Striving for Better Communication

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” The context in which Strother Martin said this to Paul Newman and the rest of the road gang in Road Prison 36, the setting for the film Cool Hand Luke, in no way applies to ATA. Still, I think it’s important to acknowledge the existence of such a failure with regard to information that ATA’s Board of Directors has provided to you, the members. At least in some respects.

Therefore, instead of using my last column as president-elect to promote ATA60 in Palm Springs, I would like to presage what I hope will become my norm for the president’s column. Recent events have made it clear that the Board has failed to fully communicate with the membership about some policy changes, especially with regard to opening the certification exam to nonmembers. As a director and officer for the past eight years, I played a part in that failure, and as incoming president I apologize for not striving for better communication. I also promise that I will do a better job informing the membership about the Board’s actions and policy decisions.

This is not to criticize past officers and directors. Every member of the Boards on which I have served for the past eight years has volunteered countless hours of their time in an honest and sincere effort to do what’s best for ATA and for you, its members. While one may legitimately criticize certain policy decisions or specific actions, I believe no one has cause to criticize the sincerity and selflessness of the volunteers who comprise ATA’s leadership.

We’re facing profound changes and challenges in our industry, our profession, and in our Association. ATA must find ways to meet these challenges and adapt to a changing environment. Among the issues that the Board will grapple with over the next two years are declining membership, the structure and cost of the Annual and other conferences, the financial challenges resulting from the former two items, and the growth and structure of divisions, and others as yet unseen.

I will encourage discussion about these issues and solicit your input. To that end, I encourage you to join the ATATalk listserve, which is intended as an online forum for the discussion of ATA issues between members. While it’s not intended as a forum to debate with the Board, Board members will answer questions when necessary, in particular to correct misstatements and misunderstandings. To join ATATtalk, send an email with your ATA membership number or your name and email address on file with ATA to atatalk-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. As the group is restricted to ATA members, your request will be checked against the membership database before approval.

Here are some issues for upcoming Board discussion:

Membership: After years of growth, ATA has seen a small but steady decline in membership in recent years. How do we reverse this trend? How do we attract and retain new members? How can we better promote the benefits of ATA membership? How do we communicate the value proposition?

Conferences: Can we improve the already high quality of our Annual Conference? How can we provide smaller, more affordable “Conferences Other Than Annual” (COTAs) for those members who cannot attend the Annual Conference? How do we make conferences and seminars as affordable as possible while not sustaining a financial loss?

Finances: After turning our finances around over the past five years, we’re now forecasting losses for the next few years due to declining revenues from conferences and membership. In addition to addressing the first two issues above, what else can we do to bolster our financial situation? Which member benefits should be subsidized by membership dues, and to what extent? Which benefits should be primarily on a “pay to use” basis?

Divisions: Divisions are the “home within the home” for many members. How can we make divisions an even better home? Are there any structural changes necessary? Should large divisions be treated differently than small divisions? Should the Interpreters Division remain as is, or break itself up into specific fields of practice, such as medical, community, legal, etc.?

These are just some of the issues that the Board and ATA’s leadership will be dealing with in the near future. I invite you to provide us with your thoughts on these and any other issues that are of concern to you. I would especially welcome any thoughts you have on how we can do a better job of communicating with you.

It’s Not Too Late to Make Plans for ATA60!

Come to ATA’s 60th Annual Conference, October 23–26, in Palm Springs, California! If you’ve never been to an Annual Conference, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. If you have attended in the past, you know exactly what a great conference you’ll miss if you don’t attend. At $199/night, you would be hard-pressed to find a more affordable hotel rate in any major city. The weather will be great, and the sessions will be even greater. And don’t forget to get your collector’s pin at the ATAWare table! Register now at www.atanet.org/conf/2019/register!

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