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Home  /  My Seat at the Bar

“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 Indian organizations. People have been doing business with

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 are attending for their own reasons. In research for

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. Original HQ of Association Laboratory  The voice on my answering machine for the company was an English woman

A membership model is like the weather. Everyone complains about it, but nobody does anything about it. Below I talk about how membership continues to be an issue. Introduce a definition of membership models. Outline a process to fix your model. As a bonus, you also get our latest (yet unpublished and secret) data on how association leaders view membership in 2019. Shameless Plug Alert – you can learn to address these issues at one of our Membership Workshops in February. Click HERE for information. Membership is Top Concern of Association Leaders Each year Association Laboratory conducts the nation’s leading global environmental 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. One data point sticks out. 83% of Looking Forward respondents said they were somewhat or very concerned about membership. The following chart shows the Top 10 areas of strategic concern by association leaders. Membership is

Like any self-respecting consultant, I’m going to start our 2019 monthly blog series, From My Seat at the Bar, with predictions on what associations will face in 2019. Unlike other firms, though, Association Laboratory is blessed with a wealth of association environmental scanning data. Research, collected from you the association executive reader, on what you expect your members to face in 2019. In November/December 2018, Association Laboratory conducted the 8th annual environmental scan of the association strategy environment, Looking Forward™. This study, the most comprehensive of its kind in the association sector, will be published in March. You can check out our compendium of futures research HERE. We have not yet published the results but lucky for you, I get to look at the data behind the scenes. All secret like and such. More than 200 CEOs responded this year out of more than 400 association leaders in total. They represent members in more than 20 sectors. They lead everything from local to global

Let me tell you a quick story about training members, or in this case, customers. Recently, on a trip to New York, I approached the bar at the #unitedclub in LaGuardia (#terribleairport) for a quick medicinal cocktail. I ordered a Manhattan (click HERE to see why it’s the most important business drink). The following ensued. The bartender did not know how to make the drink. I saw here looking up the recipe on their internal guidebook. I helpfully suggested that I could quickly teach her. I’m awesome that way. I explained it’s about ratios. Three parts bourbon to 1-part sweet vermouth with two drops of bitters, which I helpfully located on her bar. You stir, not shake, so your ice cubes don’t break up and water down the drink. She followed my easy instructions with a smile and moments later a quite serviceable Manhattan was placed in front me. She was educated, I got

I knew we’d properly curated our Association Laboratory Content Strategy Summit audience when one of the first attendees to arrive walks up to me, says “Hi, thanks for the invitation.”, and proceeds to hand me a small bottle of Makers Mark bourbon (potential sponsor?). On October 23, Association Laboratory produced the Association Content Strategy Summit. We had a great group of association CEOs and senior executives. Here’s a quick wrap up of some of the key lessons. Associations Do Not Control Content Production, Vetting or Distribution The financial and communication barriers to content creation and distribution are effectively nonexistent. The result? A glut of content. Association Laboratory produced the Association Content Strategy Summit because data from our global environmental scan of the association business environment, Looking Forward (access HERE), clearly shows association leaders are struggling with content strategy. Consider the percentage of association leaders somewhat or very concerned about the following issues. 80% -

Let me tell you a story about a recent strategic planning gig. In the last hour of a 2-day facilitation, while we were on the final review of the draft strategic plan, a participant who had been contributing positively from the beginning turns to his colleagues and says, “This isn’t a strategic plan.”. Well crap. After I addressed the issue, I sat down next to Meg, our analyst who led the research, and we talked about how we always get the same questions. Regardless of client. Below common questions surrounding strategic planning that almost everyone asks at some point. If you need help with strategic planning, BTW, you can see how we do it HERE. Alright, let’s go. Can we trust the research informing strategic planning? Garbage in, garbage out as the old saying goes. At one recent Board meeting, a participant kept asking about the statistical validity of the member/nonmember survey we used to inform the strategic

For years, association executives have endured book after book explaining two things. First, how young professionals are essential to the future of associations. Second, how we couldn’t possibly understand the deep complexities of this critical audience (without help). Hell, some of our consultant friends have already started to scare us with the next generation, now in high school. Spoiler Alert - Whatever you are doing, it’s wrong. In last month’s blog post, Why Are Volunteer Leaders Killing Good Associations, (available HERE), we discussed the trust gap between current volunteer leaders and emerging audiences. Let's explore some of the mistakes associations make that generate this gap. Learn What Association Executives Successfully Engaging Young Professionals Have to Say First, though, in a quick shameless plug, during our Webinar Wednesday this September 19 (register HERE), we’re going to discuss Association Laboratory’s research-based white paper on the challenges and solutions to engaging young professionals. Titled Trials, Tribulations and