I'm here at my first AAHSA Annual Convention in Philadelphia, PA. It's Monday night and the crowd has filed out of the Dana Carvey show and into any number of downtown Philly joints. Of course you've already enjoyed a Philly cheese steak off the street and a good night at the Fieldhouse, and no matter where you are staying there's some historic sight of epic proportion within walking distance - we've got city hall out the window and the liberty bell within walking distance. On Saturday night I literally ran into Chris Matthews outside the Loew's hotel. A trio of high class weddings and an international media dinner drew the best-of-the-best to our part of town this convention weekend.
Dana Carvey was sub-par, an equal but disappointing replacement for the absent Aretha Franklin. Anybody that respects music would have preferred Aretha, but overall the crowd seemed to enjoy the impressions that were either Carvey circa 1994 (Swartzenager, Bush Senior, Church lady, Ross Perot) or Carvey circa 2008, which is an "impression" of every current political newsmaker, half of which require a serious stretch of the imagination.
The attendance is estimated at over 6,000, though I don't see quite that many people - as a first timer I'm still very impressed. The current presidential race and economic crisis are an intrinsic theme of the whole show, whether presented by a comedian or a nun. The audience here is the type that was abuzz today over the 900+ day the Dow had - you could feel the value of everyone's accounts rise as Monday passed. I wasn't the only one staring at my Blackberryhalf the day.
Great sessions, at least for me at this point. The speakers are experienced presenters, which is one key difference from smaller conventions. It's one thing to be a success or an expert - it's another thing to be able to tell your story really well. The educational sessions that I have attended all included multiple, related speakers. Fortunately, I chose presentations that will really help me pull some projects together, with best practice ideas presented that neither my team nor I had thought of. I am not 100% sure that all presentation materials are accessible online, but you can tell that AAHSA is at least on the way to being a green organization. You should've heard the audience clap at the opening address when it was announced that this was the last year they would be distributing tote bags.
I chose to sleep in for the John Glenn talk, but I can say that Whoopi Goldberg was decent. Her message was a bit of a stretch, and she was one up'd by Larry Minnix, AAHSA President. Minnex's discussion on the impending leadership void and the state of our government and economy was right on point and was also in line with the convention theme of "One Voice." The nun stole the show from both when she confessed to being a sinner by embracing Goldberg during the end of the opening session.
Overall, I'm excited to discover such a large, high quality convention dedicated to our profession. The polish that this convention has trulyturns the cost of sending your leadership into an investment in your organization's success.