Yes, I know, attendance was way, way down among wholesalers, vendors and reps alike. The economy is awful, there is no more trade show or alliance with the PHCC convention and gloom has spread far and wide throughout the industry as a whole. And yet …
I can’t help but think of the old saying about making lemonade out of lemons. Despite everything going against them, this year’s ASA convention had some of the best content in memory. I left every session feeling enlightened and intellectually stimulated. I’ll be writing more about ASA’s programs in the weeks to come, but for now here’s a quick sketch of the speakers and sessions that made me feel so enthused.
I was impressed with the sophistication of ASA’s lobbying efforts, and even more so after spending a couple of hours on a visit with the Pennsylvania delegation for a meeting with aides to that state’s Senators Arlen Specter and Ike Casey. Their arguments were strong, well reasoned and, as best I could tell, mostly well received by the senatorial staffers. A scheduling snafu had the aides meeting with the large ASA contingent in a hallway of the Senate’s Hart Office Building.
In some ways that was a blessing, as the informal setting gave an atmosphere more of casual conversation than a lobbying effort. (Sen. Specter was said to be tied up. At one point he passed by the group in the hall and quickly averted his eyes. I never thought much of him. Now I think even less.)
Trade associations everywhere, whether in this industry or others, are all searching for ways to boost attendance and participation at their meetings. Here’s a tip: don’t insult peoples’ intelligence. Book speakers and programs that stimulate the intellect. When budgets are tight, look for speakers and seminar leaders from within your own industry, many of whom will waive a fee.
People can find entertainment anywhere. It’s only at an industry convention where they can find a plethora of information about their particular business concerns, and that should be the focus of industry program planners.