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  • Kristine Metter, MS, CAE

Deciding to Cancel Part 2: People

We have documented how three association executives navigated the difficult decision to cancel their in-person annual conference this spring. In a series of posts, we will share a number of lessons learned.

Yesterday we looked at how data and communications impacted the decision process. Today we’ll explore the people involved – who was on the decision team and how the human factor impacted their decision making.

The Decision Team

  • These associations often relied on existing senior staff leadership teams as well as key dyads, such as the finance and meetings teams working together.

  • The board was universally involved, but there was variation between working with the full board or a subset (e.g., the chair, chair-elect, past-chair). In other instances, program committees or other similar groups responsible for the meeting were involved.

  • While vendor, contractor, hotel, and convention center staff were consulted and served key informant roles, they were not typically part of the staff-member decision team.

  • The ability to be nimble and responsive was key. In some cases, too many people were involved and that hindered coming to unity on a final decision.

The Human Factor

  • Staff and volunteers needed to work through several phases from shock to acceptance at their own pace. One executive likened it to the Kubler-Ross Seven Stages of Dying.

  • At times, individuals became overwhelmed by the situation and lost track of the fundamentals of making a good decision.

  • People were reluctant to let go of the original meeting that they had built.

“A contingency plan is only as good as your willingness to act on it. Emotion and uncertainty can take over.” – Shawn Boynes, American Association for Anatomy

Many thanks to the following individuals for sharing their experiences.

  • Shawn Boynes, FASAE, CAE, executive director, American Association for Anatomy

  • Tom Menighan, BPharm, MBA, ScD(hon), executive vice president and CEO, American Pharmacists Association

  • Chris Urena, MBA, CAE, chief learning officer, Endocrine Society

For additional insights, see the full article.


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