 5:30 pm at Dantanna's Downtown
  • Higher Logic's Play It Forward Reception - 6:00-9:00 pm at Stats
  • MemberClicks Small Staff Shindig - 6:30 pm at Stats
  • ASI and Partners i-list Event (invitation only) - 6:30-8:30 pm at Meehan's Public House
  • TMA and Peach New Media Party - 7:00 pm at Der Biergarten
  • Multiview Party - 8:30 pm-1:30 am at The Tabernacle ( is multiviewparty.com)
  • Community Managers Roundtable - 12-1 pm at the ASAE Engagement Lounge
  • Association Consultants Gathering - 4:45(ish) at Meehan's Public House
  • Jeff De Cagna Annual Dinner - 6:30 pm (Must RSVP - contact @pinnovation on Twitter for link)
  • ASAE Foundation's The Classic Reception - 7-10:00 pm at Fox Theater
  • YAP Party - 9:00 pm-1:00 am at the CosmoLava Lounge
  • 10th Annual LGBT Party - 10:01 pm-1:01 am at TEN Atlanta
  • ASAE Closing Ceremony - 7-10 pm at Centennial Olympic Park
What other parties and receptions would you like to promote? What will you be attending?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Know If You're An Association Nerd

When I started my first association job way back when, I had no idea I'd still be working in the association industry more than 10 years later. Part of what kept me in this association realm is my intense nerd-love for all things associations. After gathering with a group of fellow association nerds last weekend, I thought it might be cool to try to pull together a list of common traits for those who love association-land.

Here is my checklist for how to know if you're an association nerd
1. You know how the end of this phrase goes, "We've always done it ____ ___."
2. You fantasize about your picture being on the cover of Associations Now
3. You've participated in at least one Association Chat (online chat that takes place on Twitter every Tuesday at 2pm ET using the hashtag: #assnchat)
4. You can guess within 60 seconds of meeting someone whether they work for an association that is a 501(c)3 or a 501(c)6
5. You have your CAE and can tell the tale of studying for it
6. You can rattle off the name, "John Graham" like you do George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.
7. You could make a drinking game using any of the following words: Engagement, value, relevance, or membership model.
8. You have multiple products with acronyms on them in your home, including t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, and post-it notes.
9. You have volunteered with the meta-realization of understanding that your experience is similar to how your own volunteers must feel
10. You still haven't managed to explain to your family what you do for a living

What else would you add to this list?