The need for association management conferences

By John Peacock on 23/05/2017

The association sector is a vital asset to any nation. Where there is freedom to associate, people and businesses with common interests will bond together and form an association.

Because associations have members and not shareholders, there is no distribution of profits during their ongoing operations or if they cease operations. The outcome of this structure is that associations accumulate financial reserves and use these funds to hire staff who in turn provide more member services and hence generate more surpluses.

However, the growth development of an association takes time. In the early days of the association, money is always scarce and they are run by volunteers who already have busy day jobs. Therefore, it is common for associations to need a number of years before they are in a situation of being able to attend a conference on “how to run your association”.

Australia is fortunate to have an established associations sector, and this means that many associations and charities have the time and the internal funding to be able to attend events for and about associations. Australia’s premier conference for this sector is the Associations Forum National Conference (AFNC), which will be held July 17-18, 2017 at the new International Convention Centre, Sydney. With 450 attendees expected, it is the largest dedicated association management conference held in the Asia-Pacific region and southern hemisphere.

Launched in 2006, AFNC will be held for the 12th time. It has consistently been a high-quality event with a focus on informational and educational outcomes, with excellent speakers, a well-considered range of topics and varying formats to promote learning.

Associations provide member services such as publications, industry research, advocacy and education, and these are areas discussed at AFNC. Further, the methodology of running an association, such as growing membership, managing finances and having an appropriate governance board, are the types of practical issues addressed.

Having a major gathering such as the AFNC is also an opportunity for suppliers in the sector to promote their products and services. In conjunction with the educational programme, a trade show for approximately 60 exhibitors is held to coincide with the session breaks. Refreshments and meals are provided on the exhibition floor to allow delegates and exhibitors to mix, mingle and do business.

As events are one of the key member services run by associations, AFNC is an ideal platform to promote venues, destinations, regions, countries and convention centres. Association buyers appreciate the chance to interact with their meetings industry colleagues in a convenient location and with a congenial atmosphere. It is often friendships and camaraderie that start at AFNC that results in business deals and signed contracts.

The Associations Forum National Conference has become a must-attend event for Australian associations. Increasingly, international delegates come to learn from Australian associations and to share experiences with other Asia-Pacific nations. I hope that a number of international delegates are able to join us in Sydney, Australia, on July 17-18, 2017, for this prestigious conference.

John Peacock is the General Manager of Associations Forum and is one of Australia’s most experienced advisors to associations and charities, and is a thought leader for the not-for-profit sector. Since 2000, John has trained and consulted with hundreds of associations and charities, large and small, on strategic planning, governance, board effectiveness, operations, restructuring and financial issues.

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