Archive for June, 2013


What’s trending?

Susan Robertson

Susan Robertson, executive vice president of American Society for Association Executives

From the minute we get up to the minute we go to bed, we’re surrounded by it: social media. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Skype.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep up. But whether you dub it a blessing or a curse, there’s no denying social media platforms have made it easier to learn, to connect and to engage.

And that also means the state of the meetings industry – especially professional development – is changing, and we’re along for the ride.

“The most dramatic impact on the landscape has been brought about by the convergence of sweeping changes in technology (particularly mobile and social media), demographic shifts, content and knowledge dissemination and management – patterns that affect volunteering and the ability of organizations to meaningfully engage their members,” said Susan Robertson, executive vice president of American Society for Association Executives (ASAE).  “That said, there are now opportunities to deliver content and an experience to members wherever they are and in ways they find convenient, affordable, engaging and valuable.”

And thus the exciting firsts of ORGPRO 2013, which will be held  from July 8 to July 10 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel at Kalamazoo Center.  Robertson and Cheryl Ronk, president of Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE), will close ORGPRO with a session titled, “Association Trends – Future Strategic Issues.”

From the economy to politics to shifting demographics, Robertson and Ronk will discuss industry trends. Leaders need to embrace change and respond to clues about the challenges that may affect their associations for years to come, they believe. But this means questions. Lots of questions. And you’ll get the answers at their session.

“ASAE is monitoring and influencing at the national level on a wide range of issues from policies affecting meeting and tradeshow attendance by government employees to protecting the tax exempt status of all of our organizations,” Robertson said. “State societies are also monitoring and influencing policies and issues at the state level that are unique to their states and regions.”

This will be Robertson’s first time attending ORGPRO, and like many of you, she’s excited about learning, networking and socializing. Since she’s an ORGPRO newbie, she’s not quite sure which advice to share.

But, she said, “Attending ORGPRO is an opportunity to leverage and build relationships and to learn the latest about state issues, peer-to-peer learning and perspectives on association leadership in general.”

And the same goes for attending the 2013 ASAE Annual Meeting and Exposition, which will be held from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

“Known as the ‘Super Bowl of Conventions,’ ASAE’s Annual Meeting and Exposition is the flagship education and exposition opportunity for associations and nonprofit organizations in the United States,” Robertson said. “It is the must-attend event for all association professionals , whether they are representing trade associations, professional societies or philanthropic organizations.”

Like ORGPRO, the ASAE annual meeting will cater to all types of learners.  In addition to more than 120 sessions, there will be three Game Changer sessions, three Master Class sessions, a Snap Learning Spot and a Green Safari for meeting planners.

Just a few of the topics on the agenda: sustainability, technology, working more efficiently, membership marketing and governmental relations.

In fact, Event Garde President Aaron Wolowiec and Donna Oser, founder of Vital Associations,  will host a session, “Building Financial Momentum through Meetings and Collaboration,” which will focus on cross-functional collaboration strategies to positively affect attendance, engagement and membership numbers.

Robertson said ASAE received more than 400 session proposals, so narrowing the list to about 120 sessions wasn’t easy. But Wolowiec has spoken for ASAE previously and always receives positive feedback, she said.

It’s going to be an exciting couple months for Robertson and her colleagues – and for Event Garde. Two meeting platforms. Similar issues. Creative content. Engaged experiences. It’s all there.

So tell us…What do you think is the best part about conferences? After the dust settles and you’re back to your office, what do you hope sticks with you?


Rolling out the ORGPRO 2013 welcome mat

Shana Killips, sales manager for the James B. Henry Center for Executive Development at Michigan State University, and Aaron Wolowiec, founder and president of Event Garde.

Shana Killips, sales manager for the James B. Henry Center for Executive Development at Michigan State University, and Aaron Wolowiec, founder and president of Event Garde.

From the editor: Considered Michigan’s premier education and networking event for professionals in the nonprofit sector, ORGPRO 2013 will be held from July 8 to July 10 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel at Kalamazoo Center. So why should you attend? This week, Shana Killips, chairperson of ORGPRO’s Community Engagement Subcommittee, will give us a sneak peek of what’s in store.

The ORGPRO Task Force created a Community Engagement Subcommittee in 2012 to support three areas of need:

1. Help new and less experienced participants feel welcome
2. Encourage all participants to get acquainted
3. Plan networking activities

The 2012 volunteers successfully launched an ORGPRO mentoring program with 24 participants and hosted a community engagement reception on the opening night of the conference last year. This year, we’re excited to offer two additional services. We believe participation in these programs will create a comfortable environment for participants, allowing them to maximize their learning and networking opportunities throughout ORGPRO.

1. ORGPRO ambassadors

Have you ever seen someone with an “Ask Me?” button at a conference? We’re providing a new service this year based on that concept, which will create a more comfortable experience for every ORGPRO participant. An army of volunteers will be present throughout the conference at general session entrances, in myLounge, at all transportation drop-off and pick-up sites and at networking events. The ambassadors will serve as the welcome parties of each event. We still need volunteers to participate in this program, so if you can commit 15 to 30 minutes of your time during the conference, please consider this opportunity. To volunteer, please designate your interest on your ORGPRO registration form or e-mail

2. ORGPRO tips and tricks webinar

Created specifically for first- and second-year ORGPRO attendees, the tips and tricks webinar will teach participants how to network at ORGPRO; suggest the best business supplies to pack and the proper attire to wear during the conference; how to get the most from education sessions; and what to do at Marketplace, a speed networking event. Facilitators Cassandra Jorae, from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and Dawn Dye, from the Calhoun County Convention and Visitors Bureau, represent both the association professional and supplier perspective of ORGPRO.  Based on the positive response from our June 5 participants, we will host a second session from 2 to 2:30 p.m. on June 27. To register, please e-mail Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) at All webinar participants will receive an invitation to the private ORGPRO member engagement reception (see below).

3. Mentoring program

We’ll offer the mentoring program again this year. The program will provide mentees with a direct contact to help them prepare for ORGPRO; discuss how to maximize their learning experiences; and introduce them to new contacts throughout the conference. Participants who request a mentor during the registration process will be paired with a volunteer mentor prior to arrival.  The private member engagement reception on July 8 will provide mentors and mentees with an opportunity to meet face-to-face upon arrival at the hotel. To request a mentor, or to volunteer as one, please indicate your interest when you register or e-mail

4. Member engagement reception

We’ll welcome new members, first-time participants and volunteers for each of our engagement programs during the member engagement reception, where there will be a concierge desk to help mentors and mentees find their partners. Member Insurance Solutions and the Community Engagement Subcommittee will host guests from 6 to 7 p.m. on July 8 at Weber’s Prime Steak House in the hotel.

Our goal is to help you feel welcome and comfortable in a learning environment that fosters ideas and creativity. But if you’re new to ORGPRO, we know you’ve got questions. So ask away. What would you like to know? For those who’ve attend before, why should newbies join us?

Shana Killips, CMP, is a sales and marketing professional with a commitment to loyalty, community and balance. For the past 12 years, she has served as the sales manager for the James B. Henry Center for Executive Development at Michigan State University, an award-winning conference center. Killips is currently the chairperson of MSAE’s Emerging Professionals Committee.


ORGPRO 2013: Learning and networking just like Apple

Donna Oser, founder of Vital Associations and chair of the ORGPRO Task Force

Donna Oser, founder of Vital Associations and chair of the ORGPRO Task Force

It’s no secret Michigan’s economy is suffering. In fact, nearly every industry feels the effects. Yes. Even associations.  With leaner staffs, associations are working harder to serve members – those same members who may decide association fees just aren’t in the budget.

But what if associations took a risk? What if they thought out of the box a bit more? What if leaders granted more empowerment and flexibility to their staffs?

What if…

The first step to answering the “what ifs” is to attend ORGRPO 2013, said Donna Oser, founder of Vital Associations, and chair of the ORGPRO Task Force. Considered Michigan’s premier education and networking event for professionals in the nonprofit sector, the conference will be held from July 8 to July 10 at the Kalamazoo Radisson.

“Knowledge is the most significant competitive edge and sharpening our skills and learning about new trends are important strategies for building relevant, vital associations,” she said.

ORGPRO 2013 will offer two full days of educational programming for all levels of the employment spectrum. So who should attend? Everyone from top executives to volunteers to vendors.

Of course there will be networking opportunities. Lots of them. The first day, attendees will choose among Golf at Yarrow, a Kalamazoo Beer and Wine Tour or a tour of some of Kalamazoo’s best treasures, including the cottage of W.K. Kellogg and a backstage tour of Miller Auditorium. And for the first time, ORGPRO will offer myLounge, the ultimate place to connect, create and collaborate.

The second and third days of ORGRPO will feature three keynote presentations, 23 education sessions, two deep-dive learning sessions, three themed “Genius Bars” and a chief staff executive conference, Oser said. Education sessions cover eight tracks and are based on the Michigan Society of Association Executives’ (MSAE) new professional development model, ELEVANCE, which aims to increase competency in the areas of knowledge, relationships and perspectives.

C.R. Conant, of Consultant Executives in Action and CRC Creative Consulting Services, will kick off the keynotes. Speaking about empowerment, he’ll discuss how employees can become accountable for their own learning and professional development to achieve success.

Michael Gallery, president and founder of OPIS, LLC, will help conference attendees define outputs and performance while answering the tough questions that often seem to have no answers.

Finally, Cheryl Ronk, president of MSAE, and Susan Robertson, executive vice president of American Society for Association Executives (ASAE) and the president of the ASAE Foundation, will discuss trends in association management, technology, government and demographics – on a state and national level.

Some of the best learning stems from conversations outside the classroom and the blending of brainpower among colleagues. Thus, myLounge was born. For the first time, ORGPRO will offer a comfortable place for informal learning and idea exchange. Attendees can grab a coffee, sit back and watch the creativity unfold.

“This is particularly important because, in the digital age, anyone can learn anytime. Value can be added to face-to-face meetings,” Oser said. “Learning, relationship development and business can flow quite naturally in the right face-to-face environments, and this is reflective of the type of dynamic learning experiences organizations need to create for their customers and members if they’re going to succeed.”

MSAE’s silent auction will also take  place in myLounge. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Kevin A. Kelly Scholarship Fund, the MSAE Building Fund and Gryphon Place, a local dispute-resolution service provider.

Genius Bars
Modeled after Apple’s innovative approach to customer service, myLounge will host Genius Bars, where industry experts will provide counsel on everything from technology to meeting planning. Association and supplier leaders will staff the Genius Bars during refreshment breaks. And the best part: It’s noncommercial. Nothing is for sale and advice is free.

For example, at the technology Genius Bar, an expert could discuss the importance of a mobile responsive website. Or a mid-career meeting professional could learn more about convention and visitors bureaus at the meeting management Genius Bar, Oser said.

In other words, it’s hybrid learning and networking at their best, and ORGPRO is the perfect platform for the launch.

With all the buzz and excitement, Oser hopes conference attendees enjoy some downtime exploring Kalamazoo.

“Kalamazoo is a gem of a destination,” she said. “One of the neatest parts about attending ORGPRO is that participants get to experience the very best of a city in a very intimate, behind-the-scenes kind of way.”

In fact, the city has put together a guide called “269 cool things to do in in the area code 269.” It’s a perfect guide for children and/or spouses who attend the conference.

When all is said and done, conference attendees will leave ORGRPO rejuvenated. With pages of notes in their hands or on their laptops, they’ll walk away ready to challenge the norm. They’ll have a strong network of colleagues with whom they’ll exchange stories of success and challenges.

Registration fees will increase after June 24, so attendees are encouraged to register as soon as possible. Questions about all things ORGRPO can be directed to MSAE at (517) 332-6723 or

But why go really? Because, “Together we can create better outcomes than we can individually – this is the real magic of associations,” Oser said.

What do you think? Tell us what you’re most excited about.

Kristen Parker is digital content manager for Event Garde. She’s the former editor of an international trade publication and the former communications director for a nonprofit long-term care association. A loyal Spartan, Kristen graduated from Michigan State University’s journalism program in 2000, and now works as a media communications manager for the university’s public relations office. Follow her on Twitter.


A new face, a new format and all things ORGPRO

Kristen Parker Digital Communications Manager

Kristen Parker
Digital Communications Manager

It’s every blogger’s worst nightmare. You have the ideas, the insights and the expertise to share, but your “day job” prevents you the necessary time to sit down and actually write the posts. And, as we know all too well, the world around us isn’t so forgiving. Regardless of our busy schedules, each news cycle is filled with countless stories and events that both inspire and influence our work.

Therefore, the time has come to make a deliberate and exciting change to the Event Garde blog. I’m pleased and humbled to introduce to you today both a new face and a new format.

First, I’m delighted to announce that Kristen Parker has joined the Event Garde team as our digital communications manager. Since 2008, Kristen has worked as a communications manager for Michigan State University, serving in the university’s central public relations office. Prior to her current role, she was the alumni relations director for the MSU College of Education.

Kristen is experienced in several key communication disciplines, including publications, print media, media relations and issues communications. She is the former editor of an international trade publication and the former communications director for a nonprofit health care association. Likewise, Kristen is a 2000 graduate of MSU’s journalism program. Go green!

But far more pertinent to you is this: Kristen is a storyteller by trade – in fact, she’s been writing and editing professionally for 13 years. She looks forward to keeping you abreast of the issues, trends and must-knows that define our profession. Together, we hope that you’ll find some words of wisdom in the blogs we post, and we also hope that you’ll share with us ideas about what you’d like us to explore.

Second, it’s all about the format. Moving forward, we’ll select a new theme each month. This will allow us the time and the space to focus on the issues of importance to you. Assuming everything goes according to plan, we’ll share a new post with you each Tuesday. And the posts themselves will also get a facelift (just in time for spring). In practice, following is what the new format will mean to you:

  • An original post from me introducing each month’s theme
  • Two posts from Kristen based on interviews with industry leaders
  • A behind-the-scenes guest post from someone “in the know”

So, as we prepared to jump-start the blog with a new purpose and a new approach, it was clear this launch should focus on ORGPRO. As you likely know, I’ve served as the chair of the ORGPRO 2013 Program Committee for the last year. I’m particularly excited about next month’s event because of the renewed focus on quality learning opportunities during both the keynote and the breakout sessions.

Therefore, here’s what you can expect for the balance of this month on the Event Garde blog:

Finally, we want to engage with you even more in the coming months. So, please don’t be shy; be sure to tell us what you think. If you have a recommendation for a topic we should tackle or an interview we should schedule, let us know via your comments or shoot us an email at Likewise, don’t be afraid to sound off – good, bad or indifferent. We want to hear from you.

And should you ever wish to serve as a guest blogger, we welcome both your interest and your enthusiasm. Above all, the Event Garde blog hopes to earn your confidence as a trusted source for reliable industry news and information affecting the association, professional development and meetings communities. We hope you’ll join us on this exciting journey.

meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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