Yesterday, David and I attended Associations North Annual Meeting and Expo at the US Bank Stadium here in Minneapolis, MN. This event was a gathering of over 400 exhibitors and attendees to network, learn and grow as association professionals.

The expo opened with speaker, Chris Kendrick, author of The Culture Works. His talk was followed by numerous breakout learning sessions from groups like Informz, Naylor Association Solutions, CliftonLarsonAllen, and XYZ University to name a few. Next was the exhibitor trade show where we met and mingled with local businesses, association executives, and management companies. Our luncheon was a send off to the newly retired president of AN, Kathy Johnson, and an introduction to new co-directors, Angela Kisskeys and Sarah Ruzek. We finished our day with additional education sessions and a final send off by artist, Kat Perkins. All in all, the day was a great success. We learned so much and thought we’d share some takeaways with you.

Our favorite quotable moments:

On work culture…

“The best performing teams are engaged, enabled, and energized.” – Chris Kenrick

Kendrick spoke about workplace dynamics and the principles needed for success. He outlined his ideal roadmap to achieving company goals which focused on defining your “why”, providing outstanding customer service, genuine collaboration with colleagues and team accountability.

On email marketing…

“Grow your [email] list organically, obtain permission… and know the risks of [using] an aged list.” – Informz

An email specialist from Informz, an email marketing/automation company, discussed subject lines, spam traps and the key importance of testing your email strategies. She emphasized starting with a good, reputable email list and warned of purchasing lists or utilizing outdated ones. One idea I thought extremely compelling was their 10/10/80 testing rule. It breaks down like this: send Email Version A to 10% of your database and Email Version B to 10% of your database. After analyzing the results, you’ll see which group took the win. Now, you can send 90% of your database the winning strategy rather than the typical 50/50 or 40/60 split.

On sponsorship options…

“Know where your sponsors spend their money… and how much they spend. Sponsorships are not a one-size-fits-all. What is the “why” in your value proposition?” – Charles Popper, Naylor Association Solutions

Developing a customized, benefits-focused sponsorship program can be challenging. Popper’s talk focused on being creative in your sponsorship options and allowing companies to create their own package that best exposes them and benefits you, instead of forcing them into a pre-set package. He also emphasized the importance of understanding your sponsors – where they spend their money, what they thought of your event, and why they’re choosing to spend money on your event.

David and I debriefed after the expo and he mentioned how “exciting it [was] to see new leadership at Associations North.” We agreed that this expo was unlike others we’d been to in the past – it was pretty cool to be in such an impressive place like US Bank Stadium and see everyone come together and collaborate. “I walked away with a handful of great contacts, too,” said David.

The whole expo was a great collaboration of vendors and attendees working together to become better association professionals. Not only did AN present a diverse range of topics, speakers, and presentations that left us with a greater understanding of what associations do but also how important associations are to developing professionals within each industry.