Convene On Site

ASAE Jams in Music City

When you think of Nashville, you think of music and barbecue and cowboy boots, and isn’t that more than enough?

All of those things were part of the opening night of ASAE’s 2014 Annual Meeting & Exposition. But so was something else: rain. A sudden, steady downpour drove ASAE’s welcome reception — set up on Fifth Avenue between Music City Center and the Omni Nashville Hotel — inside.

But this was Nashville. Nothing stops the party. ASAE relocated bars and food stations inside the prefunction space on the first floor of Music City Center, which soon was crowded with buzzing, rain-flecked attendees. The Omni’s lobby also filled up, and in no time servers were crisscrossing the polished floor with trays of food from the reception.

The mood was saved, the rain stopped within an hour or so, and the show went on — reassembled back outside on Fifth Avenue. Music came not just from Nashville but from “Nashville,” with two stars from the hit TV show — Charles Esten and Clare Bowen — kicking off the party, followed by headliner Dierks Bentley. The reception culminated with a fireworks display, officially welcoming ASAE to Nashville with all the light, heat, and noise you’d expect from Music City.

The rain was quickly forgotten, and in the end brought nothing more than good luck. ASAE’s meeting, held at Music City Center from Aug. 9–12, drew nearly 6,000 participants, including 3,159 association executives — the highest number since the 2007 Annual Meeting in Chicago — and 1,897 exhibitors.

The morning after the welcome reception, at ASAE’s opening session, speaker Adam Grant offered a framework in which attendees might situate their interactions and collaborations with colleagues and peers over the next few days. A professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Grant explained that most people fall into one of three types: givers, takers, or matchers (who basically police takers on behalf of givers). And research suggests that in the long run, givers are more successful than takers. “Givers end up with better reputations and relationships than takers and matchers, which is a long-term advantage,” Grant said. “But some givers don’t know how to manage this.” (Read Convene’s interview with Grant at convn.org/giver-or-taker.)

The emphasis was definitely on giving throughout the meeting, during more than 120 education sessions, two days of show-floor networking, and social events such as ASAE Foundation’s The Classic, which featured a performance by Lady Antebellum at Nashville’s beautiful Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Attendees shared their expertise, swapped best practices, and generally contributed to ASAE’s ever-evolving community of association professionals.

At the closing session, Noreena Hertz, associate director of the Centre for International Business at the University of Cambridge and author of Eyes Wide Open: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World, provided an overview of the shifting landscape in which associations now operate, unsettled by forces such as information overload, technological innovation, economic disruption, and political upheaval. “What worked yesterday will not necessarily work tomorrow, especially in a world as fast-moving as ours,” Hertz said. “We are living in times in which the rate of change is unprecedented, in which figuring out the future and how to succeed in it is increasingly challenging.”

Step one: Don’t let a little rain stop you.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.