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What “Gen Con” taught me about associations

Posted by Jay Dziwlik, MBA, CAE on Aug 2, 2017 12:00:00 PM


Gen Con returns to Indianapolis to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.  It has been an annual spectacle that draws over 60,000 gamers to participate in over 16,000 game events that include everything from monopoly to a 10,000-square foot life-size dungeon.  Secretly, I love playing games.  At first light, it may not seem like Gen Con and associations go together, but I believe we could learn something from those dice rollers. 

Everybody has a passion.  The weirdness factor gets cranked up at Gen Con.  Costumes, deep discussions about imaginary people and places and, at my first Gen Con, 150 Stormtroopers lining up on the steps of the Indiana Capitol for a picture.  Thousands of gamers take four days to play games day and night, sometimes without showering.   It may seem juvenile and a little gross until you realize more than 60,000 people will attend this year and the industry represents $9.6 Billion, with a capital “B," in revenue.  Gaming passion is paying off for somebody.  Your association may not be in table top gaming, but you can’t go wrong if you focus on the passions of your members.

Rolling the dice is good for games.  Dodecahedrons, triangles, and many, many typical six-sided dice are littered all over Gen Con.  Chance is good for games, but the best games have a combination of strategy and chance in proper balance.  Our associations should rely more on strategy than probabilities of rolling the dice.  Good decision making is not a game.

Playing games reveals character.  Playing a game with anybody will show you more of a person’s character.  Some people get louder or laugh, some feel self-conscious, others get super competitive and even cut-throat, and yet with others kindness and helpfulness shine through.  Watching carefully can give us great insight into our members character and help us guide our members to flourish and succeed.  

Fun grabs people’s interest.  A small game can gather a big crowd as the laughter and joy come out from players and spectators.  Gen Con gathers this huge convention crowd because it is just plain fun.  It has games for kids to very mature adults. The thrill of a strategy executed, a perfectly timed dice roll or pulling the right card at the right time is really fun.  It creates a small community focused on a common goal around a small board.  This is what associations should be good at.  Loosen up – make sure there is fun added to your membership.

 So if in the next week or so you run into a wizard, or stand in line for coffee with a lady discussing the finer points of dice construction, think about how the core of our association work is to collect and help those with similar interest thrive and give voice to their work. 

 Showers can wait, slug another Red Bull and go back to playing a game. 

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Topics: Leadership, Association Management, Association trends

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