The 3 A’s Critical to Change

Recently I read another terrific post by Jeff Hurt of Velvet Chainsaw.

Jeff Hurt, Velvet Chainsaw (

Jeff is someone I enjoy, respect, and admire.  He pushes the industry to never settle for what we have achieved, but he sees the best in all of us…even if we don’t always agree.

He drew an aspirational analogy to the Olympics, where coaches spend 4 years working with talented athletes, and like Jeff’s blog, not accepting just good performances but asking them to achieve Gold Medal greatness.

Associations have been achieving amazing things, and building communities, for, in some cases, over 100 years.  They were the first social media, and arguably the first “internet”…a portal for an individual to the information and knowledge of many.

Since then, like a competing country, technology embraced the Olympic theme…Higher, Faster, Stronger…and Internet 2.0 used it to raise the performance threshold by leaps and bounds.  It created a threat, and like some athletes who never make it to the Olympics, it would have been easy for associations to just give up.

While that may have been easier, I have seen amazing responses by association leaders in my work at Freeman.  This month’s ASAE event was a clear indicator that our associations will not only persist, but thrive!  Our booth, and those of a dozen I interviewed, reported “record” traffic for an ASAE show that many were previously considering removing from their market plans.  They were preparing for Association 2.0, and embracing the complex work ahead.

THE STEPS TO CHANGE I think there are 3 steps required to change, and we are all witnesses to this right now:

1. AWARENESS  Thank you, Jeff Hurt, Sarah Sladek, and others for pounding away at the status quo, and the negative effect bad attendee/learner experiences have been having on face to face events.  Our associations have clearly overcome the shock, denial, and confusion about demographic shifts, the needs of new audiences, the role of social media, etc.  They are clearly Aware that “your father’s association” will follow his Oldsmobile into a museum.

2.  ACCEPTANCE   This week’s ASAE annual meeting in my home city of Dallas (Great job, Phillip Jones, Darren Temple,  and Dallas staff) confirmed for me just how much the majority of association executives have not only become aware of the new now, but have accepted it and are seeking subject matter partners to help them increase their  performance and… Go for the Gold!  In the Freeman booth, and in those of 12  other formal booth interviews I conducted (along with other numerous informal inquiries), substantive discussions were taking place with C-level executives around engaging attendee experiences, content delivery, and exhibitor ROI, among others.  All reported it to be the most rewarding ASAE experience in many years.

3.  ACTION  Following our Olympics theme, the starter pistol retort always follows “On Your Mark” and “Get Set”.   As these leaders engage partners, business, education, membership, and market plans will follow.  Just as Michael Phelps and others work hard, build strategy, and accept feedback, there is a tapering period.

The associations we work with, and are members of, will need to put these plans into action with discipline and on-going measurement versus diving off the platform before the pistol.  There will be live elements and virtual, governance issues, and bylaws to address along the way.

But, they are loading up, and will definitely make their way to the stand. As you read this, you won’t change how you are sitting, or holding your iPad, until you are uncomfortable…or you are aware of your discomfort.  Once you are aware, you can accept it or deny it and stay put.  If you accept your lack of comfort, my guess is you will take action, shift in your seat, or set down your device.  It will happen in seconds, probably without you giving it this much thought.

The industry awareness is present;  there has been slowness and possibly denial in accepting change in the way we do things, but as that is growing, the actions being taken will lead to change.  Perhaps it won’t happen as fast as some want, and possibly it will be too fast for others.  And, it is coming to an event near you!

2 thoughts on “The 3 A’s Critical to Change

  1. Great post Brad. It’s refreshing to hear that c-suite executives are discussing how to make their conferences and events more engaging, increasing ROI and increasing attendee value. These are exciting times for sure. Go Freeman.

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