Association sector lessons for GALA
I’ve just returned from a three-day conference in St. Louis for leaders of trade associations, foundations and professional societies. The show brought together 5000+ industry association executives from every sector ranging from medical specialty associations to athletic interest associations to obscure professional societies representing trades I’d never considered, like the International Sleep Products Association Society, the National Auctioneers Association, and the National Dive Products and Marketing Association.
The conference offered the occasion for me to reflect on GALA, our membership, the opportunity (and challenges) ahead for our industry, and the lessons we can learn from other industry bodies. No matter the sector, the trends affecting trade associations at large are consistent: fragmentation within the industry; special interest group needs leading to the emergence of specialized professional associations; member exoduses to free online communities, which have in some ways supplanted the need for a traditional membership model; consolidation among member companies; and aging memberships that neither attract nor embrace the brightest new minds and companies that are shaping the future.
These trends present an opportunity for the association community to re-examine its true purpose. What is the function of an industry body and the profession that it serves? It is imperative that we keep a laser focus on the needs of our member companies as they face their own challenges in keeping up with market changes (faster, cheaper, smarter!). And we must be forward-looking beyond our current trends. Where will our own industry be 10, 20, 30 years from now? And who will be our leading players? Who will be the agents of paradigm change? How can we support them in driving progress and sustainability?
As GALA’s managing director, I use these association conferences for honest, face-to-face exchanges with my peers who are serving other industries and who are striving to progress alongside the needs of their members. The conference provided a number of different formats for learning, from lengthy presentations to speed-learning sessions. But I found that I walked away with the most insight from the small-group discussions – the simplest format of all.
Meanwhile, to build on GALA’s outreach to other industries, we took the opportunity to share some expertise about our own industry at ASAE’s first-ever international track. Hans Fenstermacher, GALA Board Chair, presented a session entitled, “Communicate locally. Succeed globally,” a primer on localization and multilingual concepts and strategies. We found that while many associations are now expanding globally, they are sometimes slower to accept the need for translation because of limited resources.
As GALA demonstrates its relevance to our own industry, we in turn help our members evolve alongside their competitors and within the business world as a whole. I encourage you to look to GALA for the same member experience that I benefited from this week in St. Louis: a place to connect with your own peers, to learn from the trends that will affect your own companies, to welcome bold new ideas, and to help craft your strategy for success within the larger industry community.
If you have ideas on how we can improve GALA’s service to the translation and localization industry, please contact me at [email protected].
GALA Managing Director