How incredible was last week’s American Lighting Assn.  (ALA) Conference in Palm Beach, FL? For starters, the setting at The Breakers  had me at “hello.” I’d never enjoyed a drink on top of a fish tank bar or sat in a seminar room that resembled the Palace of Versailles before, and those firsts were enhanced by being able to do it with both new and longtime industry friends.
The session topics were spot-on for the times, with a universally lauded highlight being Jon Schallert’s  breakfast presentation and breakout session on making your store a destination. With clever, easy-to-implement tips — like putting directions from the airport in your ads to imply that folks fly in from all over for your assortment (whether or not they actually do) — Schallert’s advice seemed to resonate with even the most seasoned retail attendees.
But the speech that made the biggest impact on me was from incoming Chair Tony Davidson of Kichler Lighting , who made a long-distance dedication to all of the ALA members in good standing who were not there to experience Conference ... and perhaps their most active involvement in the association is paying their dues.
Since adopting its dedicated staff, ALA has enjoyed remarkable membership growth and retention — 94 percent last year, according to ALA President Dick Upton, while most associations experience about 15 percent attrition. That’s fantastic! But imagine how much more the group could accomplish with a higher penetration of engagement. And members would be getting more of their dues’ worth by actually participating in their industry’s most ardent advocate.
More than 20 percent of the 485 Conference attendees this year were first-timers, which was encouraging in this regard. If we all take our positive Conference experience back with us and share it with our business partners and colleagues, can we make ALA activity go viral? As Davidson put it, can we “continue to be students of how we approach our business, obsessed despite the depth of our experience”? It’s certainly a good place to start.