by Rylee DuVall
March 23, 2023
Rylee DuVall is in Marketing & Communications Services at Smithbucklin. The following story is told from her point of view.
After graduating from Illinois State University in 2021 – the height of the COVID pandemic - I joined Smithbucklin as a Marketing & Communications Services associate. Little did I know, I was about to step into a completely unfamiliar space—the world of associations.
I quickly learned that associations make broad contributions to national, state, and local economies; create jobs in every state; and enrich communities and create positive change around the world. In 2020, the IRS recognized more than 60,000 trade and professional associations that employ more than 205,000 people and generate $116 billion in revenue.
The bottom line: associations are essential to American life and facilitate change and progress in all industries, professions, businesses, and companies.
Getting to Know Smithbucklin
There were many things to learn in my first few months at Smithbucklin, starting with the fact that associations are made up of individuals in a certain line of work or who are interested in getting to know more about their specific field. I learned that there is quite literally an association for everything, and they are filled with very passionate professionals who truly love what they do. The association clients I’ve worked with are very excited to see their organizations improve, evolve, and grow and the passionate volunteer leaders are always willing to go above and beyond to help make their marketing campaigns successful.
Of course, I was most excited to meet the people Smithbucklin is famous for: its employees. Many of my interviewers shared they made genuine friends and connections during their time here, so I was grateful to start my career with a company known for its welcoming culture and people.
At first, getting to know everyone felt overwhelming. Working at Smithbucklin means getting to know a lot of team members and co-workers within Marketing & Communications Services, and in other various teams around the company such as Event Services, Membership & Operations, Sales Services, and Education & Learning Services. We all work together to support our clients and implement the strategic plans developed by the board of directors. Life also moves fast at Smithbucklin—each client team is constantly creating, planning, and executing projects big and small. The layers to Smithbucklin’s structure and expertise are impressive, but certainly took time to learn.
Getting to Know Associations
One thing I enjoy about Smithbucklin is that no two days are the same–which also means no two clients are the same. I spent much of my first year getting to know each of the industries my clients serve, understanding each organization’s mission, and finding the right brand voice that reflects each community. I love getting to meet new people, and I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some extremely accomplished individuals within their professions, industries, and companies!
In addition to the industries my clients serve, the business of associations was a new world in and of itself. I was amazed at how much detail goes into each client’s events and conferences. From the number of staff and volunteers involved in the decisions to the level of thought and consideration that goes into each component of the project, it was fascinating to see how all of our hard work in planning these critical revenue-generating events successfully came together.
Attending My First Event
Speaking of events, conferences, meetings, and tradeshows are important to associations not only for the revenue they generate for the organization, but also because of the member needs they meet. Members from across North America and often the globe come together to interact with one another outside of a Zoom call, learn the latest industry trends and best practices, and identify opportunities for improvement or enhancements they can take back to their job.
I was fortunate to attend my first client event in-person in 2022 after a year of supporting many of my clients’ virtual events or other online programing. SIGGRAPH, the premier conference and exhibition on computer graphics, interactive techniques, and a long-time Smithbucklin client, returned to in-person events in 2022 after multiple years focused on virtual event programing during the pandemic.
SIGGRAPH 2022 took place in Vancouver, B.C., and traveling to this location was both exciting and a bit nerve-racking. After spending over a year working on this event, the four days went by in a flash. It was a surreal experience to meet the volunteers and supporters who were behind this amazing event, and to see more than 10,000 attendees set foot in the Vancouver Convention Centre. You could feel the energy in the room of returning to an in-person event, especially for those who have established long-time friendships within the industry.
SIGGRAPH’s conference involved four days packed with presentations and displays of the latest immersive technologies and application scenarios, many of which surrounded accessibility this year. This allowed attendees to take a break from their work projects and immerse themselves in new ideas and innovations relating to overcoming limitations and implementing more accessible technology in their work spaces.
My role during the event was to capture the event on SIGGRAPH’s social media channels and the ACM SIGGRAPH Blog, including live content for Instagram and interviewing volunteers for our daily articles. I also assisted with media relations and sent out elaborate daily emails to attendees to keep them up-to-date on the latest announcements and session spotlights.
Attending this event gave me an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of why we do what we do at Smithbucklin. It also helped me build stronger relationships with my teammates, including the SIGGRAPH marketing director. I finally saw our event from a whole new perspective and it will help me enhance my marketing role for the SIGGRAPH 2023 event and future conferences.
Why It Matters
In my experience working with multiple associations for almost two years, I’ve developed a lot of communication and organizational skills. My position caters to a range of clients, and I’ve learned the importance of effectively communicating to the volunteer leaders, as well as messaging directly to membership audiences viewing promotions through the lens of members. This is crucial to better understanding and achieving the client’s goals. While working with volunteers, I’ve learned the importance of maintaining professionalism, responding error-free and within a timely manner, and deciphering which time management tactics will set me up for successfully meeting expectations.
Working with passionate, dedicated volunteer leaders has been an incredible experience thus far, and I look forward to strengthening these relationships (and building new ones!) in my association management career at Smithbucklin.
Rylee DuVall is in Marketing & Communications Services at Smithbucklin.