Bringing Associations Together To Boost Performance



Wrapping up with a topical Closing Plenary Political Panel, held just three days after the Federal Election, the Associations Forum National Conference was once again a resounding success and a highlight of the 2016 associations and charities calendar.

Over 400 representatives from associations, charities, and business providers to the sector attended the 11th annual Associations Forum National Conference in Melbourne on 4-5 July 2016. Held on the banks of the Yarra River at the impressive Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the event drew visitors from all over Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Attendees had the opportunity to participate in more than 30 educational sessions and learning labs and meet over 55 suppliers in the exhibition space. There were also plenty of occasions to network with colleagues during the various conference functions, including a first-timers and solo attendees session, welcome drinks, a CEO networking breakfast and the conference dinner. Associations Forum Gold Members were also invited to take part in an exclusive dinner hosted by Melbourne Convention Bureau and Atlantic Group.

The two-day conference featured a strong line-up of speakers including opening keynote John Brogden, Managing Director & CEO of Australian Institute of Company Directors. Mr Brogden detailed AICD’s journey and was then joined by panellists Prue Willsford, CEO of the Australian & New Zealand Institute of Insurance & Finance, and Steve Knott, CEO of the Australian Mines and Metals Association, for a discussion of the association landscape, their personal learnings and the challenges facing associations and charities today.

Both days of the conference program incorporated a broad choice of practical sessions aimed at equipping delegates with information they could action within their own organisations. Day One included sessions on membership engagement, the importance of events to associations, governance structures and association reinvention. Particularly popular was ‘A View of Associations from Parliament House’, in which Fiona Patten MP and Tim Wilson MP were joined by Minister Philip Dalidakis for a vibrant discussion on how politicians view associations and the importance of long-term thinking to get results. In the words of Minister Dalidakis “Don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve because of the title of the person in the room with you.”

The challenges of unwieldy Boards and systems were tackled in ‘Changing to Good Constitutions and Modern Boards’, during which current and former association Presidents discussed the governance change process and how cumbersome Boards and processes slow an association down. “Board members who don’t like change are like barnacles on the ship of progress,” according to Margaret Leary, Immediate Past President of Australian Council of State School Organisations.

The Conference Dinner was once again one of the highlights for delegates. This year, thanks to dinner speaker sponsor ICMI Speakers & Entertainers Bureau, delegates were treated to an insight into the experiences of the impressive former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Christine Nixon.

Day Two was also inspiring, with topics covered including association restructures and unification, whole-of-organisation governance and system selection. Most popular was the session run by Associations Forum General Manager, John Peacock, on ‘Practical Strategic Planning in One Day.’ With nearly 30 years experience in the associations sector, John Peacock shared his vast knowledge on association strategy in an interactive 90 minute demonstration of what does and does not amount to effective strategic planning.

The conference concluded with a topical Political Panel discussion, which took place in the wake of a closely-fought Federal Election. The Australian’s Troy Bramston facilitated an engaging dialogue with Labor’s Andrew Giles MP and Liberal Senator James Paterson on the outcome of the election and what it means for associations. “What a way to finish a conference, politics when the election is still in doubt!” said Katie Bell, Membership Manager at Bicycle NSW.

The overall feedback from delegates was overwhelmingly positive and enquiries are already strong for next year’s conference, scheduled for 17-18 July 2017 at the International Convention Centre, Sydney.

Another great AFNC. Very useful topics and panel discussions. Thank you for putting together a very informative program,’’ (Karyn Prior, Executive Officer, Australian Catholic Primary Principals Association).

“Congrats on a great conference… No easy feat pulling together so many different people and sessions and your team did a great job. I appreciated hearing a different perspective from the other Associations.” (Nick Hakes, General Manager, Association of Financial Advisors)

Congratulations on a superb conference – I enjoyed it immensely and it was enormously valuable content. Please pass on to the team my thanks and congratulations for the tremendous work – it is a real credit to all.” (Ian Coombe, Chief Executive Officer, Playgroup Queensland)

John Peacock expressed pleasure with the outcome of the conference. “We received many positive comments about how practical all of our sessions were. The speakers got it right with practical tips, tales and tools provided for attendees to take back and apply to their organisations.”

Associations Forum was supported by a team of generous exhibitors, speakers, sponsors and media partners, including Major and Gold sponsors Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne Convention Bureau, Pearson VUE and Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

*ASSOCIATIONS FORUM is the leading organisation in Australia facilitating the sharing of knowledge, information and experiences amongst associations and charities. With a membership of over 500 associations and charities around the country, Associations Forum supports and educates thousands of individuals on association management. 



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