Speed Dating Association Style

By • November 5, 2012


While I eagerly anticipated my first Association Management Company (AMC) Institute conference in San Antonio recently, I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy sell on the home front. The challenge: How to convince my wife that I’d be on the road right before Valentine’s Day, attending a conference alone at an upscale resort at which “Speed Dating” was a featured activity?

But this is the world we live in. You’ve got to do what you can to keep your pulse on the association marketplace and stay one step ahead of your competition.

Tough assignment. Someone’s got to do it.

  • Don’t just throw roundtable discussions without some context. Frame discussion around topics that are relevant to your industry.
  • Capture as much of the discussions as you can. Consider repurposing that content for future newsletters, podcasts and Webinars.
  • “Speed Dating” is a remarkably efficient way to get quickly entrenched in an organization from both a social and business perspective.

In case you’re not familiar, the AMC Institute is an organization of more than 600 professional association management companies that collectively manage nearly 5,000 associations and a combined budget of more than $3 billion. In this era of belt tightening in which travel is carefully scrutinized, the power of being able to interact with this type of concentrated group warranted participation. In addition to the typical social and educational agenda, the highlights of the conference for me were “Speed Dating” and the roundtable discussions that took place during breakfast and lunch.

“Speed Dating,” as I described to my wife, is also known as appointment setting—in this case a fast-paced interaction between AMC owners and vendors. The room for this event was set up with 15 tables, with six AMCs and four vendors at each table. Seven minutes were spent giving our best elevator pitch and identifying the need for future offline discussions. Business cards flew and people had fun with the pitch. Yes, face-to-face appointment setting is a form of forced interaction. But as a newcomer to the institute, I found the environment remarkably efficient for getting me quickly entrenched in the organization from both a social and business perspective.

READER POLL: Does your organization offer face-to-face appointment setting between members and suppliers? Click here to take survey.

Breakfast and lunch hours were well spent with roundtable discussions focused on many of today’s hot topics. Signs at the center of each table outlined that meal’s topic. While eating, the ideas and conversation flowed, and when the meal ended, a microphone was passed around the room and a designated “volunteer” reported the highlights from each group. Topics that were discussed revolved around:

  • Top trends impacting association management companies
  • How does social media play into relationships between customers and prospects?
  • What are you doing differently in 2010 versus 2009?
  • Outsourcing and the best ways to utilize remote employees
  • How the economy is impacting associations

This was a perfect setting to learn what is on the minds of the attendees. Based on the feedback I observed, it will provide us with the opportunity to explore many of these “hot-button” issues in future columns.

Upon arriving at the conference, I heard Steve Drake, immediate past president of the AMC Institute, state that one of the institute’s core values is to create an open and amiable atmosphere for new members and veterans alike. Congratulations to the group for living up to that statement. I will be back next year.

Charles Popper is Naylor’s vice president of association relations. He has more than 15 years of business-to-business and consumer publishing experience.

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