As soon as the plane started descending over the magnificent mountains ringing Salt Lake City, I started to get a really good feeling about this year’s American Society for Association Executives’ Annual Meeting being held here this week. The air may be hot, but it’s a dry, gorgeous relief from the unrelenting triple-H weather we’ve been having back in Massachusetts, the backdrop makes my heart sing just a little, and the people are so nice that it’s hard to believe it’s for real.
The gentleman who greeted me by the light rail station at the airport not only showed me the stops and my hotel on the map, but also escorted me through the boarding process and made sure I got a good seat! And the train ride was a quick 15-minute scoot to the last stop, which was just a couple of blocks from my hotel. Easy-peasy as it gets!
Other than the weather, what little I’ve been able to see of the city so far, and the lovely locals, here are a few of my favorite things about #ASAE16 so far:
Those extra couple of hours got me up and about as perky as I get in the morning (which is to say, not very) to the point where I decided to try to crash the ASAE 5k Walk/Run, with benefits going to the Utah Food Bank. Since I didn’t sign up officially, I’ll make a donation separately, but what a glorious way to start the day, ambling along the twisty mountain road up into the canyon just minutes out of the city center, cheering on the runners as they blew by me on their return lap to the finish line. And, even though I got there a good 15 minutes or so after the official start, I still managed to not be the last one across the finish line!
• The brothers Kelly, Scott and Mark, astronauts both, who kicked off the opening general session with a presentation that was equally uplifting, funny, enlightening, touching, and inspirational. They look so much alike that I had to really pay attention to which one was talking, the one who stayed on the International Space Station for almost a year (Scott), or the one who has stood by the side of his wife, then-representative Gabby Giffords of Arizona, as she has worked hard to come back after being shot at a political event in a Tucson parking lot (Mark). Their message of “embracing doing the hard thing,” learned as they watched their mom struggle to pass the physical fitness test required for her to become a New Jersey cop, was a good reminder. As was Scott’s (dang it, or was it Mark’s?) story about how taking small steps toward achieving a goal, taking risks and making mistakes and always moving forward, got him from being a high school goofball to a world-class astronaut.
• The three award-winners announced Sunday morning: Bryan Silbermann, FASAE, CAE, Product Marketing Association, who earned the Key Award; Tracy Petrillo, EdD, PhD, Educause (and 2016 MeetingsNet Changemaker), recipient of the Professional Performance Award; and Robert Olcott, FASAE, CAE, ORION Investment Advisors, recipient of the Academy of Leaders Award. All three gave brief statements that were genuine, inspiring, and gave us all a glimpse of why they were so deserving. I’m generally not a fan of doing awards right off the bat—sorry, but they can be awfully boring—but this actually ended up being one of the general session highlights for me.
This may be a conservative area, religiously speaking, but Park City knows how to party. After a quick half-hour bus ride up the mountain and a jaunt up the chair lift to the Silver Lake Lodge at the Deer Creek area, we found food that was amazing, views beyond spectacular, fun company, and the entertainment, well, the amazing Amazing Ace All-Stars, a troupe of trampoline athletes, were a high-energy hit. The post-party pub crawl probably wasn’t my best idea ever, but it sure was a whole lot of fun, including an “elkupine,” dancing to a DJ (this was Sunday night, remember), and the unforgettable décor and ambiance of the famous No Name Bar, which I just fell in love with.
• The educational sessions. So far, I’ve learned about cyber security (or the lack thereof—very scary session!); digital badging; housing room block disrupters (and how to deal with them); gamification; and the sad story of a Boston meeting gone horribly, horribly wrong, told in the most entertaining way you can imagine. I also sat in on one of the Open Space sessions, held in hard-to-find “pods” back behind an auxiliary book store in the back of beyond, which was really terrific, even if the topic was pretty far afield for my purposes (CEO employment contracts). But the format, the energy, and the level of engagement, interaction, and learning was powerful.
So far, this may be my favorite ASAE annual yet! What makes a conference really sing for you?