Attended, Presented, Sponsored #CEOChair16


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Associations Forum is the ‘association’ for associations in Australia. I have enjoyed a close working relationship with them for a decade now and most recently had the opportunity to sponsor and speak at the 2016 CEO & Chair Symposium.

I love getting feedback (most of the time!). Here is what some people had to say about my presentation:

  • Outstanding session .. very relevant and so engaging .. could have done hours on this 
  • Too much psychology and not enough examples. 
  • This was a great session and we have actually followed up with Rob and hope to use him in some capacity in the next few months with our Board. 
  • Lots of enthusiasm. 
  • Interesting and best up to date info. 
  • Great presentation, with interesting thoughtful view point. 
  • Very engaging speaker, I have already looked at the words we use! 
  • I think there could have been good conversations here if time 
  • Chairs and CEO get where they are based on their approaches to creating cultures. Thought the content was fairly basic for this audience and too “one size fits all”. Thought it would be an excellent presentation for the National Conference. 
  • I particularly liked Rob’s energy. Some great ideas and tips on how to actually live and breath the culture (rather than just talk about it).

Let me share some of my own takeaways from this experience.

The mix of association executives and sponsors/vendors presenting sessions is important

There was a great mix of people this year, so attendees could learn from industry experts while also having easy exposure to sponsors and vendors. About 85% of the attendees represented associations while the remainder were Associations Forum staff & sponsors. Now that I’ve gone over to “the dark side” I try to reinforce that conferences are all about the content. Vendors attend to grow their pipeline and those who provide meaningful sessions stand to gain the most. At CEOChair16 there some great content, and some ordinary stuff, was presented from both attendees and other representatives. Nevertheless, the mix was the best I recall experiencing.

Enough with the bullet point slides!

It’s pretty obvious to the audience those presenters who developed their presentation specifically for the event and those who simply cut and paste existing content. And still, the majority of slide decks were poorly formatted, hard to read with so many words and lack of imagery. In one case a poor choice of image on one slide created a great deal of unintended consternation among the audience.
After seeing Day 1 presentations and listening to some of the ‘water-cooler’ chat afterwards I totally reformatted mine for my day 2 presentation on culture.
So here is at least one tip I tweeted during the event which is a great place to start preparing your next presentation – Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint .

I was surprised that many attendees were surprised I was not presenting on technology

I was there representing Aptify and we offer the most flexible and innovative association management system on the market. We are also a proponent of a broader and deeper view of association success and our content strategy is being positioned as such. The associations sector has access to some of the leading thinkers on technology, change management and culture for example. However the traditional conference construct has attendees conditioned to believe vendors will only present about something that feeds their business (as opposed to their core purpose) more akin to a paid advertorial rather than an authentic presentation of value. Kudos Associations Forum to having the courage to start changing the perception that sponsors and vendors are only there to peddle their wares.

I have a lingering question – are we getting any closer to “Association Management” being a profession?

There are many who fall into the roles from other professions or through their own professional affiliations. Where are the graduates of Bachelors of Business in Association & NFP Management in our executive ranks?

With 20+ years in Association management I am stoked to talk to people who see the opportunity to leverage my experience and that of my Aptify team many of whom have extensive association experience. From Culture by Design, change management and the future of engagement there is a lot we can talk about that will contribute to my underlying core purpose – association success.

Culture is a hot topic

I received some great feedback, plenty of interest in my eBook and some fantastic advice (hat tip Dr Robyn Cox) as a result of my presentation –The Pillars of Culture by Design.

Still, I fear, most of our association colleagues will do nothing in the face of overwhelming inertia to change the way we approach managing a 21st Century Association.

One thing you can do to confound my fears is to download my eBook and start a new conversation about culture in your organisation.

How can I help?




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