NE/SAE Members Gather for 2017 Annual Management Conference
By Alex Hinckley, NE/SAE Member and Marketing Director for USTA New England
WALTHAM, MA – The New England Society of Association Executives held their 2017 Annual Management Conference on January 12 and 13, 2017 at the Westin Hotel in Waltham, MA. More than 120 people attended the two-day conference focused on providing association executives with educational sessions, networking, and exhibits tailored to their unique businesses.
The conference kicked off with an energetic opening session titled, "Stop Thinking Like an Association" given by John Foley Jr., CEO of interlinkONE. He focused on bringing associations out of the rut of ‘business as usual’ and back to reviving the entrepreneurial mindset.
The first session was followed up with three split sessions on several unique topics. One focused on member engagement research, another on transition planning for executives, board members and staff, and the third focused on building a better budget. The evening ended with a networking reception with more than a two-dozen exhibitors.
Day two began with a warm welcome from NE/SAE Chair Jim Roche. When asked about the importance of attending the management conference, Roche said, "Building relationships with other association leaders and industry partners is necessary if we want to bounce ideas and challenges off peers and allies for their thoughtful feedback."
Roche introduced the morning session speaker, Gabriel Eckert, FASAE, CAE (BOMA Georgia Executive Director and author of "From Insight to Action"), who delivered an engaging and intriguing talk on the importance of ‘Diversity of Thought’.
"Diversity of thought within a board of directors helps an organization consider multiple perspectives, make better decisions and create enhanced engagement among stakeholders," said Eckert. The audience participated in many conversations with Eckert, showing the interest and desire for many in attendance to take best practices back to their own association.
After the general session, attendees chose again between three different topics before lunch. In a session titled, "So You Want to be a CEO?," Beth Brooks, CAE, author of "The New CEO’s Guide," association governance consultant and facilitator lead the group with practical advice on how to climb the ladder to the top of an association.
Brook’s upfront and honest approach was refreshing to attendees. "How to get an executive director job or the role of the association CEO has been somewhat of a unspoken secret for many years. You didn’t find out what to do until you got the job." She continued, "Having a session for professionals who aspire to become an executive director gives them advice on what skills they should be acquiring, ideas on how to get them, and practical advice on the search process. This sets everyone up for success."
Attendees at the other sessions tackled the all too common problem of how to manage workplace conflict and how to engage members for good governance.
A buffet lunch followed with a fun raffle drawing with prizes from the conference exhibitors. In all, more than 20 gifts were distributed – some being overnight stays at resorts in New England.
The afternoon offered association executives the choice of attending one of three different sessions. The first was "No Shortage of Challenges" given by Gabriel Eckert. The second was "Business Modeling: Break the Status Quo and Design Tomorrow’s Nonprofit," led by Eric Curtis, President of Curtis Strategy. During this session, Curtis discussed the need to ensure viability in the future and gave real-life examples of companies who are disrupting the business-as-usual practices and taking risks in their field.
The third session was given by Jill Christensen, Founder and President of Jill Christensen International. Christensen focused on cracking the code of employee disengagement. In a study she shared, it was brought to light that 70 percent of workers are disengaged – basically sleepwalking through their work day. Christensen gave a four-step practical process to apply to reengage those employees.
The closing session brought everyone together to talk about working with a board of directors. Beth Brooks returned to the stage to give best practices in the governance arena. This useful session reviewed policies that should be in place, gave a review of an ideal nomination process, strategic planning templates, and other important board relations topics.
Brooks was a two-time speaker at the conference and was impressed by the event as a whole. "There are many reasons why association professionals should be a part of NE/SAE but first and foremost, you can learn how to do your job better via educational sessions, meeting and talking with people who do what you do." She went on to say, "When people get into association work, they often don’t realize that there is a whole world of colleagues who can assist them and understand the profession they have. Getting a mentor or group of colleagues who you can talk with candidly makes your life and your job so much more enjoyable and easier."