Getting the Most Out of Your Board

December 5, 2019

Getting the Most Out of Your Board

As association executives, your job is to effectively manage the implementation of the vision set out by your boards of directors. After all, your organization belongs to your members, and the board members are their representatives. It is critical as executives to ensure that association leaders can, well, lead the organization, as argues here Matthew D’Uva, FASAE, CAE, CEO of the International Association for the Study of Pain and member of Boardroom Advisory Board.

What is Board Leadership?

It is important to be clear about what it means for boards to lead. It is critical to define terms. New board members often come to the role with a very different set of expectations and understanding of the role of board members, association management as a profession, and the specific duties of serving as member of the board related to strategy and vision for the association.

When your organization is global, this complexity increases exponentially. In my experience, perceptions of association management, association management professionals and board service can differ dramatically in different parts of the world. For example, a new board member might have limited experience in working with an association executive and professional staff.

In navigating the diversity of thought, expectation and experience, it is key to assume nothing! If a board member has had prior service on another association board (even in your field or industry), it is important for all parties that board members get training, continuing education, and reminders about the unique operations, culture, and structure of your organization. It is important to get clarity about the individual role of boards relative to your association. For example, what is the role of board members in organizational fundraising or as the association spokesperson?

Thus, it is important to acknowledge past board/volunteer experience with other organizations, and ensure that these preconceived ideas of association management and governance do not hinder the learning process critical to understanding their new leadership role. Implementation of a thoughtful and well-crafted orientation and learning strategy is paramount.

Making the Case

For most of us, association leaders come to their role because of their passion for the field, industry, and/or profession- – not for their love of association management. As leaders, we need to make the business and legal case why it is imperative for them to learn and understand association management principles.

At the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), here are a few things that we do to help address some of these challenges and concerns:

Roles and Responsibilities

While it is an investment of time (and patience) to maintain, we have an active and evolving governance manual. Our manual clearly outlines and integrates association bylaws with the board policy. In particular, our governance manual defines the roles of key leaders within the association including: the President, Executive Committee (IASP Officers), Board of Directors, and the Chief Executive Officer specifically:

  • Organizational Decisions/Authority: specifies which groups can make decisions on important things like budget approval
  • Job Description: outlines key roles and responsibilities for the leadership groups within the organization
  • Emergencies: envisions processes for unexpected situations such as emergencies including succession planning


It is important to commit time and energy to comprehensive board training. At IASP, we have an extensive new board orientation process for new directors and officers. Our training process is encompassed by three virtual meetings (each one hour) held over a period of two-three months with a four breakfast prior to new members first meeting.

Our training includes the following modules:

  • Legal Orientation: Thanks to our outside legal counsel, IASP conducts a full orientation on the key legal responsibilities of board members (duty of care, loyalty, and obedience).
  • Strategic Plan/Operational Plan: Engage board members in all aspects of the strategic plan and corresponding operational plan.
  • Role of Professional Staff: Educate board members on the role of the CEO and staff in operationalizing the strategic plan and supporting the committees, working groups, and task forces.
  • Board Meetings: Guidance on board meeting agendas, pre-read materials, and parliamentary procedure to ensure that board members know how to “show up” to meetings and know what to expect.
  • Mentorship: Connect new board members with veteran members of the board. IASP makes these connections in advance of the first board meeting.

In my previous organization, we also had a commitment to ongoing training. At two board meetings (of the three total) annually, we engaged in board development opportunities focused on association management. Some past resources including sharing past articles from Boardroom or ASAE’s Associations Now (particularly their annual January Leadership Issue). Additionally, I recommend using “Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business is Not the Answer (2005)” by Jim Collins, an easy read that addresses some of the challenges unique to the association world.


In addition to education and training, it is critical for IASP to get our board to work. It is through this engagement that board members embrace their roles for leadership in the organization.

We encourage them first to work on Committees/Special Interest Groups: Board members are assigned leadership roles as liaisons/advisors to committees, working groups, and task forces. Additionally, board members have a responsibility to serve as a liaison for a special interest group.

IASP also provides board members with an organizational scorecard to track progress on organizational key performance indicators (KPI). Another good example comes from my service as a board member from another association. In that organization, board members were provided quarter board scorecards to track individual expectations around donations to the foundation, political action committees, and membership activities. I found that as a board member, it was an excellent way to communicate and reinforce expectations, and most importantly, an effective way to get results.

Working with IASP leadership, we also strive to create agendas that engage all members. Through our meetings, we engage in a mix of small- and large-group discussions with active discussion and group exercises. Through these diverse formats, we track engagement by all board members in the discussion and strategy. Prior to implementation of these meeting formats, 60% of our members did not actively participate in the discussion.

And of course we stay in regular communication with our board members via email and video conference calls. They, in turn, are actively engaged in providing 360 degree feedback to the CEO.

Face of the Organization

Ultimately, board members serve as the “face” of the organization. In order to facilitate their success, we prepare members with tools and resources to help them speak the language of IASP.  We provide sample presentations (including slides and videos) about the organization that can be given at meetings. We also provide single slides that board members can use for their own presentations at industry meetings. We engage with board members regularly to ensure that if they attend an industry meeting, they are visible in our exhibit booths, wear organizational lapel pins during the meeting, and engage with industry representatives on new opportunities for the organization.

Finally, leadership training is an ongoing process and requires our continued commitment and focus. At IASP, we are turning our attention next to improving our leadership development practices with our special interest groups, chapters, committees, working groups, and task forces to allow us to begin our training processes with individuals prior to their election to the board.




December 3, 2019

Keeping the Sustainability Conversation Running

Boardroom talked to Judy Elvey, Director of Marketing, Europe at Cvent about how associations integrate sustainability more and more into their events.

According to you, is there a growing trend of associations organising more sustainable events?

I think the sustainability trend is definitely growing and momentum is starting to pick up at a much faster pace. The events industry (including associations) now recognize there is a responsibility to ensure we all work together to create more climate conscious events. Cvent takes its role as an educator (and not solely a technology provider) very seriously and it’s one of the reasons we have a partnership with Positive Impact, which over the past few years, has been dedicated to creating a more sustainable events industry. Recently we worked with them on a global research initiative to get priorities and views from the events industry and crucially, look at different ways we can unite and meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Over the past few years there have been many conversations on this topic, but it’s difficult to drive change with conversation alone. I do believe many of us working in the industry are open to the change but need guidance to make it work on a practical level.

In what ways can they contribute to a more sustainable events industry?

Certainly, by being vocal and actively participating in the global research initiative I mentioned which is still live. It’s important that as many of those working in the events industry have their say. For anyone wishing to take part, you can click on UN SDG Action Campaign My World Survey

One way is to look at cutting down on the usage of paper and of course, working for Cvent, I can vouch for the huge benefit that technology plays to support more sustainable events.For example, there is no need for printing out multiple copies of brochures or printing out yarns of paper for event attendance lists and event programmes when everything can be accessed via a mobile app. I think it’s important to look at using recycled badges and lanyards. I’m increasingly seeing more organizers doing this!

Another step associations (and the industry at large) can take is to look at cutting down on meaningless giveaways at events.Many swag items often end up in landfills. That’s not to say you stop the giving, but look at utilising digital leave behinds, which can still have a powerful impact for members and prospects – and are also much more easily tracked so you can prove value.

Can you give an example of a recent association event with a strong sustainable dimension to it?

I’m going to declare an interest as the current President for the UK Chapter of MPI at this point. However, the association really does walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to supporting sustainability and the events that are organized. For example, a recent MPI roundtable event ensured at least the starter was plant based and it was held at The Langham, which was recently awarded ‘Sustainable Hotel of the Year’ at the Hotel Cateys – it’s keeping in mind how can we as association can reduce the carbon foot-print.

At another MPI event in Manchester, instead of creating the typical big stand which would have a limited time span, the association used boards of brown recycled paper and asked everyone in the industry to write on the boards with their views on how we can all work towards making more climate conscious events. There was a big buzz around this and lots of discussion on social media.  We also used a beehive on the stand to attract attention and start conversation, bee’s being synonymous with Manchester and a symbol of growing concern for climate change.





November 28, 2019

Creating the World of Tomorrow

Manchester has long enjoyed the kind of pioneering spirit other cities can only dream of. As the former British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli once said: “What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow.” He was speaking at a time when the city was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, but his sentiment still rings true today.

Throughout its history, Manchester has been at the centre of many world-firsts. The first intercity railway station, the first truly man-made canal, and the first stored-program computer were all built in Manchester. John Dalton formulated his atomic theory in the city in 1803, then in 1917 Ernest Rutherford split the atom, discovering the proton and laying the foundations for Radiation Therapy and Particle Therapy.

Nowadays its pioneering spirit is channeled into finding new ways to innovate. It has transformed itself from an industrial city into a modern hub of knowledge, attracting the best academics and industry leaders from across the globe.

Collaborative culture

The city has seen a marked improvement in its positioning as a global conference destination in recent years. According to its convention bureau, the value of international association events almost doubled between 2011 and 2017, rising from £46m to £91m.

The majority of association conferences take place at the city’s two universities – Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester out of term time – or at the city’s flagship convention venue, Manchester Central.

One of the city’s major strengths is how well its various physical and geographical clusters like Corridor Manchester, Manchester Science Partnerships, MediaCityUK, The Sharp Project, and the Northern Quarter collaborate to drive innovation.

This collaborative approach to sharing insight and resources makes it easier for organizers to pull-off large-scale conferences, like the 14th European Sociological Association Conference which attracted around 3,000 sociologists from all over the world to the city this August.

Gary Pollock, professor of sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, acted as local host for the event. “Not all cities have the capacity to run such a large conference, but Manchester does because of the way all its stakeholders work together. We used the Bridgewater Hall for our large plenary sessions and the Business School at Manchester Metropolitan and University Place at Manchester University for the smaller sessions.  

“Manchester is a compact city, so all of these buildings are relatively close to one another which worked very well. We had what we called a ‘conference campus’ and there were approximately 70 parallel sessions taking place over three days. In previous years the conference has been distributed amongst different parts of the host city which can be a problem, but that wasn’t the case in Manchester.”

Sector strengths

For a small city Manchester holds an impressive hand of sector strengths, from life sciences and advanced manufacturing to creative, digital and tech. It currently leads the world in research into the wonder-substance graphene and is home to global brands like Kellogg’s, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Hitachi, Thales and Siemens.

Europe’s largest clinical academic campus the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, and cancer treatment centre, The Christie, are both based in the city. In June this year, leading clinicians and scientists from the particle therapy community gathered for the 58th annual conference of the Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG). Delegates were able to visit the new Proton Beam Centre at The Christie, which opened in 2018, as part of the conference program.

As well as the treatment of cancer, Manchester is considered a specialist in precision medicine, orthopedics, and research into anti-microbial resistance and genomic biomarkers. It has more than 20 international conferences confirmed for the next few years specifically in the life sciences, medical and healthcare sectors including the European Resuscitation Council Congress in 2020 and the 14th annual congress of the European Association for Haemophilia and Allied Disorders in 2021.

Constant improvement

You only have to look at the skyline to see Manchester’s transformation is still very much a work in progress. New buildings are springing up everywhere and investment is being poured into the city’s venues and transport infrastructure.

What was once derelict dockland on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal is now MediaCityUK – a thriving hub of creative, digital, tech and media businesses including the BBC and ITV. This sector is growing faster in Manchester than anywhere else in the UK, partly thanks to the £3.5bn of investment has been made by both the public and private sector in the past few years.

True to Manchester’s forward-thinking spirit, the convention bureau has set itself the ambitious target of boosting the value of business tourism by 40% over the next five years, taking the total value of business tourism up to £1.2 bn.

Contact: /

This article was written by Boardroom editor Chantelle Dietz. The right to use it, in parts or fully, has to be granted by the Publisher.










November 26, 2019

Postcards from the Island

As Taiwan raises its business profile in the meetings world, Boardroom’s chief editor Rémi Dévé met with Mr. Walter Yeh, TAITRA’s President & CEO about the country’s urban regeneration, key industries and the upcoming ICCA Congress.

Taiwan has undergone a profound urban regeneration in the last few years. What does it mean for the MICE industry?

Our urban regeneration has made considerable impact on the industry. The transformation translates into the construction of more venues, like convention centres and hotels in different cities of the island, so more conferences can be held in Taiwan. The new facilities extend outside Taipei and its new exhibition centre, with hotels and large convention centres rising up in Tainan and Kaohsiung. The new metro lines in various cities are also part of this regeneration. For instance, in Taipei there are five lines connecting most hotels and venues making them more accessible and definitely more sustainable.

Can you tell us about Taiwan’s key industries and knowledge sectors and how you try to attract conferences that are aligned to them?

Taiwan is famous for manufacturing and also for its knowledge industry. Our government has recently launched the ‘five plus two’ innovative industries plan, i.e. the IoT Silicon Valley, aerospace and smart manufacturing, new agriculture and, of course, circular economy. So we tend to organize conventions aligned to these industries. Two years ago we had the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) in Taiwan, bringing many experts to the country. Three years ago we organized Velo-City, related to the bicycle industry, as well as the World Orchid Conference, linked to the agricultural industry. Finally, Taiwan organizes many medical congresses which benefit that industry.

Taiwan is championing sustainability in many areas of endeavour. To what extent is the meetings industry playing a role in that?

Already back in 2014, we applied for the ISO 20121 certification for our events and venues, for organizers and suppliers alike. In general, the meetings industry in Taiwan applies this sustainable guide to all the events hosted in the country, as well as to our MEET TAIWAN project, which was launched by the government bureau for Foreign Trade. CSR is also very important to all the MICE industry in Taiwan.

In general, how does Taiwan cater for international associations? What kind of support do you provide?

Taiwan is a hub in East Asia so, geographically, it is very convenient in terms of connectivity with other parts of Asia and the rest of the world. Additionally, our national and local government, in collaboration with MEET TAIWAN, provides financial support during the bidding process to interested associations. On top of that, conference delegates can enjoy Taiwan’s good food, shopping and the hospitality of our people. Major effort has been made to promote congresses in Taiwan with as many as twelve cities offering the possibility to organize events currently.

The ICCA Congress will be held in Kaohsiung next year. What kind of legacy do you hope it will leave?

We are very happy that the ICCA Congress will be held in a southern city of Taiwan, a city known for its industry and tropical weather. Kaohsiung (pictured) is a rising destination for international business events and attracting more attention from event planners. The ICCA Congress is the perfect opening for this city to showcase its potential in hosting such important events. We are hopeful that this Congress for congresses will promote Taiwan’s meetings industry, especially in emerging cities.

The interview  was conducted  by Boardroom Chief Editor Remi Deve. The right to use it, in parts or fully, has to be granted by the Publisher.

Organized by Bureau of Foreign Trade, MOEA / Taiwan External Trade Development Council /Ad. by Bureau of Foreign Trade, MOEA










November 24, 2019

All Under One Single Roof

Always keen on providing meaningful experiences that answer tomorrow’s travel and lifestyle needs, Accor has developed a strong expertise and innovative services to deliver the vision association executives have of their events.

Whether it is a convention, a seminar, a conference, a networking initiative, a forum, a congress… Accor teams strive to make it a success, wherever possible in the Group’s strong portfolio of venues spread across 100+ countries around the world. As Accor is one of the world’s largest hospitality groups, it runs a network of 4,900+ properties ranging from luxury, premium, and midscale to economy – meaning it has a space for any type of association event.

Covering it all

Accor is convinced that the success of your events depends on its knowledge of the association business. The Group is inspired by the destinations, your association’s background and the message you want to convey, to offer you the best possible package. On the associative event market more than ever, Accor sales teams and properties also work jointly with all the local stakeholders to get the best of every destination.

But what if the best of it came directly from the hotels? Based on a report by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), in the last years 41,5% of international congresses have been organized in the meeting facilities of hotels. And the reason for it is simple: working with a hotel to organize your congresses means one single contract covering all the services. Meeting rooms, food & beverage, accommodation… The processes are centralized so it makes your job easier. It also facilitates networking between participants, as all activities are under one roof.

Dedicated services

Accor hotels can help every step of the way in the organization of your congresses. Hand in hand with the Global Sales teams, they have developed solutions and services streamlining processes. For instance, 100 of the Group’s hotels are offering online registration for groups during events. A free of charge service that also offers dedicated reports and dashboards for you to monitor your bookings.

As Accor teams understand your business model, they can provide you with flexible and tailored offers with the best rates for your needs. And with a contract covering all services, the rates are even more attractive and negotiable, whether you want to organize your event months or years in advance.

Accor have an excellent track record of hosting events, seminars, networking initiatives and educational activities for associations and host around 1,500 congresses per year – 1,450 in 2018. Across the world, their 47 Sales Offices generated a turnover of 61.6M€ in 2018 with this market alone, building up a solid event expertise and reinforcing an already strong and reliable network. So whether you’re looking for choice, savings, or flexibility, Accor might well be your next option – their dedicated support team will surely provide you with a much-needed peace of mind.

This article was powered by Boardroom and Accor. For more information on Accor’s tailor-made solutions for associations, get in touch with or visit this website.

November 22, 2019

Getting in Shape with UIA Round Table Europe

The UIA Round Tables are organized annually by the Union of International Associations, the Brussels-based research institute and documentation centre. They lie at the very core of UIA’s education project, and provide an opportunity to learn through networking and practice how to better run associations. UIA has been a pioneer in monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since its establishment in 1907.

The Round Table Europe was held on 4 November at Crowne Plaza Le Palace in Brussels (there’s also an Asia-Pacific one) and was attended by almost 200 participants from 30 countries, 80 per cent of whom came from European and international associations. Other attendees, sponsors of the day, came from venues and destinations, such as Thailand, Canada or Riga for instance and undertook some promotion activities for organizing congresses.

The morning kicked off with a speech by Cyril Ritchie, UIA President, who talked about ‘Association Values vs Realpolitik’. As ‘realpolitik’ refers to a politics based on practical objectives rather than ideals, it connotes a system of adaptation to things as they are, and suggests a pragmatic, no-nonsense view and a disregard for ethical considerations. Ritchie warned about associations walking a fine line there: as transparency, governance, dedication and openness to new ideas are at the core of the mission and vision associations set for themselves, they shouldn’t move away from their responsibility and always keep their higher purpose in mind: advancing the cause which they originally were founded for.

Innovative formats

In terms of format, UIA successfully tried to innovate this year: the day was organized in small workshops which participants could choose from. They were ten booths and 23 topics in total, ranging from ‘Tips and Tricks for Networking With Your Peers’, ‘EU Funding: Where to Start?’, a Masterclass to get familiar with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Companies and Belgium’s new Association Code or how to get in legal shape by 2020 (and more!).

This last one was actually particularly appreciated and focus especially of the shaping of international associations to the new legal regulations. If you work as an association director (=read board member or Secretary General) there are some aspects to take into account in order to protect yourself against liability procedures. The workshop included very practical tips such as how to voice possible concerns during board meetings, and the necessity – or not – to take a liability insurance for directors (which did not exist until recently) and to assess directors on a yearly basis during the General Assembly in order to discharge them eventually, proved to be quite popular among members of the audience.

Additional learning sessions were attended, such how to brand your name, what about the (vulnerability) of the financial position and should external funding, i.e. by non-members be considered.

The next Europe Round Table will take place on 12-13 November 2020 at Vienna House Diplomat Prague, in the Czech Republic.

Since 1907 the Union of International Associations (UIA) serves as an information clearinghouse and research institute which promotes the visibility of international organizations worldwide. In addition, the UIA offers associations a range of services and support. The UIA serves two main purposes: to maintain and provide comprehensive, up-to-date, and reliable information on international associations, their activities and concerns, and their meetings activities; and to support and facilitate the work of international associations through training and networking opportunities.

This article was written by Boardroom Chief Editor Remi Deve. The right to use it, in parts or fully, has to be granted by the Publisher.








November 18, 2019

The Key Ingredients to Enabling Board Effectiveness

Associations rely on strong leadership to drive change and achieve their missions. The rapid pace of change confronting non-profits has heightened the need for great leaders and increases scrutiny on boards and leadership teams to be working in a finely tuned relationship based on the premise of trust and respect.

Optimal boards lead in three distinct ways. They provide foresight by looking beyond the immediate horizon, identifying early warning signs or industry trends which could have implications on the programmatic focus, financing or structure of your association- understanding when and how it is necessary to “save the ship by rocking the boat.”

They provide oversight, helping to steer associations through challenging times and asking the necessary questions about the core of your mission effectiveness (“Are we doing what we should be doing? Producing the results we should be producing? For the members we should be serving?”).

And they provide insight, leveraging their expertise to act as some of the most important and valuable advocates for your association’s mission and visions.

So what are the key ingredients that will ensure a high-functioning and successful Board?

Since I have worked in the leadership of not-for-profit organizations in different sectors (sport, technology, aviation, retail real estate and investment, medical), I have seen a wide variety of board members in different governance structures. There are two things they have all had in common. They are experts in their field. And they are giving their precious time and expertise to the organization in a voluntary capacity.

I believe respect for their expertise and time is key for the staff teams in such organizations. Putting this principle at the forefront of your relationship between the executive staff and your Board will cultivate a strong and productive relationship that contributes positively to the organization’s overall impact.

Gaining the trust and confidence of board members is key and it doesn’t have to take too long. I would recommend a number of key practices, including the following. You can start by working on the actions agreed at board meetings effectively and quickly. Delivering strategy for the Board and demonstrating progress within a short time frame gives confidence to board members who want to see tangible results within their mandate.

Communication is key, but the way we communicate with board members needs to be varied and respectful of the working schedule of the individual board member and respectful of their way of working. Most importantly, in all cases, communication should be open, proactive and transparent.

The CEO should invest time in proactively seeking board members’ informal input, feedback and guidance on strategy outside of board meetings. You can use these interactions not only to share information and gather input but also to develop strong professional chemistry with each individual member of the board. Furthermore, using opportunities for informal meetings and discussions ensures that when you as the CEO are presenting strategies for approval at board meetings, you will be better able to predict and acknowledge likely areas of disagreement with individual board members.

Following on from the previous point, board meetings should be the “cherry on the cake” in a discussion that has taken place informally between meetings. Adopting a strict “no surprises” policy with the board means being fully transparent on the implications and risks of strategic decisions. This transparency is key to maintaining trust and confidence in you and your leadership team.

Finally, I like the concept of viewing your relationship with the board of your association as a partnership. A sense of partnership can be nurtured by balancing strong points of view with open-mindedness and flexibility: the CEO communicates clear, compelling points of view but also demonstrates willingness to fully consider and apply the board’s views. All parties should continuously strive to establish relationships characterised by the highest standards of honesty, trustworthiness, respect and transparency.

In my current role as CEO of the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO), I can’t pretend that my role is nearly as important as the board members who are saving and improving lives, day in and day out. But I do have my role to play to ensure their time and decisions are effectively implemented and that confidence, trust and respect is best delivered in a successful partnership which is focused on the mission of the organization. Developing practical, workable ways to achieve the often audacious and inspiring missions of associations is vital in successful association leadership and the stakes of getting this right are high – for the members associations serve, and for society overall.

This article was provided by Mike Morrissey is CEO of ECCO, the European CanCer Organisation thanks a special partnership between Boardroom and the European Society of Association Executives. For more information on ESAE, visit The right to use this article, in parts or in full, has to be granted by the Publisher.

November 12, 2019

Managing an Association and its Board

The world of work is changing. New shifts and megatrends in the way we see, look at and are influenced by, technological developments, social shifts and cultural changes appear to become more pronounced by the minute. Researchers agree to disagree on the details but are united in their perception that fast-paced change and agile adaptation are bringing about a new equilibrium in the way we look at work and our free time. Lines are blurring, social and societal purpose move to the foreground, the concept of the ‘alpha-leader’ is largely disappearing and hierarchies are flattening. What does this mean for associations, their managers and leaders at board level?

In their research on Work 2028 – Trends, Dilemmas and Choices, Vogel et al. (2018) look at various factors influencing the world of business and the world of work as we know it. For the purpose of this article we will aim to highlight but a few of the key points raised in this research and bring them into the context of not-for profit management.

Crucial trends in shifting societies

Under the title of ‘ubiquitous digitalization’ Vogel et al.’s (2018) research places the trends that already affect our industry today. Ever increasing use of new technologies on the one side supports our daily working lives and improves many routines that in the past may have been lengthy and complex. Blockchain technologies and the processing of big data have potentially an enormous impact that we cannot fully foresee at this point, but we do know that change is coming. On the other side of the coin, Vogel et al.’s research also raises the question as to the possible downside of such ubiquitous developments. Resulting in even complex tasks being taken over by advanced technologies will see a shift in professions with many current jobs disappearing or losing relevance.

For the not-for-profit sector the concept of relevance has long been at the forefront of the discussions with many articles being published on the topic. Remaining relevant when technology supports faster access to instant gratification is one of the crucial influences faced by association leaders, managers and boards alike. Is it enough to employ a talented millennial to do your social media outreach when the older members of staff aren’t fully comfortable digitizing their lives?

A dilemma arises when we look closer at our tech needs and know that we need to update our expertise but how? Technology we have heard of for the near or distant horizon: ubiquitous people-machine interaction, dominant voice control, machine learning, artificial intelligence, autonomous transport solutions, virtual reality meetings, etc. The professional term for the concept of ‘not exactly knowing’ in this context is called ‘informed disorientation’, where we know we need to change but are as of yet unsure in which direction it will take us.

The respondents to Vogel et al.’s (2018) research raised questions such as how to update and sustain key decision makers’ expertise on technology’s possibilities and controversies? How to include tech-savvy contributors across organizational levels and boundaries in investment decisions? For the not-for-profit sector we might even need to go as far as to consider the implications of smaller organizations being run out of a home office that do not have the luxury to invest time in reflecting on needs. Will they be left behind and does that mean they are losing their relevance?

Calling for societal purpose

Especially not-for-profit organizations, by definition of their DNA, have an intrinsic responsibility towards society/societies. They are at the forefront of creating societal purpose and meaning. Utilizing this strategic pole position can offer a wealth of engagement opportunities, not only with members of target groups but also with other partner organizations on the B2B side. It might be that professional (and not so professional) associations need to rethink their sometimes decades-old business practices to re-evaluate their purpose and thus re-define their societal relevance. A good place to start the discussion is to widen the circle of people with whom to discuss your organization’s societal purpose.

Personal implications, episodic loyalties and the future of work

Also the not-for-profit world, or perhaps especially the not-for-profit world, is affected by episodic loyalties. Increasing trends in blurring the lines between private lives, working hours, the fulfilment of the self and giving work a meaning and social purpose might inspire us to rethink the way we look at our work relationships and engagement with our organizations. In practice, we often look at two contexts:

  • Internal episodic loyalty: regularly changing identification following tasks, projects or roles, and
  • External episodic loyalty: staying outside the organization but regularly engaging in mutual identification inside its boundaries (Vogel et al. 2018)

For the not-for-profit sector this may not seem like anything new as we deal with a variety of engagement possibilities during our working days. Looking, for example, at the relationships and influences a volunteer board and their (paid) managers will often emphasise the differences and gaps of perception of what is of importance and relevant to the organization. Bridging these gaps is an increasing challenge in the future within frameworks such as informed disorientation, organizational purpose formulation and a personal need for belonging.

Vogel et al.’s (2018) respondents put forward feedback questions for further debate: 1) What will serve as employees’ anchor for loyalty: the organization, overlapping purposes, the meaning or the societal contribution of the work? 2) What will serve as organizations’ anchor for loyalty and how can they reflect, communicate and act upon this with clarity? and 3) How to balance episodic loyalty with organizations’ long-term activities and the need for knowledge-retention?

Reflecting on these questions will provide the not-for-profit leader with an indication of, and the interplay between, the various relationships at all levels of the organization. Association Management Companies (AMCs) and Professional Congress Organizers (PCOs) will appreciate this reflective exercise as episodic loyalty situations meander throughout their organizations like a thick web. Managing the different personal and professional relationships can often be a daunting task requiring time and effort and authentic engagement on all sides.

In closing, we looked at but a few immediate trends in managing associations with a forward-thinking approach in mind. From tech developments to purpose formulation at societal level towards bridging personal interest and loyalties we see that our race for relevance may only increase in speed and complexity. However, as not-for-profit organizations we can often count on guidance from a wide range of partners, friends and supporters. Our position within social and societal purpose equips our organization with a pole position that can be invaluable in navigating the stormy seas of the future of work.

This article was provided by the International Association of Professional Congress Organizers, author Christoph Raudonat, Business Development & Association Director, International Conference Services Ltd, on behalf of IAPCO President, Mathias Posch. IAPCO represents today 135 companies comprised of over 9,100 professionals. /    



Naisbitt, J. (1982) Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives. Warner Books / Warner Communications Company, p. 178

Vogel, B.; Heidelberger-Nkenke, O.; Moussavian, R.; Kalkanis, P.; Wilckens, M.; Wagner, M.; Blanke, K. (2018) Work 2028 – Trends, Dilemmas & Choices, a study by Deutsche Telekom, Detecon International and Henley Centre for Leadership, Henley Business School


November 8, 2019

Answers for AIDS

Research surrounding HIV and AIDS is continually evolving, and with events like the 17th European AIDS Conference, which took place at Congress Centre Basel (CCB), attendees had the chance to discuss and learn more about the latest scientific developments related to a disease without a cure. As Professor Manuel Battegay, the local conference co-chair says, it’s events like these that help scientists translate developments into daily clinical practice—in addition to placing Basel at the top of the list as an ideal congress destination.

Basel, with its stable economy, government and society, is one of Switzerland’s prime locations for association conferences. You may have heard of a few of the more internationally recognized events like Baselworld, the premier trendsetting show for the watch and jewellery industry, and Art Basel, one of the world’s leading modern and contemporary art fairs. Basel is a truly international city that’s easy to navigate, since most attractions can be reached by foot or by public transport—which is rapid, punctual, and even connects countries, crossing the border into Germany and France. The city is also home to a number of innovative companies, an abundance of green space (within the attractive city centre), and Switzerland’s oldest university.

Established in 1991, the European AIDS Clinical Society (EACS) is a not-for-profit that brings together scientists from across Europe to facilitate an exchange of the latest information regarding clinical aspects of the disease. All members of the Governing Board and Regional Representatives work entirely pro bono. The European AIDS Conference, EACS’s flagship event held every two years, aims to create not only a stimulating scientific programme, but also an innovative space where attendees can meet and discuss discoveries with fellow clinicians.

In Basel, this type of space can easily be created. It’s an open-minded and liberal city with a strong humanist tradition, thanks to its roots going back to the humanist age,” explains Manuel Battegay. As congress organizers and participants, we are very pleased that Basel was selected as host city. The Swiss HIV Cohort Study, which has contributed to the understanding of the disease, helping to improve the treatment and the care for 30 years, is playing a decisive role in this regard. A book titled ‘AIDS in Basel – From dying of AIDS to living with HIV’ was also recently published – a clear testament of the city having had a huge impact on the treatment of the disease.”  

In addition to the personal engagement of leading Swiss researchers as Manuel Battegay, two other key players made the conference possible: the city of Basel and the CCB. The whole organizational process gave us the impression that the conference will be integrated in an atmosphere which is not only supportive of the congress itself, but also of the people infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS,” Battegay says. “We did not only receive financial support, but also organizational help from the Canton of Basel-Stadt and its Government, which has clearly made a difference to us. All parties involved are very dedicated, and this has been apparent every step of the way.

In Eastern Europe and Africa, there are still a lot of AIDS-related cases that need solving, despite the excellent therapies that currently exist. In order to find solutions, clinicians, scientists and experts from the public health domain must exchange their experiences and knowledge, working together to uncover life-changing breakthroughs. This is the kind of legacy the Congress aims to leave. One of our goals is to increase the number of patients we can reach considerably—and get a treatment for those in Europe and beyond,” Battegay says. We hope for a sustainable impact of the congress, especially in Europe.”

More info on Switzerland as a conference destination: /

This article was written by Boardroom Chief Editor Remi Deve. The right to use this article, in full or in parts, has to be granted by the Publisher.


November 5, 2019

Unlocking Africa’s Potential

Jeffers Miruka, President of the African Society of Association Executives (AfSAE), reports on a successful inaugural Africa Association Summit.

Over 100 association executives from seven African countries gathered in Kenya’s capital Nairobi 21-22 October 2019, for the inaugural Africa Association Summit (AAS1). The two-day event was organised by the African Society of Association Executives (AfSAE) in partnership with the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).

AfSAE is a professional community of association executives and the voice of the association profession in Africa. The Summit, themed Unlocking Africa’s Potential, was the first of its kind in Africa, and built up on AfSAE’s mission to advance the importance, and professionalism, of associations in Africa through education, advocacy, networking and advisory.

A mix of seasoned association executives, volunteer leaders, civil society advocates, scholars and early career apprentices attended the stimulating summit, marking the beginning of what most participants agreed was an eye opener for them and their organizations. Speakers from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, US and China did not disappoint with their well-researched and articulate presentations.

During the opening, AfSAE President Jeffers Miruka told the participants that the time had come and there will be no turning back as Africa is poised to join other regions in professionalizing the association industry and help spur development in our regions. Gregg Talley, AfSAE’s Management Advisor, couldn’t hide his excitement about what he called a new chapter in the association world of Africa.

Keynote speakers included Kenya’s former Attorney General Prof. Githu Muigai and the Secretary General and CEO of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists & Dentists’ Union Dr. Ouma Oluga. Prof. Muigai, a Columbia University School of Law graduate who has been at the centre of the struggle for an open democratic space in Kenya, noted that associations are the conscience of communities, bringing together their concerns while being able to fashion the message for governments to understand them. He continued to say that challenges of our generations in our times are well catered for by associations all over the world, calling civil society organizations champions of change in all spheres of mankind.

He further stressed that the existence of all these associations is self-evident from what they do, however, he pointed out that, “we must have the capacity to run them efficiently, professionally, transparently, and productively, and train others to do the same, if we’re to achieve what our friends in other parts of the world have achieved.” He then encouraged everyone to chat [ their] way forward” towards a more inclusive and productive Africa to, in fine, create jobs for the youth.

Other key speakers included Magdelena Mook, CEO of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), who also serves as the International Section chair of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). As a representative of the Center for Association Leadership, she spoke on drivers of change and how research conducted among ASAE members bears relevance for African Associations, saying that only collaboration can help African associations grow.

Jacqueline Price-Osafo Director of Membership Development at the Water Quality Association, Sharon Newport, Executive Director of Door Security & Safety Foundation, Asenath Mwithigah, Director at My Leader Kenya, and Nicanor Sabula, CEO of the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) also contributed their knowledge and expertise.

Raphael Kuuchi, Special Envoy to Africa on Aeropolitical Affairs at the Montréal-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) spoke very broadly on the benefits of implementing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the positive impact of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) in promoting intra-trade in Africa and opening the sky for competition and growth of air travel in the continent. He said this will help travellers, among whom association executives, to be able to organize their events and execute their activities with limited constraint around the continent and beyond.

The inaugural Africa Association summit ended on a very high note promising to be bigger next year. It is scheduled to be held in October 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda.