On April 1, Kathleen E. Herndon, PhD, stepped into the role of executive director for the Society of Government Meeting Professionals, marking a switch in administration from Ascent Management to Association Management Professionals. She brings 10 years of experience in similar roles with the Marine Technology Society, the Virginia Land Title Association, and the Maryland Land Title Association. Earlier in her career, she served as a consular officer with the U.S. Foreign Service in Dhaka, Bangladesh, earning the President's Volunteer Service Award
A month into her tenure, MeetingsNet caught up with Herndon to learn about her experience and her ideas for SGMP’s future.
MeetingsNet: Ahead of the SGMP National Education Conference in June, what would you most like members to know about your vision for the organization?
Herndon: SGMP is poised for an amazing decade! With so many people returning to the society following the end of the global pandemic, we’re preparing to launch new member benefits, new classes, and new opportunities for government meeting professionals in all career stages in all areas of the country. Staying connected with your peers at events like the NEC is a great way to make sure you’re in the loop on all the great things happening at SGMP.
SGMP’s Board of Directors chose me for this position because I’m known for membership growth through capacity building. I grow organizational infrastructure, which leads to expanded member benefits, which leads to membership growth. It always makes me think of the movie Field of Dreams … “If you build it, they will come.” I’ll be busy working arm-in-arm with SGMP’s board and many volunteers to build it. By the end of the decade, SGMP will be a leader in online education, micro-certifications, and region-specific learning; and the CGMP designation will be the professional standard for government meeting professionals nationwide.
MeetingsNet: Looking back over your career, what have you learned about professional associations that you didn’t know when you started in the business?
Herndon: Wow, so much! I’m a capacity-builder at heart, so I tend to think of things from a very operational perspective. Over the past decade, I’ve learned that putting good processes and strategies in place can scaffold all the important work that gets overlaid on that structure. Without good administrative work holding it all up, volunteers can get bogged down in tasks that don’t capitalize on their expertise. On the other end of the spectrum, without vision and strategy, leadership can get lost in the weeds of everyday operations. A good association executive will attack it from both ends, making sure that the clerical work is as automated as possible, and that the strategy is clear and operationalized.
Most of all, I’ve learned that professional associations are built by people. Our volunteers devote their precious time and talents to building value and purpose, and I take that very seriously.
MeetingsNet: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
Herndon: I spend most of my weekends driving my children to chess tournaments. Our family is really into competitive chess. And soccer. And Tae Kwon Do. And gymnastics. And swimming. And trumpet lessons. And art class. And Girl Scouts. And … did I mention I have six children? It’s a lot!