Summit 2019

Save the Date!

Please plan to join us October 28-29, in Milwaukee at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino for WSAE's 2019 Summit. More details to come!

Summit 2018

The 2018 WSAE Summit: People, Purpose and Passion: Pathway to Success, was held October 29 & 30 at the Overture Center in Madison, with breakout sessions located at various other fun locations around downtown. In this, its seventh year, the Summit provided resourceful programming to help association professionals be creative thinkers and offer effective solutions to their members. It was an excellent opportunity to challenge our thinking and learn from our peers and other association experts.

The re-designed Industry Partner Showcase and Reception facilitated visiting with our industry partners and learning more about their products and services. The Industry Partner Showcase and Reception took place in the Main Lobby at the Overture Center, with downtown Madison and the Capitol as the backdrop. And, we were "betting big" on a new mock Poker Game, featuring a Palm Beach Experience as the Grand Prize

At the Awards Celebration lunch, we recognized our WSAE peers who have been an inspiration to so many.

See below for the complete schedule, full of outstanding educational speakers and breakout opportunities:


8:15 am
Promenade Terrace
Overture Center

Registration Open

8:45-9:00 am
Promenade Hall
Overture Center


9:00-9:45 am
Promenade Hall
Overture Center

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Opening Keynote: Association Growth through the Gift of GAB (Goals, Attitude, Behavior)

Conor Cuneen, IrishmanSpeaks 

In a fascinating, fun program on Association Growth through the Gift of GAB, IrishmanSpeaks Conor Cunneen illustrates how a core framework of GAB (Goals, Attitude, Behavior) can dramatically improve member satisfaction and Association performance. You will understand (and be motivated to implement) the power of daily micro-Goals to improve productivity, collaboration and member satisfaction. You will appreciate the importance of choosing your Attitude, both before and after things go wrong. Finally, you will recognize that your Behavior (and that of staff) creates your Association Brand, your Behavior determines what members say about you and what members say about you IS your Brand. Conor will present research based content, evocative business storytelling (hey, he is Irish) and some really corny jokes to leave you with a smile on the face, a spring in the step AND implementable takeaways on Goals, Attitude, Behavior to improve member satisfaction and Association performance. 

Conor Cunneen is an Irishman, happily exiled in Chicago whose mission in life is to Improve People, Performance and Productivity with a Smile. This former Marketing VP with global giant Unilever (and multiple author) combines the wit that won Chicago Humorous Speaker of the Year with business experience from Europe and the US to provide compelling programs to clients ranging from Harley-Davidson to Helsinki, from Memphis to Madrid. He has authored five books including two on Mark Twain and as an Irishman is proud to be a recipient of The President’s Gold Medal for Volunteer Service. 

9:45-10:00 am

Travel to Breakout Sessions at Various Downtown Locations

Association Executive 
Meeting Planner 

Online Education 
Industry Partner 

See breakout descriptions below! 

10:00 am-12:00 pm

Breakout Sessions

12:00-12:20 pm

Travel to The Madison Concourse Hotel for Awards Lunch

12:20-1:30 pm
Concourse Hotel

Awards Lunch & Business Meeting

Join us for a celebration luncheon at The Madison Concourse Hotel as we recognize WSAE peers who have inspired us all. 

1:30-1:45 pm

Travel to Overture Center for Continued Programming

1:45-2:30 pm
Promenade Hall
Overture Center

Creating a Welcoming Environment™  for Members and Staff

Michelle Mason, Association Forum 

When an association values differences and creates a welcoming environment – one that is comfortable, inclusive, and empowering – it opens the door for innovation, increased participation and an elevated sense of community and belonging for all. 

We will spend a session in a world café format to gather unique and diverse perspectives on creating a welcoming and inclusive environment where all are valued and appreciated.

Welcoming Environment™ is defined as the creation of a sense of belonging and connectedness that engages individuals in an authentic manner in which uniqueness is valued, respected and supported through opportunities and interaction.

Program Objective:

  • To inspire a collaborative dialogue that engages diverse perspectives around an opportunity to enhance a welcoming and inclusive culture within associations.
  • To produce a summary of strategic insights to be used by WSAE Summit attendees in their planning processes on creating welcoming and diverse environments.
  • To learn a new framework to engage multiple stakeholders in open and objective dialogue on a provocative issue.

Michelle joined Association Forum as President and CEO in September 2014. She provides strategic leadership, fiscal responsibility, and successful delivery of member value. Prior to Association Forum, Michelle served as a managing director at the American Society for Quality (ASQ). In this role, she concentrated on business development, membership, component relations, innovation, advocacy, social responsibility, and process improvement efforts.
Prior to ASQ, Michelle served as vice president of strategic and future focused research programs for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) in Washington, D.C. She also worked at formerly Chemical Manufacturers Association, now the American Chemistry Council.

Michelle is a Certified Association Executive (CAE), Six Sigma Champion, and a Certified Quality Improvement Associate (CQIA). She is an ASAE Fellow and an Aspen Institute Ideas Fellow. She is a graduate of the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute (2016).  Michelle formerly served as an examiner with the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence. She has a BA, MBA and MS.

Michelle has strong board experience including, ASAE Board of Directors, ABSI, Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin.  She was appointed by the Mayor of Milwaukee to serve as vice-chair of the City's Green Team. Michelle is the founding chair of the ASAE Innovation Grants Program. Michelle was the project lead for the bestselling publication, Seven Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t. Michelle received the 2012 WSAE Association Leadership Award and was recognized by Associations Now as an “A Lister: Someone Who Makes Associations Work.”

2:30-3:00 pm
Promenade Hall
Overture Center


Everything Old is New Again: Integrating Direct Mail for High Impact Communications

Deilee Calvert and Julie Ehrke, The Badger Group

While direct mail was once the main form of communication with your members and customers, the emergence of digital forms of outreach as a low-cost alternative left some organizations backing away from direct mail. After years of relying on digital marketing for communications, organizations are finding that their messages are often being ignored, blocked or event deleted. Truly successful marketing campaigns have learned which communications work best using digital channels and which do best using paper. Learn how to harness the power of digital marketing and direct mail so that your communications are more effective and increase response.

Deilee Calvert has been with the Badger Group since 2016. She specializes in direct mail and digital campaign strategy and copywriting. Prior to working at the Badger Group, Deilee was Regional Coordinator for Community Nutrition Programs at Cornell Cooperative Extension, providing services and programs for member counties. She has also worked with UW-Whitewater's Community-Based Learning Program, Methodist Hospital Eating Disorders Institute (St. Louis Park, MN), and the Tobacco Research Group at University of Minnesota's School of Public Health.  Through her work with non-profits, universities, and membership organizations, she brings experience in community organizing, marketing and communications, and program development. Deilee has an MBA in Marketing from UW-Whitewater, an MA in Counseling Psychology from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota and a BS in Foods & Nutrition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Julie has been with The Badger Group for over 15 years. She works with customers to develop and create campaign strategies that stay within budget. Prior to the Badger Group, Julie worked in account management for MasterGraphics, Paragon Development Systems (PDS), and Royle Printing.  With over 25 years in the printing industry, she understands different printing techniques, mailing requirements, and the process of producing an outstanding print product. Julie has a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Journalism from UW-Madison. She currently serves on the Programming Committee and the Fundraising Day Wisconsin Committee for the Madison, WI chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals

3:00-3:10 pm
Promenade Lobby
Overture Center

Standing Break

3:10-4:00 pm
Promenade Hall
Overture Center

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Data-Driven Associations 

Jim Thompson, Capitol Hill Management Services 

Too many times associations operate in a vacuum and make decisions based on feelings and intuition. While insight is key, it’s extremely important to also focus on data. Learn how your organization can take the steps to allow data to drive the decisions in your association.

Jim Thompson, IOM, CAE, is Vice President of Association Management and Strategic Development with CHMS, an association management company based in Raleigh, NC. In his role, Thompson serves as the Executive Director for the National Association of 4-H Agents and the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering, oversees the staff that manage CHMS’s 18 other clients and is responsible for business development.

Previously Thompson was the Executive Director of the Association Executives of North Carolina, where he had been since September 2005. While at AENC, Thompson helped the organization grow its membership by over 50%, saw retention increase to nearly 98% and worked to increase the recognition of the organization with the media and members NC government officials. Before working at AENC, Thompson was the Director of Business Development for the NC Association of REALTORS® in Greensboro, a position he helped establish after his first year of employment with NCAR. He worked at NCAR for over five years and worked to substantially increase revenue for the association and streamline the sponsor development program.

4:00-6:00 pm
Overture Hall Main Lobby

WSAE Industry Partner Showcase & Reception

Newly designed this year, the WSAE Showcase is more than an event to showcase our Industry Partner’s products and services, its been designed to also be a catalyst for fostering longstanding industry relationships. This one-stop shop will provide the opportunity to find partnerships to help your association achieve new heights. And, play along with the new mock Poker game activity, where attendees circulate throughout the Showcase floor, enjoying appetizers and beverages, and collecting playing cards to build a winning poker hand. Complete the Poker Game activity to be entered in a drawing for the Summit Grand Prize, generously provided by Discover the Palm Beaches - a Palm Beach Experience, including:
• 2 tickets into Palm Beach International Airport (PBIA) each ticket not to exceed $500.00
• Airport Transfers
• Complimentary accommodations for 2 nights (hotel blackout dates apply)
• VIP Welcome Amenity upon arrival
• Valid October 1, 2018 to October 1, 2019
The opportunity to win the Grand Prize is open to Association Executives, Professionals and Meeting Planners.

Grab a cocktail and show your support for the many CVBs, hotels and other providers that engage in the association space. 


8:15-9:15 am
Promenade Lobby & Terrace
Overture Center

WSAE Solutions Network Breakfast 

The WSAE Solutions Network is your place to ask questions, seek solutions, and discover new trends and practices. It’s also a great place to learn from your WSAE peers. Find your “spoke” and join the conversation. 

9:15-10:00 am
Promenade Hall
Overture Center

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Listening…the key to effective communication and a pathway to success

Julie Ostrow, Find The Funny Enterprises

Have you ever walked away (or hung up) from a conversation wondering, “What did we just agree to?” Or how about, “Hmmm…I really don’t think that vendor truly understands our organization’s needs.”? And, later at your meeting you find out that your instinct was right…they didn’t use the specifications you thought you agreed to? These are just a few examples of what can happen if there is a gap in communication and listening.

In this interactive and fun presentation, you will learn skills that you can use in your business to make sure you say it right and get it right. Effective communication skills—especially listening—lay the groundwork for cohesive business relationships…and successful events!

Learn how to use improvisation skills to connect, collaborate, and truly listen to your association’s members, vendors, and clients. Improv skills allow us to be in the present moment to practice reflective listening, while encouraging others to do the same. When we’re listening to each other, we are tuned into each other’s needs and qualifications. Listening as a skill means not having our own agendas to drive conversations that will lead to deeper connections. Join the fun and learn the skills and tools that can be applied to your professional, business, and personal relationships.

  • Learn the fundamental rules of improv and apply them to diverse business settings—internally and externally.

  • Apply reflective listening (also known as “Yes, and”) to eliminate any assumptions.

  • Acquire the art of being in the moment through improv skills.

  • Learn to have fun while collaborating in a fun and interactive way.

As the Humorous Speaker and Communication Coach, The Second City-trained and First-Ever American Laughing Champion Julie Ostrow  teaches organizations and corporate teams to use improv skills to improve Creativity, Communication, Team Building, Problem Solving, and Productivity with their clients and within their organizations. She teaches the benefits of using humor, laughter, and improv in all aspects of our lives, including in the workplace.

Having more than 20 years of corporate marketing communications experience including five years with SmithBucklin, the world’s largest association management firm, Julie is able to identify the trigger points of miscommunication and low morale in the corporate culture and among team members. By infusing her corporate experience with her humor, laughter, and improv tools, she is able to guide organizations to communication, connection, and creativity. Resulting in re-inspired teams and increased productivity.

 Julie conducts her interactive and transformative workshops for corporations, healthcare organizations, conventions, and schools. Julie's enthusiasm and passionate spirit, combined with her comedic insight, help to make her a warm and engaging presenter and workshop facilitator. Her personal motto, "find the funny," helps her to find humor in everyday moments and in life's seemingly most difficult situations...and she'll help your teams do the same! She also performs improv and stand-up comedy for a variety of events.

10:00-10:05 am

Standing Break

10:05-12:00 pm
Promenade Hall
Overture Center

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The Disaster Experience

Joy DesMarais-Lanz

Participants are the meetings & event management team of their trade association’s three-day annual conference. The meeting has an unfriendly demonstration, looming severe weather threatening all outside activities, loss of the keynote speaker, conference attendees complaining of a stomach illness and the news media begin to swarm. How would a team handle such a disaster, especially with your Senior Meetings Director injured and a drunken board member arrested?  See how your meetings management staff will respond.

From this hands-on approach, you’ll be able to identify and assess your preparedness and response in these disruptions that fall under: media and public relations, natural disaster, legal issues, employee relations and terrorism. Take the process you and your team considered and bring those considerations to review and add to your emergency preparedness plans.

Joy is an award-winning educator whose facilitation style is grounded in the work of John Dewey, David A. Kolb and Paulo Freire. Over her twenty-five-year career, she has created and facilitated experiential and simulation activities for groups from ten to one thousand. Most recently, she designed and piloted the experiential elements of HOBY International’s Advanced Leadership Academy. As the vice president of the National Youth Leadership Council, she facilitated city-wide intergenerational immersions and simulations for the National Youth Leadership Training, National Service-Learning Teacher Institutes and the National Service-Learning Conference. She earned a BA in speech communication and a MA in organizational leadership from St. Catherine University.

Not only is Joy a skilled facilitator but she can relate to the WSAE audience because, she’s one of us.

Currently, Joy serves as the Chief Operations Officer of Synergos AMC, an association management company with offices in the Twin Cities and Indianapolis. As an association executive, she understands how risk management and preparation has moved from that’s “nice to have” to a responsibility we must bear conscientiously.

    Breakout Sessions 

    Association Executive Breakout

    7 Pillars of Marketing Wisdom (to Great Member Experience) for Association Leaders
    Conor Cuneen, IrishmanSpeaks 

    Based on his senior marketing and leadership experience in Ireland, UK and USA, Conor provides 7 Pillars of Market Wisdom to RETAIN and GROW Association Membership. This session is geared toward senior association leadership.

    1. Clear and Compelling Vision
    2. Genchi Genbutsu (Go to the Source and Learn) – Truly understand your membership motivation and expectations
    3. Restroom Marketing! – There are certain non-negotiables which if you don’t get right, members will walk
    4. Create Awareness
    5. ET (Emotional Transaction) Moments – Do your members ever go “Aw!” or “Wow.”?
    6. Innovation –  Innovation doesn’t have to be new, just new to your members
    7. The Brand Experience – ‘Nuff said!
    Sponsored by:


    Meeting Planner Breakout

    Connect with and learn from the experiences of fellow meeting planners during this interactive discussion of hot topics in the meeting industry today.
    Sponsored by:
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    Online Education Breakout
    Creating Awesome Content – Practical Approaches to Online Education

    Moderated by: Mona Johnson, MBA, CAE, Managing Director, SRNT University; Presenters:
    Jon Aleckson, PhD, Founder & CEO, WebcourseworksJodi L. Ray, Channel Manager, Blue Sky eLearn; Tony Veroeven, Marketing Manager, AMPED Association Management; Shane Walsh, Director of Online Education, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry

    Need inspiration and advice about online education? This informal, interactive session is designed for both those breaking into the online education arena and those thinking about enhancing their current online education offerings. With a focus on creating engaging live and on-demand content, the session will include presentations by industry experts, with practical tips on how to:

    • Repurpose existing content to quickly develop on-demand courses
    • Get started with creating video content
    • Leverage webinars and online events to deliver learning
    • Learn what it takes to start a podcast

    Industry Partner Breakout
    Membership ROI for Industry Partners
    Jim Thompson, CHMS

    As a supplier to the association industry, you need to see a return on your time and financial investment with an organization. It’s important that you make connections that lead to increased sales in order to see value in your membership and engagement with WSAE. Join us as we explore the many ways you can make the most out of your involvement. You’ll leave this session with tips for increasing the value of your membership and your bottom-line!


    Early registration deadline is October 15. Register early and save!

    Association Professionals

    Early Late
    Members (1st registration) $350 $395
    Members (2nd registration +)* $295 $340
    First-time Meeting Planner $195 $240
    Student Members $75 $120
    Non-members** $450 $495

    *Special rates are available for associations that register multiple staff. Please contact WSAE staff to receive your multiple registrant discount. 

    Industry Partners (includes tabletop exhibit)    ****INDUSTRY PARTNER SHOWCASE IS SOLD OUT****

    Early Late
    Members $450 $495
    Non-members** $550 $595
    Additional Exhibitor*** $125 $170

    *Non-member registration fee includes WSAE membership through 12/31/2018. 

    **Industry partners may include additional exhibitor registrants at the rate of $125 per person. 

    Confirmed registrations must be canceled in writing by Monday, October 15 to receive a full refund, less a $50 cancellation charge. No refunds shall be made for cancellations after October 15. Substitutions are allowed.


    The Summit will be held at the Overture Center in downtown Madison. Sleeping rooms are available at The Madison Concourse Hotel. Book online or call the hotel at 800-356-8293 to make your reservation. Be sure to mention you are with WSAE to receive the discounted rate of $139/night before Monday, October 15, 2018. 

    Summit & Industry Partner Showcase/Reception
    Overture Center
    201 State St
    Madison, WI 53703

    Overture Center Garage
    318 W Mifflin St
    Madison, WI 53703

    State Street Capitol Garage
    214 N Carroll St
    Madison, WI 53703

    Sleeping Rooms
    The Madison Concourse Hotel
    1 W Dayton St
    Madison, WI 53703

    Parking is available in the garage attached to the hotel. Other parking is available at the State Street Capitol Garage.


    Industry Partner Showcase and Reception  ****INDUSTRY PARTNER SHOWCASE IS SOLD OUT****
    The Summit will provide 2 hours of exhibit time on Monday, October 30. Reserve your booth during the online Summit registration process or learn more about the Expo.  

    In addition to the Industry Partner Showcase, there are sponsor packages available for additional exposure at the Summit. You can view the opportunities here!

    Thank you to our 2018 Sponsors!                                  
    Featured Partners:

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    Event Partners: