This month’s guest blog post is by Jessica Pettitt, a diversity expert, educator, speaker and consultant with Good Enough Now.
Last summer I attended my first ASAE Annual Meeting. I swam in the hallways of the Detroit Convention Center looking for the correct bus back to one of the many host hotels while trying to network, build business leads and learn about association trends.
Even as a huge extrovert, I was exhausted within the first few hours of a multi-day conference. But I got excited about Starbucks lines, elevator trips and escalator rides because I had a slow, quiet moment with one or two other people and I could recharge and take on the masses again.
One afternoon, there was something called an Edu-Tour. I was excited to be on a quiet bus with a small group of people. I had always wanted to visit the Detroit Institute of Art, so I signed up, prepared to relax, exhale and maybe connect with a few people.
The Edu-Tour concept connects attendees to an event venue’s surrounding areas. As such, I shifted from an ASAE attendee to being part of a group of participants interested in the museum. Detroit served as the icebreaker and Matt Chung was our official tour guide. Matt spoke about Detroit with such pride that it’s hard to explain how much more amped up he got when he spoke of his own art students, local artists, smaller venues and the crown jewel, the DIA.
Together, the dozen or so folks on the bus trip connected with each other, our love for artistic expression and the same trials and tribulations Detroit and the DIA were currently plowing through – state and federal funding difficulties tied to political regimes, the struggle to maintain and energize a loyal membership base and even giving back to the local community through youth projects.
Each and every new friend on the bus left feeling connected to each other and to Detroit, and at the same time, reconnected with our own successes in our associations. We all struggle but together we can be supported and succeed. What an amazing community-building tool for ASAE!
Several of the folks on this trip have since stayed in touch using Facebook and I now have familiar faces to look for at the next event. I also have a new and stunning love affair with the DIA and Picasso’s “Sylvette.”
Edu-Tours and place-based education connect the purpose of an organization with the local community, and more importantly, with members. It’s a trifecta: association, members and the outdoor real life!
On a side note: When visiting Detroit be sure to check out the Detroit Experience Factory Welcome Center, which offers tours, maps and resources to help you connect with the city.