Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

August 28 2013

20th Anniversary Member Spotlight: Barbara Connell

Jill Formeister
Meet Barbara Connell, Chief Operating Officer at the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, who served the Greater Midwest Chapter as the first president in 1993 and 1994.

Barbara’s interest in associations was sparked while she worked with association clients at Marriott Hotels. She was curious to learn more and applied to work at the American Dietetic Association as exhibits manager. She soon was promoted to Director of Meetings. She moved to the American Academy of Periodontology where she served as Director of Meetings and Membership Services for 10 years, before joining the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons as Associate Executive Director. Her next move was to PCMA, as Executive Director of the Foundation and Senior Vice President of Education during its transition from Alabama to Chicago. Leaving PCMA, she ran her own association management company for seven years. Then “my largest client, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, hired me as Chief Operating Officer four years ago. We’ve just completed the construction on a new headquarters and state-of-the-art training facility in Downers Grove; it’s amazing and I hope everyone comes to see it. In addition to managing a number of divisions for ASGE, including its association management company, I oversee operations for this important building which will provide training for so many. It’s a wonderful place to be at this point in my career.”

PCMA has enhanced her career by providing “a wonderful home base where I have made life/career-long friends and can always look for important resources and insights,” Barbara said. She has had many mentors “who taught me a great deal about association management, relationship building and politics within an organization.” She is inspired by humor, confidence, and will - “Someone who says ‘I’ll do that’ and then uses resourcefulness and a good attitude to make it happen.” In contrast, she is challenged by individuals who display negativity, laziness, and lack of accountability.

Looking in her crystal ball, she sees “some challenges ahead with regard to finding the right structure to support ever-diverse audiences. I think there will continue to be an important role for associations and it will be essential for groups to remain flexible and listen to members and the audiences they serve. Twenty years ago, it was predicted that associations wouldn’t have members in twenty years. Well, we still do and many are thriving, but it’s critical to be aware of the competition and stay a step ahead. Take risks and push your leadership and staff to do the thing they didn’t think they could or would do. Rarely are the consequences so dire and, usually, the results are well worth it.”

Barbara encourages GMC members, “Always say yes to a volunteer opportunity – you meet the most amazing friends that way and learn so much. Stay involved and attend chapter programs – it helps you stay abreast of what’s happening in the world.”

In her free time, she enjoys “walking, reading, gardening, traveling and having a glass of wine with friends. I’m blessed that I get to have lots of glasses of wine!”