Last week, over 150 association professionals gathered at the Michigan Society of Association Executives’ (MSAE) annual conference and annual general meeting. It was great to connect in person once againa phrase that was repeated many times throughout the event.


It’s been more than 18 months since my last participation in such a fulsome association leadership event, and I am once again struck by the unique characteristics of these events.

First, they are energetic and collegial in a way that truly elevates them. I have often considered the face that everyone there, for the most part, are colleagues and peers, and not competitors. 

This is unlike any other industry conference or meeting we at Halmyre attend, where there can be a muted edge in the room.

This peer-engagement is unique and frankly an essential tool for association leaders. Everyone is open and willing to share and support each other to be better for their members, and the professionals and industries they serve.

It builds on the second unique characteristic of association events: attendees are all, by nature, people, person and service oriented. They get it – networking and peer support makes the world go ‘round and I would also add, be worthwhile.

The final unique characteristic that was on full display at last week’s conference: a thirst for learning, professional development, and betterment. There were over 25 high-quality education concurrent sessions packed into just a day and half, and all of them, socially distanced as they were, were attended by engaged participants.

This type of education and thought leadership from both industry expertslike us at Halmyreand experienced association leaders is invaluable. This is clear to me as a regular presenter at association eventsand an amplifier of my own satisfaction in sharing what we at Halmyre know and observe in our day-to-day marketing strategy consulting practice.

At the conference, learning came in the form of case studies, panel explorations and benchmarking studies. In Halmyre’s case, we were proud to share results from our 2021 NFP CEO Value Proposition Benchmarking Study. It revealed important leadership insights, including:

  •  emerging pricing strategies to avoid leaving money on the table,
  •  the lack of confidence in too many organizations’ value propositions and
  •  the state of readiness to use membership data to make more confident decisions about NFPs’ future.

Through all of the changes the pandemic has brought to the not-for-profit industry, it was great to see that in some ways the fundamentalsat least for association leaders—have stayed the same.

Great events look easy, but let’s acknowledge the hard work it took to pull last week’s event together on a short planning cycle. More than that, the event delivered a beacon of confidence for MSAE’s membership and set a standard for which events can be modelled during this pandemic. It was also a welcome boost to an industry poised to re-start its engines. 

Thanks to the staff and volunteers with the MSAE, the hard-working team at the Ann Arbour Marriott Ypsilanti and all of the attendees who made it what it wasa powerful, energized event designed to help associations grow.

About Christine Saunders

Halmyre President Christine Saunders is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. Prior to founding Halmyre in 2014, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.

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