Founded and led by  Association Laboratory Inc, the Alliance is a collaboration of nearly 20 state, national, specialty and global societies of association executives partnering to investigate, lead the discussion of and provide insight into the future of the association business model.   In July, I spoke with a group of association executives about the future of the association business model given the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, the focus was on the immediate impact. Will we survive? Will our new ideas to adapt work? Will I have a job? It is critical to begin looking up from our desks and start identifying the changes that will shape the decisions of association leaders for years to come. In response and in cooperation with the Association Laboratory Research Alliance, Association Laboratory began working on Looking Forward™ 2021, the 10th edition of the company’s globally recognized environmental scan of the association
The COVID-19 Pandemic highlighted how ill prepared association leaders were for a black swan event- an event beyond our imagining. In January, we all had assumptions about the world within which we would need to be successful. These assumptions drove our strategy and informed our leadership. Assumptions, that by April 1, just three months later, were no longer useful, accurate or relevant. Our meetings were cancelled, our staff was virtual, and our future was uncertain. What now? What are the implications on members, associations and our strategy moving forward? What will be the future of the association business model? To address these questions, Association Laboratory, in cooperation with the members of the Association Laboratory Research Alliance (Alliance) are implementing the most substantial association environmental scan ever conducted. Looking Forward 2021 What is the Association Laboratory Research Alliance doing? The Association Laboratory Research Alliance is a global cooperative of state,
OK, I get it. You’re doing a virtual event. We do them here at Association Laboratory too. While the lessons from our planners are great, what really matters is the insight we gain from attendees. With that in mind, I introduce our Strategist Nikki Golden, CAE as she takes over this month’s blog From My Seat at the Bar. Let’s hear about the lessons took away as an attendee at a recent Insights Association virtual conference. Take it away Nikki. I attended a virtual conference. Here are some things to consider. Nothing has made me prouder to work in the association world than the nimbleness so many groups have displayed in switching from an in-person conference to a digital one—many, in just a few short weeks. This month, I was lucky to participate as an attendee in a three-day, afternoon-only event produced by the Insights Association. Here are some
It’s foolish to have a blog called, From My Seat at the Bar, and not provide insight into booze now and then. How, I as a leader of a company during this crisis, effectively self-medicate to improve moral and performance (my own). We now know, thanks to our government leaders, that liquor stores are considered an essential service. Something most of us have known for quite some time. Our instinctive drink choices give insight into how we cope with difficult or changing times. Why work so hard when every answer to every question can be found in your liquor cabinet? Let’s begin.
  Definition of Black Swan Event An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult to predict.   How did the COVID-19 Crisis Hit One Association? On March 12, 2020, I and my colleague Phil Puckorius, Vice President of Association Laboratory arrived in San Diego. Our goal was to lead the International Warehouse Logistics Association through strategic planning. Here’s what we found upon arriving. California Governor Gavin Newsome had just spoken about the state’s response to the growing crisis. Quickly referred to as the Newsome 250 Policy, for all practical purposes, resulted in wide-spread cancellation of meetings with more than 250 attendees. Respecting growing concerns about the spread of the virus, the Board and staff had acted swiftly. The convention at which the strategic planning meeting was being held had just been cancelled that day. More than 423
Blog take over by Nikki Haton Shanks, Strategist! I’m Nikki, a strategist at Association Laboratory, and I’m stepping in to take over Dean West’s from My Seat at the Bar blog for this month. Association Laboratory held its 2nd Annual Content Strategy Summit on Thursday, November 7 at the OLC in Rosemont, IL, in collaboration with .orgSource with nearly 30 attendees! What did we learn? Research shows the majority of associations are implementing content strategy. What prompted this Summit? Each year Association Laboratory conducts a global scan of the association business environment called Looking Forward™. In 2019, the study collected data from more than 400 association chief staff officers and senior domain executives across 20 industries. And guess what? 54% of Looking Forward respondents said they were implementing Content Strategies. This data point was the basis for a day-long program devoted to thought-provoking questions and strategies related to content.
“America is a paradise.” This was the exact quote said to me during my time speaking at the Indian Association Congress near Delhi, India this August. Produced by the Indian Society of Association Executives and CIMGlobal, it was India’s premier congress of association leaders. The association profession in India is in its nascent form. This was only the 7th Indian Association Congress (IAC). I had the opportunity to interact with the most excited and forward-thinking leaders of India’s association management profession. Here are some of my quick perceptions. New to association management is not the same as new to business and leadership. Some might think that just because the profession of association management is new, leaders of these associations might be less knowledgeable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Representatives from some of the world’s leading associations were in attendance as well as executives from substantial and uniquely
At a recent association conference, I heard a classic cliché, “I learn the most during conversations in the hallway.” My response? If you’ve devoted all that time and energy to an educational event and the best learning is a random conversation in the hallway, your education probably sucks needs improvement.   Any reasonably competent meeting planner or educator should be able to produce an activity more meaningful than a random conversation. In Looking Forward 2019, 81% of association leaders indicated they were concerned or somewhat concerned about producing compelling professional development opportunities. I go to and speak at many conferences. I’ve also acted as a Master of Ceremonies for events. Association Laboratory also designs our own association executive educational events. We also develop education strategy. Here are some thoughts. Audience Understanding (or not) Educational events don’t have an “audience”. They have a Venn diagram of audiences. Multiple markets who
I’m not a “milestone” sort of person. I rarely celebrate with big birthday parties for example. My wife and I famously celebrated our anniversary with a drink at the United Club once as we passed each other in the airport. This year, though, when I announced the 20th anniversary of starting Association Laboratory on LinkedIn, the response surprised me. I received more than 7,000 views of the post. I only have 1, 531 connections on LinkedIn. People I’d never met were interested and supportive. It got me thinking about how it all began and what I learned about business and life through the years as I conceived, started and grew my small business. Below is the original HQ of Association Laboratory (no hassles please, I’m not a photography consultant). I started the company out of my condo on the 12th floor.  The voice on my answering machine for the