My past is pretty long if you catch my meaning.

My CSAE past reached a milestone in 2018 when the kind people at the CSAE office sent me a 20-year membership plaque and pin.

I took that little gem of a moment as a wonderful opportunity to reflect on remembering the past and looking to the future.

I had the great fortune to answer a call to fill a board spot for the then Southwest Chapter of CSAE in my first year as a member. Talk about jumping in at the deep end. Committee work and events followed in quick order.

I had just started as Executive Director of an association. I hoped engaging in the association community through volunteering would be one route to helping improve my very sparse knowledge of association management. Rookie mistake on the association’s part, hiring a person from their industry. But I thanked them profusely later for making such a blunder.

So what happens when you go to events and meetings? You meet people – you talk, you learn. You’re a newbie, so you don’t just approach people and say hello and begin a conversation. At least that was my experience, at least for the first few times. But there are those irrepressible characters that can’t stand to see someone not engaged in a conversation, so they walk over and introduce themselves. CSAE is filled with lovely people like that.

Two things happened for me when I began meeting more people. You don’t realize it, but knowledge creeps in and stays with you, and you meet people that eventually become colleagues, mentors, friends.

Thus begins the conversation about the past influencing the future.

That human connection was the by far the most significant element of how my future unfolded. My CSAE future, certainly, but it had a positive influence in my work life as well.

Heads of corporations often state that they surround themselves with smart people to make themselves better. That was my idea as well, but with a bit of a refinement. I volunteered and was immediately surrounded with smart, energetic, committed people. They helped me set standards I didn’t know I could achieve.

The mentor part quickly formed around me. There were now many people that I could contact and speak to about arcane details on association management. And CSAE heroes became evident. They were the people who stood out as leaders in the association. They were members long before you arrived, and you benefited from their willingness to share their experiences.

Move forward in time to the now.  I took my mentor hero’s example and started to sweep the room at an event to see if any one looked new or was not engaged in a conversation. We’d introduce ourselves, then I’d find a few other people to join the group or have them sit with me through a lunch.

It was further on in time, but I had a few moments when people asked me to weigh in on a management question.  I smiled a little, remembering my first years when I was looking for any information I could obtain.

Many things change around communities like CSAE. Technology was meant to save us from the tedium of travel and meetings, or so it has been said many times through the years. But the constant still remains, the most efficient and valuable way of exchanging news and information with other people is to actually meet and talk. It transcends generations in the membership, and will continue to be in the future.


Past Prez Sayz is a CSAE FORUM article written by Past Presidents of the CSAE Trillium Network. Tim Stover, CAE was President of CSAE Trillium in 2006-2007 and is a trusted advisor and mentor to many CSAE members and beyond. If you are a Past President of CSAE Trillium and would like to write an article providing prospective on a topic that you are passionate about, please contact Tracy Blyth, CSAE Trillium Executive Director at [email protected].