Workforce Development Key as ASAE Annual Wraps in Atlanta
ASAE President & CEO Michelle Mason. Credit: Tyler Davidson.
ASAE’s 2023 Annual Meeting & Exposition, held August 5-8 in Atlanta, has wrapped, attracting more than 5,200 attendees representing all aspects of the association segment.
The event is often dubbed “The Super Bowl of Meetings.” ASAE President & CEO Michelle Mason said that, historically, about 20% of the conference’s association planner attendees book within the host city within five years, with an economic impact ranging from $15 million to $18 million over its four days.
Mason said the breakdown of attendees at ASAE’s 2023 Annual Meeting was as follows:
- 2,842 association professionals
- More than 1,700 exhibitors
- More than 560 attendees who fall in the category of guests, press, vendors, staff and others
The last time the meeting was in Atlanta, in 2013, it attracted approximately 5,400 attendees, which Mason said was indicative of an industry rebound following the pandemic.
Major initiatives from ASAE include sustainability, workforce development—an issue also impacting the hospitality industry as a whole—as well as a partnership with risk management organizations Risk & Insurance Management Society and ASIS International, a professional organization for security professionals, to develop a toolkit for associations to help train staff to deal with active shooter situations and other risks associated with in-person meetings.
“We initiated the partnership because we are very committed to partnering with members that have subject matter expertise in areas that are trending,” Mason said. “And so, with the recent active shooter situations and the need to train our staff, it was logical for us to partner with the top associations representing those industries.”
The association also partnered with American Geophysical Union to produce an ESG (environmental, social and governance) sustainability toolkit that was launched on the exhibit show floor.
Priming the Industry Talent Pipeline
Mason stressed that helping fill the industry talent pipeline is a major priority for the association.
“We're really focused on workforce development within ASAE,” Mason said. “It is our responsibility to build a talent pipeline for the future. So, a few months ago we partnered with Atlanta CVB—we also partner with the Georgia Society for Association Executives. We engage high school students and really give them a better understanding of association sector career opportunities as well as in hospitality. We had about 40 youth with us at that time, and we invited them back to our meeting here. We had 10-15 youth that toured the show floor. They had access to mentors, and they learned about association management as a profession, as well as hospitality.”
Mason stressed the need to communicate to young people the scope of career opportunities available in the association sector and hospitality industry in general.
“It’s attracting interest and helping them to understand that this is a career path for them,” Mason said. “[For] ASAE, it’s a matter of creating and curating content in a way that's accessible, that's adventurous and that is relevant, and we are certainly planning to do that.
“We have several new initiatives that we're launching,” Mason continued. “One…focuses on essential-skill development for the next generation of leaders today. This year, we piloted a ReadyMe Leadership Academy. We’re trying to meet them where they are. We’re trying to understand what their needs are, and what we have learned is that skills development is very important to them.”
ASAE’s political lobbying effort via its Tomorrow’s Workforce Coalition advocates for the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act, which would expand eligible uses of tax-favorable “529” savings plans to cover costs associated with workforce training and credentialing programs.
“We’re over 500 [members] now to really tell Congress how associations are the largest provider of post-secondary education,” said Mary Kay Cunningham, senior vice president of public policy for ASAE. “It gives us a great opportunity to go to Congress and explain what we actually do. We're excited to try to push that bill over the finish line, and we have over 52 sponsors in the House and about eight in the Senate.”
Atlanta used its status as host city to showcase the many new developments to its convention campus since 2013, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium, site of the opening night reception headlined by pop powerhouse TLC and the home of the NFL Atlanta Falcons and MLS Atlanta United FC teams. The stadium is next to the site of the former Georgia Dome, where construction on the 976-room Signia by Hilton Atlanta is nearing completion set for January 2024.
The Signia, owned by the Georgia World Congress Authority, is designed specifically with meetings in mind, including the 40,000-square-foot ballroom—largest in Georgia—and will bring a second headquarters hotel to the campus, joining the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center.