I have been in the Association Management world for just under a year, and one question is always constant: What is Association Management? Friends and family ask when I tell them my job title, and even experts with years of experience in this field still wonder the depths and many paths within it. With the great opportunity of attending ASAE, I was able to gain insight into this new career I’ve started, and am now better equipped to answer this question – for myself, and for those who ask.
Day one started with the Opening Reception at the Royal Ontario Museum. The venue was beautiful – I fell in love with their mineral collection! – and this was the first chance to truly meet attendees and vendors. This community of coordinators, executives, and travel representatives is incredibly welcoming – I was pleasantly shocked at how many people will walk up with a smile and start chatting. No titles, no expectations, just honestly interested in meeting you. First impression: Authentic people and great company!
Day two was the Opening Keynote. With everyone in one room, around 5,000 attendees, you really feel the vastness of the meeting and the professional side of the organization. It was also my first time in the Exposition. My favorite booth was – of course! – Visit Milwaukee, serving up authentic Bloody Marys with a sprinkle of Wauwatosa Seasoning from the Spice House. There’s something so comforting and incredible seeing attendees from across the world with a piece of MKE in their hand.
I had a chance to walk around and speak to representatives of CVBs and hotels, and get a feel for entering a conversation with potential business partners, and what both parties are looking for. It also made me want to visit every city across the US and Canada – their booths all had a unique personality and design. (PS: Visit Milwaukee won Third Place for their delicious booth)
The most rewarding session I attended was the very first one. The session was part of the Young Professionals track, organized by the ASAE Young Professionals Committee. The peer leaders and mentors in the ASAE are inspiring and positive and were so personable and willing to share their path to success. This session empowered me to take initiative in my current position. It was very encouraging to know that although I’m just starting out, there are so many in the association management world that is eager to foster your growth, share their own valuable insight and experience, and there is a path to achieving greatness. I walked out of this session feeling confident and meeting many in my own shoes.
There was a variety of sessions for every level of development, but among those I chose was about preventing burnout, inspiring stories from the ASAE community, millennials in the workforce, and an impressive Game Changer session about productivity. Each session had little pieces of wisdom to listen to, think on, and implement when the time comes.
In between the reflection and learning of the sessions, there was a scattering of receptions, both large and small, to network with all levels of people. Again, the openness of the community and the ability to walk up to seasoned C-suite attendees as well as first timers is just incredible. I had a chance to come into my own position, see where I can go within the industry, get to know my own colleagues better, and celebrate the diversity and creativity of those in attendance. I am truly humbled and lucky to have been able to attend the 2017 ASAE Annual Meeting, and I look forward to chasing more opportunities that come my way.