Editor’s Note: Change Agents
It's never an easy decision when an association is forced to make a quick change. But these associations have pulled it off.
Usually, when people talk about disruption in business today, they mean the sweeping macro trends that have knocked just about every profession and industry out of its 20th-century comfort zone: the arrival of the digital era, the coming of age of the millennial generation, the progressive blurring of the line between our professional and personal lives. But sometimes disruption sneaks up in a more micro way, in what feels like an instant. And if you’re an association hosting conferences, both kinds can throw your events for a loop.
Consider the position the American Counseling Association found itself in earlier this year, when, with a stroke of his pen, the governor of Tennessee put the law in his state in direct conflict with ACA’s ethics code—and called into question the association’s plan to hold its 2017 annual meeting in Nashville. As Mark Athitakis reports in our cover story, staff and board leaders had to make a difficult decision fast, one that could cost ACA dearly. Mark’s story takes a behind-the-scenes look at how ACA and another association facing a similar challenge navigated those waters.
Meanwhile, the macro forces are at work on every association meeting. Millennial attendees are looking for different kinds of conference experiences, requiring new approaches to learning formats, networking options, and community-service opportunities. And it’s not just younger attendees who are demanding something different: Across the board, meeting-goers are seeking more immersive, hands-on, problem-solving experiences at conferences. Features in this issue have advice for adapting to meet these new expectations.
We’ve been hearing about disruption for years, to the point of jargon fatigue. But a cliché can be true. Conference disruption is real, whether macro or micro. Spend some quality time with this issue to get a glimpse at the new landscape that’s emerging.