The Value of Joining an Association


When I started my entrepreneurial journey one of the first things I did was join the International Live Events Association (ILEA). Although I had been a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) on and off for about 15 years, it had never completely felt like the right fit for me. ILEA on the other hand seemed more my speed. It was where the business owners and creatives that I aspired to collaborate with chose to volunteer their time and it was where I felt that I needed to be as I was starting my own event business.

Anyone who has met me in a business setting might be surprised to learn that I am incredibly shy. While it’s true that I have spent years in sales, and I have no problem talking about events and design, I am terrible at small talk and I become a wallflower when I have to speak to someone in a social environment. This is not a good thing when you are an entrepreneur. I knew that if I was going to be successful I needed to force myself to engage more, to break past my comfort zone and be present in the room. Joining ILEA was my first step and jumping in with both feet by volunteering for the Toronto chapter’s board of directors and becoming vice president of membership was the next. By leaning in and taking a leadership role it meant that I had to show up even when it was hard; I had to talk to people about ILEA and about why it was my association of choice. It’s the best decision I could have made. Now seven years later, I have been Toronto chapter president twice, spoken internationally on event production and design, and am currently chair-elect for ILEA Canada.

I had held senior roles in the event industry in Toronto for more than 10 years but no one really knew me. Becoming a leader in the ILEA Toronto chapter gave me an opportunity to establish myself as an industry leader. I got to meet and engage with my fellow event professionals at a level that I had not been able to until that point. I began to build relationships and make connections in Toronto, across Canada and even in the USA that gave me confidence in my abilities to stretch myself and pursue top tier business. ILEA friends and colleagues began to refer business to me and to want to collaborate with me on business that they were pursuing. I went from relying on contract work in my first year of business to sustaining myself as an independent event designer and producer in year two. I’m not sure that I could have done it without ILEA.

That’s the thing about getting involved with an association…or two…if you make the effort and lean into the opportunity of your membership, you will reap the benefits. Many great event professionals I know attribute their success and career growth to their commitment to ILEA or MPI or CanSPEP or PCMA etc. What they all have in common is that first, they found the association that fit them, and then they showed up regularly, they volunteered and they became leaders. These event professionals and their organizations see the big picture.

All too often the value of an association membership is tied to direct sales…you pay for a membership and then pay to attend one or two events where you collect business cards and if you can’t draw a straight line to business won then the membership loses its value. Those who understand that it is not a straight line are the people who benefit most from their memberships. They know that the value comes from relationships built over time, from knowledge sharing that builds your confidence, from being visible, from the referrals that you don’t know about and from the resources, partnerships and industry friends that you are accumulating who will undoubtedly save your bacon when you need it most. Like when my father died suddenly, and ILEA friends and vendor partners stepped in to take over a project on a moment’s notice so I could fly home to Alberta. Another example is when COVID hit, and I took the leap to launch a virtual event venue as a way to sustain my business. I reached out to my ILEA family across the globe with my new offering and they responded by giving me business and referring me to others. They supported me because they had gotten to know me and they trusted that I could deliver. They helped keep my business afloat.

That is the value of an association and of leaning into your membership. It doesn’t need to be ILEA, it just needs to be where your people are; where you can contribute, build relationships and maybe shine a little. Now more than ever we need to lean on our associations to help us weather the storm of labour shortages, supply chain challenges and high demand. We need to be able to support each other in rebuilding while surviving the onslaught. Who knows better than your colleagues, industry friends and even your competitors what you are going through and might be in a position to help.

One final note: I know it’s hard to make the time, to prioritize volunteerism, to leave the office and go to an event or meeting just to network, but a membership is only as valuable as the effort you put into it. You need to make the conscious decision to #BeInTheRoom and be part of something and if you do that you’re already halfway there.


Kimberly Beaune, CMP, CSEP, is an award winning event producer, designer and serial collaborator. She is event storyteller & owner of Creative Twist Inc. an award winning event planning and design firm, and Vvrtual event strategist & owner of Connect Event Hub a full service virtual event venue, powered by Remo. She was named one of the ‘TOP 250 Event Professionals in Canada’ by BizBash Magazine in both 2020 and 2021 and in 2020 was nominated as ‘Inspirational Planner of the Year’ by the Professional Convention Management Association – Canada East. She has spoken internationally on events and in 2021 she co-authored her first ebook “Donuts in the Lunchroom – Engaging Teams Through Virtual Events”. She is currently chair-elect for ILEA Canada and is based in Red Deer, Alberta.



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