3 things I take home to Belgium from ASAE10

[This post was posted earlier on the ASAE-Acronym blog]

1. Associations (act) now!
I came to L.A. with practically no expectations other than the hope to learn and see how far ahead association management in the US is in contrast to Belgium. No matter how this would present itself, talking to people, listening to the speakers, the study-tour to two associations, etc. If I look back now at my trip, it surprises me to see that on the one hand there seems to be a greater awareness of the importance of associations (the Power of A) and all issues concerning thoughtful leadership, innovation, social media were omnipresent throughout the conference. But if you talk to attendees and look closer to what is really done in practice, I had the impression that what seems to be perceived as strategically important are foremost rather basic issues of association management (membership issues, dues, education programs, etc.). In that respect the meeting is not merely about how it is done, but to a certain extent about how it could or should be done more successfully.

In one of the sessions David Gammel said “The best technology for success online is what you have access to right now.” To me it seems this applies not only to technology but to all aspects of association management. Associations have to act with what knowledge and experience is at hand. As an example I refer to mobile – everybody seems to agree that mobile is becoming big, but many associations are still in the study or planning phase, looking at their first mobile version of the website, considering applications for smartphones in the future, and so on. It does somewhat cast a shadow on what I’ve been reading about association management in the US on the web, blogs, and Twitter. Nevertheless it strengthens my belief in the importance of associations and associations management.

2. Talk social media to me!
Social media is hot, or at least it is hot to say that you find it hot. Not taking into account of what my heroes like Jamie Notter, Maddie Grant, Jeff De Cagna, David Gammel are doing, I’m not convinced that associations are really into social media. Appointing a staff member social media strategist because he happens to know something about Facebook or Twitter doesn’t count. In Belgium, while talking to association executives, I avoid the term social media; I prefer to convince them of the fact that their organizations have to become more social in a sense of being connected, listening, collaborating, adding up value to create unique content–and preferably as soon as possible. Internet technology (including social network sites) has opened up so many opportunities to be in contact with the members and all sorts of stakeholders. Doing a Facebook page for an event may have direct results but is not sustainable. Future associations have to be “social” in everything they do, everywhere and all of the time.
In that respect I’m wondering what ASAE will do with the social media ‘capital’ (bloggers, posts, tweeps, tweets,…) it raised during the meeting. Who’s behind the ASAE-twitters ? Will they answer or follow up on small things like vegetarians prefer meat and veggies on separate plates or big things like how big was the budget for the Guilt by Association movies? Or shall we all just wait until the #asae11 hashtag is released and start all over ?

3. Everyone should write a book!
What I really liked about the conference was the bookstore. Not hidden away in a little corner with books piled up on tables, but a genuine island of knowledge. I love the internet, but frankly I like books even better. You can imagine how awesome it was for me to get free copies from keynote speakers or even being able to buy them and get them signed. Speakers who have written books generally are more interesting than others. They have been straightening things out in their heads for so long in order to get their story right. I don’t have to agree with that story or even feel any affection for the writer, the mere fact of the generosity of sharing is sufficient for me. I would advise everyone at one time or another to get in front of a pc and start writing a book. Let it be my ‘mojo’ from L.A.

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