Recently we found ourselves in Tacoma, Washington, a city about 2 1/2 hours north of Portland and just south of Seattle. Tacoma has had a reputation in the past of being a place that you skip over on your way to Seattle or Portland. But that perception has been changing over the last decade or so. We spent a day here to check out what’s going on, thoroughly enjoying ourselves while keeping an eye out for meeting spaces.
We decided to spend the night at Hotel Murano, conveniently located in the heart of downtown and adjacent to the Tacoma Link Light Rail which connects downtown to the Tacoma Dome. (Alas, we didn’t have a chance to ride the streetcar on this trip. Next time!) The Murano is a boutique hotel with an impressive view of the city. It’s named after Murano Island off the coast from Venice, Italy, an island considered to be the center of Old World glass art. That name is significant, as Tacoma is now a New World center of glass art, with the nearby Museum of Glass just a few blocks from the hotel. The Hotel Murano features glass art throughout, with a different featured artist on each of its floors.
Hotel Murano is not just a great place to stay, but it’s a great space to have an event! Their 30,000 square foot flexible use space can host corporate events, executive retreats, association meetings and leadership seminars.
As an alumna and an AYA volunteer, and especially as a meeting planner and association manager (I do event planning and contract association management for a couple of regional associations in the Pacific Northwest); it was an exciting opportunity to see the inner workings of a large, international, global association encompassing more than 160,000 members around the world.
The theme for the event was “Creating Community at Yale” and attendees came from all eras, from The Silent Generation to the newest “Gen Z”ers from Yale’s graduating class of 2017.
The entire 3-day conference was packed so full of activities, I hardly had any time to document, but I did put together this short slideshow to give you a glimpse of what attending the AYA Assembly is like:
And how do you create community in such a massive organization, spanning so many age groups, interest groups, and regions? Certainly the answer can’t be contained in a short blog post, but I’ll try to cover a few points that I saw being discussed at Assembly:
Recognize Shared Interest Groups (SIGs) and give them a voice at the Assembly
Survey the membership for their preferences in what the AYA should be delivering to them; report on the results of the survey, and allow it to inform decisions moving forward
It was a great experience for a first timer to see the massive operation that is the AYA. I’m hoping I can take a lot of what I learned that week back to the other associations that I help to manage and coordinate conferences for, and see if any of these ideas about creating community also apply to other organizations.
*(For the Yalies out there, I was officially an alternate delegate from the class of 1995, and unofficially representing the Yale Club of Oregon and SW Washington in order to accept the “Outstanding Mid-Size Cities Award“.)