By: Amy B. Lotz, CAE, Associate Vice President

We all probably have that one conference that you know you should attend but always have an excuse not to make it.  “Too close to my board meeting.”  “We don’t have the budget for it.”  “I’ve been to Springfield (name any other city) before; don’t want to go again.”

For me – it was the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) annual conference.  This conference brings together nearly 5,000 association leaders for three days of education, collaborating and let’s just say it - fun.  This year when my “boss” said, “it really is time for you to go to ASAE,” I knew she was more than right.  I registered that day.

I talked to my Coulter colleagues about what to expect: who would be the best speakers, where would the best places to connect be and most importantly how many outfits to bring.  The answer two per day.  So packed with 8 outfits and four pairs of shoes, I headed to the Lone Star state. On my way to Dallas, I brought a book to read but quickly put that away so I could catch-up on some TV show viewing. Pretty cool to watch Dallas on the way to Dallas.  There’s still no better bad guy on TV than JR Ewing.

So here I am having just returned from four days and three nights from the ASAE conference in Dallas.  Let me take a moment to share what I learned having “survived” ASAE2012.

I forgot what a pleasure it is to attend a conference and not be running it.  When the AV had some glitches at the opening session, I suddenly realized that it wasn’t my problem.  And I took pity on that frantic meeting planner running around with the headset and clipboard. That has been me too many times than I care to recall.

The city of Dallas can put on good show! The opening night’s reception was held at Cowboy stadium.  For someone like me who loves sports, it was a perfect place.  As I ignored the cheerleaders who greeted us upon arrival, I  quickly headed for the stadium seats.  We have all seen the Cowboys record-size screen (159 feet by 71 feet) but to see it in person is beyond jaw-dropping.  We saw locker rooms, the press area, the field and even the players’ urinal; that is not as exciting as you might think.  And the CVB of Dallas showcased their city throughout the conference in many interesting and enlightening ways.

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There are some amazingly talented association executives and vendors out there.  Many of them work here at Coulter, but I enjoyed meeting new people and connecting with forgotten friends.  When walking the exhibit hall, you realize that the association world really is a “small world.”  I greeted former colleagues who I hadn’t seen in more than a decade. And after attending the educational sessions, I return reinvigorated to stretch myself and try a few new things.  Thanks to all the speakers for donating your time and talent.

Coulter is cool! There were five of us “Coulter gals” who attended.  Three had attended more than 10 years; I was the only first-time attendee.   I must express my deep appreciation to Erin, Colleen, Michele, Cherilyn and “the other” Amy who showed me the ropes, gave me sound advice and introduced me to many new association friends.  I’ll be honest, we learned a lot and we “networked” a lot too.  We knew the parties to go to and the best places to eat and drink.  And of course, ended our conference with our own dance party – Dallas style.

So until next year in Atlanta.