AIME’s Associations Roundtable Helps Organizations Stay Relevant

Despite the challenges at home in Australia with the bushfires and abroad with the coronavirus—which caused the entire Chinese delegation to cancel—AIME was a resounding success in Melbourne. The day before the show took place in February, Talk2Media, the company that manages the trade show, organized the first-ever, invitation-only Associations Roundtable. Boardroom happily took to the mic to present and moderate with facilitator Mykel Dixon.

Sponsored by Melbourne Convention Bureau, the Roundtable, held 17 February during AIME’s Knowledge Programme, brought together 35 association leaders from around the region and beyond to discuss common challenges and opportunities for collaboration. The room was set up like a cosy little café and delegates were entertained by a live band led by Dixon, who engaged the crowd with his characteristic blend of charisma and comedy.

The morning started with a keynote speech from Boardroom’s chief editor, Remi Deve, who spoke about growth and relevance. The business climate has changed dramatically over the past 20 years—but most associations and non-profit organizations haven’t. How can you stay relevant if you’re not evolving? How can you be future-proof and ready for change, especially when you’re based in a region on the verge of experiencing some of the greatest growth over the next 20 years?” Deve asked the audience.

Attendees were later divided into groups to discuss challenges and opportunities revolving around five topics: governance models, member markets, journey to innovation, association structures and positioning. There were so many takeaways for associations during the roundtable,” said Octavio ‘Bobby’ Peralta, secretary general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP), founder & CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE), and president of the Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations (APFAO). “But for me, the main one was about those simarketplace realities that did not exist 30 years ago: time, in the context of volunteer work time for members; value expectation and the perennial question, What unique benefits does the association provide that are not available elsewhere?; market structure and the trend of consolidation or specialization; generational differences and the issue of millennials not joining associations; competition from social media and non-traditional service providers; and disruptive technology like Artificial Intelligence.”

Alexander Mohr, executive director of the European Flavour Association, praised the structure of the event, since it deviated from the traditional one-way lectures typically presented at conferences. “The roundtable was a unique forum to exchange on global association management issues,” he said. “I particularly liked the innovative multi-level concept, which included different sessions within one set-up—something we will try to adapt to our conference style.”

Sabrina S. K. Chan, senior executive director of the Hong Kong Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry, agreed. “The roundtable offered a holistic perspective in considering common issues that every association will come across, such as getting a board with a mission and strategy, maintaining a sustainable finance and broadening the membership base,” she said. “I look forward to attending the next roundtable to engage in more in-depth discussions with my peers that will inspire and motivate future solutions that will allow me be better at what I do as an association leader.”

A common feedback? The session was way too short. Many attendees felt it could have been extended from an engaging morning into a day-long event. There are many new developments and challenges that associations face today, and it’s imperative that association executives continue to learn and expand their knowledge base in order to meet these challenges head on. Hopefully AIME will continue to assist in that area when the show returns to Melbourne 22-24 February 2021.

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