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Aspiration and Inspiration from a Female Association Executive

Nancy Green, the new COO of ASAE, weighs in on how event planners can work better with their C-suite executives—and eventually become C-suite executives themselves.

In early November, Nancy Green, FASAE, CAE, joined the American Society of Association Executives as chief operating officer. Green has more than 25 years of association and nonprofit leadership experience, most recently serving as chief global learning and strategy officer for ASIS International, the world’s largest professional membership organization for security professionals.

In that role, Green worked with the ASIS board of directors and staff to implement a multi-year strategic framework and annual business plan; oversee multiple departments, including events and publishing; and build an organization-wide content strategy.

As ASAE’s COO, Green will be responsible for operations, learning, meetings, credentialing, and other revenue-generating programs and services. “We are excited to bring in an association leader of Nancy’s caliber to help us continue to implement our new strategy, grow our learning and content offerings, and improve our operational efficiencies,” says Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of ASAE.

We caught up to Green a few weeks after she started her new role to ask about the 2022-2023 landscape for association events, how event departments and C-suite executives can work together, and how planners can prepare themselves to become an association COO or CEO.

MeetingsNet: At ASAE, are you considering holding your big events in the coming years as hybrids, and would the virtual and in-person be held at the same time or on different dates?
Nancy Green: Given the volatility and uncertainty that we’re still facing—for instance, when you first sent me your questions the Omicron variant was not yet in the news—virtual content delivery will remain as a critical element. However, as most of us have learned, delivering a hybrid model is staff-intensive and expensive. We are focused on delivering an in-person event in Nashville in 2022, full speed ahead. But based on the event-participation data we have from 2020 and 2021, we will likely look at the asynchronous hybrid format [where the in-person version is held several days before the virtual version], knowing that our attendees’ appetites for virtual vary widely. As of right now, this is my take on things, with the caveat that everything could change yet again. 

MeetingsNet: For event professionals at other associations, what advice would you have about working with their COO or CEO on overall event strategy? What information should they be feeding executives to help create events that deliver the best experience for all audiences but are also solid revenue drivers?
Nancy Green: In my experience, the best events departments understand the big picture. Operationally, they should have a great partnership with the CFO as well as the COO and/or CEO, and also appreciate the larger strategic priorities and how their events support those goals. Finally, they should work closely with content leads on their staff to ensure the events are relevant to key stakeholders and executed with clear metrics for success. 

I would say that a good COO appreciates getting the following from the events team: Current industry benchmarking data—what’s working for others in the space? Also, concrete examples of events that balance risk with revenue potential. Finally, a good scenario-planning skill set that anticipates future trends and possibilities.

MeetingsNet: What advice would you have for a planner who wants to advance to the C-suite in the association world?
Nancy Green: Advancing to the C-suite correlates directly with understanding the larger issues and challenges faced by your organization and members it serves. Instead of thinking only about how to execute on a meeting or event, think about the essentials of why the meeting or event exists and which organizational priorities it accomplishes. I also believe that C-suite occupants bring solutions to the table rather than just pointing out problems, and they partner well with other teams—content, finance, and membership in particular. It’s a mindset: How can our whole team be successful, not just the meetings team?  That helps to demonstrate your wholistic value, rather than simply what you bring to the task of meeting and event planning.  

MeetingNet: What is one interesting thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
Nancy Green: To land my first job out of college, I answered an ad in the newspaper (yes, the printed version) for a position as editorial secretary … at the American Society of Association Executives. After working at five different membership organizations in the meantime, I’ve returned to the organization that gave me my start.

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