Event Industry Associations Can Matter

Moving around the way back machine and came across this post from May of 08, I am digging and going through my old posts as I move them all here from the old site.

I still think that it is true and nothing has changed. I would also add some more thoughts, but I will save them for another day!

Something happened along the way. Not sure when, not sure why, but it happened. Associations changed, and not for the better. You attend an event that seems interesting, only to be accosted by a million supplier members in attendance trying to sell you their wares. The topics became uninteresting, boring, and useless. The people that were coming up with these ideas were just going through the motions.

The question is why? Why did this happen? I have an answer.

We are the reason. The members. Somewhere along the way, we stopped caring; we stopped participating. I am to blame and so are you.

We have all sat in a hotel lobby, at an airport gate, or on the subway and complained that some association “sucks” or “is not what it used to be”. Look in the mirror my friend, you should have joined that committee, you should have volunteered your services or piped up about that great idea that you had. Associations are the sum of their members.

By you and me not caring and finding better things to do with our time, we are the reason that OUR associations have fallen into decline. When we, as the members that our organization is supposed to support stop caring, it leaves only the vendor members to attend the events (the boss makes them go) and the same old committees planning the events and making policy rather than having new blood inject nationals and chapters with fresh ideas and innovative approaches.

I have been at association meetings where a vote is required, and ten people show up. They say “Bob is running again for chapter president, all in favor raise your hands” and we all raise our hands and laugh. Bob should have been voted out ten terms ago, and we know it, but no one cared. This is the reason that there are 10 people in attendance.

So, the next time you want to complain, do so. Then get out your pen, write down ten great ideas, and get involved. Join the membership committee and get all of your colleagues involved. Hate the association, the president? Be vocal, maybe you are exactly what the association needs. Want to attend a great industry event, and then make it happen by working from the inside to institute changes?

You will not be sorry that you did. Our associations used to be worthwhile.

It is time to take them back.

Now that I have gotten off my soapbox, this leads me to an industry event I attended a couple of weeks ago, for an association OnSite Events has always considered joining, but never have for the reasons listed above, but we thought, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

I attended the SITE Chicago (Society of Incentive Travel Executives) first semi-annual breakfast series event at McCormick and Schmicks a couple of Tuesdays ago. This was a chapter event for a larger national.

Wow, what a breath of fresh air. Great topic and great people. The perfect mix of end users (Association members) and supplier partners. You see there is nothing wrong with suppliers attending when there are an equal number of members. This leads to fresh ideas and stimulating conversations, not sales pitches. I was astounded by the energy in the room and the number of great people that attended.

This chapter event was even attended by members from out of town and the national office (granted, their office is in the city, but they came and participated with enthusiasm, which is more than I can say for some other associations).

The topic for this event was even a little on the edgy side, “the state of the airlines and what it means to the incentive travel market”. Not your typical “how do you choose the perfect linens” or “meeting planning 101”. A real topic, with real-world implications.

There was a panel session that included supplier members (the airlines) and end users. The Q and A session was great and ran over the allotted time because people were participating and not only asking questions but giving real thought and sharing real concerns.

My hat is off to the Chicago SITE Chapter. I am glad my company joined, we learned from others and had the opportunity to share our experiences. If you are involved in Incentive Travel Planning, I recommend that you join as well.

You can learn more about them at Site’s Website.

This is what can happen. Be involved…………

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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