As a first-timer attending the ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo, where thousands of association leaders, staff, and industry partners gather to share strategies, resources, solutions, and successes, I was – in a word – amazed.

I was amazed for a variety of reasons. First, the weather in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was pleasant and comfortable compared to the dog days of my home base in St. Petersburg, Florida. Second, the Chamber of Commerce weather was accentuated with a greeting from the City of Toronto next to none – smiling, beautiful faces; professional decorum; and eye-catching sights and ear-popping sounds to match.

But, what was most amazing was the inspiration captivating many of us throughout the four-day event, even if it was in distinct ways. One coefficient, though, among this tight-knit group of association members – who work hard and play hard  – was it was strongly felt.

“what iNsPiReS” was the uplifting theme for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting earlier this month at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. And, I can tell you with certainty the reality of the event lived up to its buzz.

The opening celebration on a perfect summer Saturday evening was at the stunning Royal Ontario Museum. The food and live music were outstanding, only to be outdone by three levels of historical exhibits. And, that’s an artifact!

Sunday morning’s sunrise bathed the opening session in brilliance, where the #ASAE17 theme triumphed. Collectively, we vocalized “oohs and aahs” and put our hands together in rapid-fire appreciation, acknowledging:

  • Inspiration for each of us is unique
  • ASAE, without exception, is for everyone
  • Together, we must stay resilient and act to prevent the U.S. travel ban
  • And, the power of ASAE is strong

A One-Stop Destination

What’s more, ASAE shared that finding the right technology solution providers is vital to every association’s health and well-being. That’s why the Association Solutions Marketplace Expo marked itself as a centralized depot for discovering choices for the right tech products and providers to help associations succeed.

Community Brands made its presence known as traffic flowed at each of its family member’s booths –Abila, Aptify, NimbleUser, and YourMembership. T-shirts, smoothies and other attention-getting prizes caught the eyes of attendees and pulled them in to discuss each brand’s solution for their association. And, of course, it was a great opportunity to not only visit with current customers, but meet potential new ones.

Innovative Learning

The number of deep dive and learning lab sessions at #ASAE17 was astonishing. On Sunday alone, there were more than 30 presentations.

Community Brands President JP Guilbault led an overflowing workshop on, “Build an Experience-Driven Organization.” He used Play-Doh and other fun and inspirational activities to spur innovation and creativity among association leaders and their staff to help improve value to their members.

Later that day, Amanda Myers, Director of Product Marketing, Member Solutions for Community Brands, orchestrated another standing-room-only session answering the question, “What path are you and your organization taking to membership model success?”. Her presentation played off the once-popular children’s

Book series Choose Your Own Adventure, which requires readers – and, in this case, ASAE attendees – to take stock in their surroundings and make the best-informed choices possible.

Then came another fabulous day of sessions on Monday and the remaining schedule on Tuesday morning.

Community Brands made its mark with a customer case study about how to deal with change in today’s professional education and development market, featuring Ellen Moore (Chief Education Office) and Maureen Geoghegan (Director of Marketing), both of American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery (AAOS), and Tamer Ali, SVP of Education at Community Brands. The key takeaway was how AAOS survived and now thrives amid change in its education environment. And, they even shared their learning portal to showcase some of the challenges they faced.

Peggy Smith, Product Marketing Manager at Community Brands, wrapped up our set of sessions on Tuesday morning, with the largest attendance of the four. More than 200 people packed her 90-minute gathering that focused on ways to redefine association member value by first recognizing that traditional value propositions have shifted to the expectations of association members as they live, work, and play in a digital age. The interaction and sharing of real-world, everyday experiences highlighted the session, and truly united attendees throughout the room with a thread of common challenges and triumphs.

Celebrations and Making Connections

Strictly for fun and networking, another highlight of #ASAE17 comprised of a night at the Hockey Hall of Fame, hosted by several partners of the association industry (Higher Logic, benel Solutions, Eventpedia, Expo Logic, Hubb, and Mindshift).

And, last, but not least by any means, the ASAE Foundation’s “The Classic VIP Reception” at Rebel rocked the rafters and wharf along Lake Ontario, just outside of downtown Toronto. It was a night of psychedelic lights, art, live music, and good friends sharing stories and making memories.

So, yes, I was amazed. And, inspired by an extraordinary experience bursting with innovative technology solutions for associations, as well as bright and amusing people. Now, what makes your heart flutter and mind race?