Earlier this month we hosted our annual three-day virtual conference, SURGE Connect, where leaders from across the association industry shared thoughts, ideas and problem-solving innovations with hundreds of attendees.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best things we learned from our SURGE Connect speakers:

“Until you hear from your stakeholders that … you’re over-communicating, you haven’t over-communicated.”

Alexander McCobin, CEO of Conscious Capitalism, shared that advice from Panera’s Ron Shaich in our keynote interview, “Purpose Despite Peril.”

“It’s so easy for us to think, ‘I’ve said this before. Oh, I’ve sent an email out. I’ve done that,’” he said.  “It’s not enough. Literally, until you have a large number of people say, ‘You’re annoying me. I can give your speech for you. I know what you’re doing,’ you haven’t communicated enough.”

“Let your tribe takeover. Let your tribe do with it what they see best. And don’t try to control that.”

“Once you put your product or your service, or your idea out into the marketplace it’s no longer yours. And every company, every person, every organization, every association needs to be thinking that way,” David Meerman Scott, author of ““Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans,” said during our SURGE Connect session “How To Engage Your Association’s Biggest Fans.”

“What does that mean in the association world? It means you can provide interesting information and advice, but you’re not the only expert,” Scott said. “Everybody who’s a member is an expert, and you push your ideas out there, but then they’re no longer yours. The members need to take over.”

“Evidence is showing that at any age people are capable of changing their brain and doing things differently.”

“The evidence we have is pretty overwhelming that anybody can learn anything at any time, and our brains are in a constant state of flux and change,” Jo Boaler, author of “Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead & Live Without Barriers” said in our SURGE Connect keynote interview “Unlocking the Keys to a ‘Limitless Mind.’”

“Not just our brains, our bodies also,” she said. “And we have a lot of evidence that says what you believe about yourself will change your life, it will change your learning, it will change your physical outcomes. It really changes everything. It’s really important for people as they age because if you start to think, ‘I can’t do things’ then actually that is what will happen.”

“How can we go about diversifying our organization and really ultimately giving that sense of belonging?The first step is making the commitment to do so.”

In the popular SURGE Connect session “Fixing the ‘Broken Rung’ in the Association Industry,” speakers Lisa Campo, senior marketing manager at the American Staffing Association, Lauren Harley, assistant director of education and certification at MCI-USA, Stephanie Kusibab, founder of the strategy consulting agency Essentiam, and Amy Thomasson, marketing director at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons shared tips and ideas on what women can do to empower themselves and other women to succeed in association management.

The three “big ideas” they shared centered around:

  • Seeking out mentors and/or models and creating a personal advisory board.
  • Making a commitment to fostering diversity, inclusion and belonging at all levels of your organization.
  • Building skills through experiences, cross-functional leadership and volunteering.

“Talk is not cheap.”

“It can become very easy for leaders to only manage and communicate about what’s happening in their own departments,” Ray Arambula, IT director for the American Association for Respiratory Care, said in our SURGE Connect session “Smashing Silos.”

“The leaders must also regularly communicate about changes happening throughout the organization” he said. “By not communicating organization goals, obstacles, or even issues, you could be missing out on opportunities to allow your staff to solve problems or even create the solutions.”

“The global pandemic is unfortunate, but it is a chance for us to step back and look at things differently.”

Peggy McElgunn, president and CEO, Global Professional Services PC, said in our SURGE Connect session “The Up-Side of Failure,” that COVID-19 has caused us to look at things differently.

“We’re looking at why do we meet?” she said. “What is the purpose of these meetings? Who is important to bring to the table? Why are these people important to bring to the table?”

“It’s necessary and important to look at the job that needs to get done and then see how we can drive our innovation from that perspective … while trying to tie our work to our mission as well.”

Want more from our SURGE Connect speakers? Download the transcripts from all 12 sessions.

Marketing Specialist at

Heather Nolan is a marketing specialist at AssociationSuccess.org. A former journalist and social media manger, Heather lives in New Orleans with her husband, son and grumpy rescue dog.

Heather Nolan is a marketing specialist at AssociationSuccess.org. A former journalist and social media manger, Heather lives in New Orleans with her husband, son and grumpy rescue dog.

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