Bringing the all-stars to bat

It’s rare that I do two AAC posts in one week, but the discussion that has developed since Jeffrey Cufaude’s post Getting More Players on the All-Star Team has struck a chord with me.  It’s a subject I know all too well and wanted to offer a slightly different perspective on it.

I am a 37 year-old african-american female association lobbyist.  Now, name five of your colleagues who fall into this same category.  Even better, name five of your colleagues of the same age, race and gender who do education or meeting planning or information technology.  Challenging right?  Dare I say, impossible?  Obviously, we have colleagues who are my age, race, and gender who work for associations.  But you don’t see many of them.  And sadly, neither do I. 

There are many reasons why we’re not that visible.  Some of us choose not to be.  Some of us are just trying to keep our heads afloat in the office.  Some of us have priorities outside the association community.  But what about those of us who want to make an impact?  Is it a matter of waiting for an opportunity to come along or creating one for ourselves? 

The one reason I constantly talk about DELP is because, quite frankly, very few people do.  This program serves as a training ground for developing today’s association leaders.  DELP scholars represent different races, ethnicities, ages, physical abilities, sexual orientation, gender, and geographical areas.   We serve on boards and committees. We’re mid and senior level professionals.  A few are executive directors.  Many have earned the CAE.  In fact, in my class of 2008-2009, 7 of the 10 scholars are CAEs.  A number of DELP scholars have been recognized by their local associations for their leadership.  In most cases, serving as the first minority to gain such recognition. 

And yet, for all of that success, no one knows who the hell we are. 

It doesn’t matter why that is.  What matters is how do we increase the visibility of DELP scholars?  Making progress in addressing issues of diversity and inclusion is a two-way street.  It’s great to be asked to be part of a superstar panel, but what if that opportunity doesn’t exists?  What am I going to do to create the opportunity if one isn’t offered to me?  As DELP scholars, we have been challenged to put ourselves out there.  To let people know we are here and ready to work even if it’s not always desirable.  Is DELP the end-all, be-all to diversity and inclusion?  Absolutely not.  We only represent a tiny segment of a small, but growing population of association professionals.  However, you’re not going to find a better pool of thought leaders than our little family.

Today I challenge my association colleagues and DELP scholars to look at your network and ask yourself, “Is this the extent of my all-star team?”  We can all benefit by differences in thought and culture.  It’s time we all expand our universe.

One Year Later…

On August 26, 2010, I started Association Advocacy Chick with one post and no clue what the heck I was doing.  Sure, blogging seemed easy enough. But what exactly would I write about?  Who was my audience?  How often would I post?  So many questions and hardly any answers.  Yet, I created an account on WordPress and started spouting.  If you told me last year everything that would come to pass as a result of this blog, you would’ve scared me right out of the blogging business. 

I hope I’ve been able to give you something useful and worthwhile in my musings.  I’m not looking to become a superstar with the answers to life’s challenges.  Just someone with a voice that rarely exists in this space: a 37 year-old black female association lobbyist.  To that end, I want to thank my friends, colleagues, supporters, those who retweet my posts, lurkers, and stalkers for contributing to the success of this blog.  However, I need to recognize some special people who helped me through this first year.

KiKi L’Italien who has the distinction of being my very first commenter on my blog.  We first met by e-mail, became association colleagues via Twitter and developed a friendship in real life.  I can’t thank you enough for welcoming me into the blogosphere, for having me on your show and just showing me what a true social media diva looks like.

Maddie Grant who co-hosted KiKi’s show the day I was on.  We had the best time that afternoon and hope that we can do that again in the future.  Maddie was also my first interview on AAC talking about her book with Lindy Dreyer Open Community.  I hope to feature her next book with Jamie Notter, Humanize after its release this fall.  Thank you Maddie for your encouragement and guidance in this big scary world of blogging.

Deirdre Reid and Joan Eisenstodt who are two of the most dedicated, passionate association professionals you’ll ever met. They never hesitate to contribute to the conversations I start.  Deirdre and I first met on Twitter, but finally met in real life in line for the CAE walk at ASAE10.  She was one person behind me and we discovered each other as we were both tweeting about long wait backstage.  I was hoping to meet Joan at ASAE11, but our schedules never synced 😦  I hope to make it happen one day.  Thank you Deirdre and Joan for offering a kind word and constructive feedback to my posts.

The ASAE staff who read and/or comment on my posts.  Thank you for your insight on topics I may bring up and for the opportunities you’ve presented as a result of this blog.  I  am honored to be a member of this great association. 

Last, but not least, my DELPers especially Aaron Wolowiec, Artesha Moore and Shawn Boynes.

To Aaron – Part of my reason for blogging was because of your blog.  Thank you for being one of my first guest bloggers and know that I will call on you again for your assistance.  Congratulations on being awarded the 2011 Emerging Leader Award from the Michigan Society of Association Executives.  Well done sir!

To Miss Artesha as I affectionately call you – I asked you to write a guest post as one of the newest DELP scholars.  You hesitated.  I threatened.  And in the end, your post remains one of the most popular on my blog.  Thank you so much for writing it and congrats to you for receiving the 2011 Young and Aspiring Association Professional award from Association Trends.

To my Shawn – What I can I say about you?  After my first two posts, I knew I wanted a guest post by a DELPer and couldn’t think of a better person to serve as my first AAC guest blogger than you.  You’re not just my DELP ’08-’09 classmate, you’re my friend, inspiration, shoulder to cry on, person to pop champagne with, and so much more.  I heart you.

The great and not-so-great from ASAE11

St. Louis marked my fourth ASAE annual meeting and I must say, it was one of the best. Here’s what I liked and didn’t like about ASAE11.

The Great – Closing General Session Speaker Peter Sheahan

Peter Sheahan was the best keynote speaker I’ve ever heard at ASAE.  Why?  Because he did two things that speakers in this forum almost never do: He did his homework on his audience and didn’t push a product.  Peter was smart, funny, and most importantly, related his research to what we do as association professionals.  Some have mentioned that he should’ve been the opening general session speaker, but I disagree.  Imagine how disappointed you would’ve felt if he was the opening act which leads us to…

Not so great – Opening General Session Speaker Tina Brown

I understand that she was a last-minute replacement and I did like the content.  She gave some valuable tips on managing print and digital content.  However, it was obvious that this was a speech that could’ve been given at any conference.  Cater to your audience.  Yes, it’s that important.

Great – Including your members in your opening and closing sessions.

I’m honored to have shared the stage with colleagues I’ve never met, hearing about the great work they do.  Especially hearing from the small staff associations was outstanding. We need to do more of this.

Not so great – the vast number of empty tables at the awards breakfast.

Getting up early after a late night is hard.  I know.  I was struggling. However, we need to show the new CAEs, DELP scholars and members of the Leadership Academy that we care and are proud of their achievements.  Maybe the breakfast should be moved to 8 am.

Great – Session selection

For the first time, there were more sessions I was interested in than not.  Outside of Ignite, my two favs were the Build and Coordinate Government Relations Advocacy and the Tips and Tricks from Association Mobile Warriors sessions.  Both were packed and generated great conversation which leads me to…

Not so great – the continued lack of Government Relations sessions

There were only 2 GR sessions offered at ASAE11.  That is unacceptable.  Besides those of us who do this work for a living, there are others who want to learn more about it.  I know GR is not the focus of this meeting.  That’s what GR School is for. However, if we need to know Government Relations to earn a CAE, it must be important right?  Here’s a fair compromise: have at least one GR session per day of the annual meeting bringing the grand total to 3.

Great – Exposing DELP scholars to the membership

Between the opening and closing general sessions, there were no fewer than 8 DELP scholars on stage.  This is incredible.  I hope to see more of my colleagues participating in future ASAE annual meetings.

Great – The Roberts Mayfair hotel

It may not have been the biggest, fanciest hotel.  However, it next to the Renaissance, a 1/2 block from the convention center and if you booked early enough, a nice, clean room could be had for less than $100 per night.  I also learned that the property is a minority-owned business.  The next time you stay in St. Louis, check them out.

Not so great – The rude a-hole of a cab driver I had Saturday night.  ’nuff said.

Great – Everyone else I encountered in St. Louis.

From my shuttle drivers to and from the airport, the convention staff to the locals, I met some incredible people who were happy we invaded their city.  St. Louis, you were a great host.  Congratulations on a job well done.

I have so much more to say about ASAE11 that I’m saving for another blog post.  Stay tuned…

Insanity or getting ready for two conferences at the same time

Given that I work for a mental health association, I have the right to use word “insanity” to describe the last couple of weeks.  APA’s convention and ASAE’s annual meeting are back to back.  Which means for the past few months or so, I’ve been preparing very different presentations for both, planning different outfits for both and just trying to maintain common sense throughout the process. So far so good I must say. 

APA has been fantastic.  This was the first convention I was able to attend and I’ve enjoyed it.  Psychologists are among the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  They love what they do and don’t mind sharing that fact with you.  Our first convention Hill day was a smashing success.  I didn’t sound like a complete idiot during my presentation.  I found all of my meeting rooms within 5 minutes of the session start time. 

Tomorrow begins the transition.  I have one APA event left to attend.  Then, I take off my staff badge and put on my member badge as I head west to St. Louis for ASAE.  It will be my first time in the “Lou” and I’m so excited.  I’m looking forward to seeing my association friends old and new.  I’m really looking forward to Ignite.  This will be a huge challenge for me, but I plan to have fun with it either way.  I have one other thing happening that I rather spring on people.  I’ll say this: If I were you, I’d make sure I attend the opening general session 😉 

Safe travels everyone as we get ready to invade St. Louis.  If you see me and I look a little tired, you now know why.