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August 18, 2023

Top Takeaways from #ASAE23


The ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo is an exciting opportunity for the association community to come together, exchange knowledge and gain insights from both their peers and leaders in different industries. These insights are translated into practical and inspirational lessons that benefit all attendees. 

Hear from our team members about their #ASAE23 experience: 

Caroline Baugher, McKinley Advisors Practice Director: “I loved the ASAE Annual Meeting keynote speaker Chad E. Foster, author of the book Blind Ambition: How to Go from Victim to Visionary. He overcame fear to turn his blindness into a powerful, competitive strength. It stood out to me because as associations, we cannot control the pace of change, but we can shape our narratives and potential in the context of that change. 

My most significant takeaway was how positive and energetic the association community is; many trying their best to improve, evolve and grow their impact in the backdrop of slim financial resources. There were a lot of success stories coming out of the pandemic, and hope for what we can accomplish as a sector. 

After the session I presented, Membership and Your Business Model: Questions to Ask (and Answer!) I had the chance to have follow-up conversations with attendees who shared that they need to optimize their membership structures to accommodate the next generation of professionals. They said that they are very stuck and dependent on their legacy models. It’s really important to have conversations with the association staff leadership team to uncover if an association’s membership structure is best suited for their strategic priorities and overall business model.”

Jon Hockman, CPF, FASAE, McKinley Advisors Chief Practice Officer: “What stood out for me in the conversations I had during the ASAE Annual Meeting was how optimistic association leaders are about the future, even in the face of big challenges like artificial intelligence, business model disruption and economic uncertainty.  While the road ahead is uncertain, leader after leader talked about how ready they are to roll up their sleeves and tackle these big challenges. 

What should leaders who attended the conference do next? Lean into the challenge as well as collaborate with peers and partners to explore solutions. While the answers to big questions remain unclear, people are not stuck or immobilized. Leaders are all in and ready to do big things.”

George A. Miller, M.S., CAE, McKinley Advisors Practice Director: “My favorite session was Copycats or Copyrights? Exploring the Impact of Generative AI. The speaker was fantastic and provided a fun and safe space to explore the ethics of AI and the implications for associations. 

What stood out to me was the spirit of sharing in the Exploration Lab sessions. People from different associations who didn’t know each other were happy to share lessons learned and helpful advice.  In membership organizations we often talk about fostering community and ASAE Annual certainly showcased that.

I had several conversations with friends and peers throughout the conference about the future of the association workforce. It’s important for association leaders to continue to think about how their employment policies align with their talent strategy. Associations that continue to require most employees to be in the office for much of the week are struggling to retain and attract the best team members.”

Meena Dayak, M.A., McKinley Advisors Practice Director: “There were a few key themes that resonated with me throughout the conference. One theme was that there is more focus than ever on revenue diversification for associations and on being entrepreneurial. Another theme that stood out to me was that the member value proposition is under a microscope for many associations; the same old benefits are not cutting it for members. An overarching theme throughout the conference was how to engage the next generation of members and young professionals (who are not joiners and have very different expectations).” 

Tim Hopkins, CAE, McKinley Advisors Practice Director: “A few highlights stood out to me from this wonderful, memorable event. One highlight was celebrating and highlighting the incredible achievements of the ASAE Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP) in my new role as Chair of the ASAE Diversity and Inclusion Committee. DELP reached many of its desired outcomes since the program launched in the early 2000s: Of the 246 individuals who have been given the distinguished honor of being a DELP Scholar, 49% of them are now in CEO or C-suite positions; 56% now hold the prestigious CAE designation; 17 DELP alumni are now ASAE Fellows; and 10 DELP alumni have served or are currently serving on the ASAE or ASAE Research Foundation Board. This stands as a strong example for other associations to follow.

Soledad O’Brien shared several stories, both on the main stage and in a small pop-up session, about her career journey that were inspirational. One particular story she shared about mistakes she made in her career, and how she’s chosen to lead differently moving forward, really hit home for me. Modeling vulnerability as a leader is a key strength and she did a great job reminding many of us of that.

Daymond John mixed inspiration with fun in his excellent keynote presentation. The quote I hope every association takes to heart: “You will be disrupted if you don't disrupt yourself.” This speaks to needing to keep looking at ways to innovate and improve, and not get too complacent. It connects to my favorite quote from Wayne Gretzky: “Skate to where the puck is going, rather than where it is.” How can more associations leverage the strategic agility skills gained over the past three years to build stronger, more strategic, agile associations ready for whatever tomorrow brings?”

Our team members were inspired by the keynote speakers, sessions and conversations throughout the conference. We are looking forward to helping association leaders take action based on these insights! 

McKinley Advisors

McKinley Advisors is an award-winning association consulting firm dedicated to accelerating associations’ positive impact on the world. McKinley works in partnership with association executives and volunteer leaders to identify and address their most significant challenges and opportunities. McKinley provides services...


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