For the staff at Special Events Magazine at this time of year, it's the association shuffle.
At press time, we're getting packed to head off to the National Association of Catering Executives Educational Conference in Boston. When August rolls around, it's the Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress in San Francisco, followed by the International Special Events Society Conference for Professional Development in Minneapolis.
Like many businesspeople, I always can come up with a hundred good reasons not to make one more trip out of the office. There are just too many e-mails waiting for a reply, too many phone calls requiring a call back, too many projects too important to put off. And yet every time that I make the time to attend an association meeting, I'm always very glad that I did.
The old joke in association management (and I used to be in association management, so I can tell it) is that two's company, three's a crowd, and four's an association. Americans in particular are often kidded about our willingness to join professional associations.
In some quarters, there's a prejudice against associations. The fear is that joining an association means that the lesser lights will have access to and therefore will copy the work of the top talent.
If that's your greatest fear, then you have nothing to be afraid of. I've said it before here: Good, innovative work always gets noticed, always gets talked about, always gets imitated. But the people who come up with that level of work don't really care, because they're always on to the next project, busy setting the next trend.
What associations do is enable professionals in an industry to share best practices. And this elevates the entire industry, to the benefit of everyone in that industry.
It's fine to be proud of the work that we do and to consider it a cut above, but we do not work in a vaccum. If the level of event production improves, then the market for events will expand. A shoddy event hurts all of us, because it cheapens the image of events.
When I attend NACE, I will learn more about excellence in event catering. MPI WEC will show me excellence in meeting and event planning. ISES CPD will highlight excellent work in special events.
The event industry will be better because of these meetings.