Posted by & filed under ASG News, Association Events, Association Meetings, Blog, What I Learned.

By: Debbie Johnson, ASG Account Manager

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 2021 GSAE Annual Meeting at the Read House in Chattanooga, TN. This was my first meeting as an attendee since COVID-19 and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. My clients have a total of 19 in-person meetings scheduled the rest of the year, and I decided to view this as a gauge of how meetings were being handled in the post-pandemic world.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Pre-conference communication is key. I received many emails prior to the conference which outlined the safety measures being used by the host hotel as well as guidelines for the conference itself. Attendance was capped at 175, masks would be required in some situations, and all common areas were to be disinfected regularly. A self-assessment mobile app was in use for the conference, but participation was optional. All this communication made me feel comfortable that precautions were being taken.

2. Safe food, safe people. The Read House staff and attendants took every precaution during our dining events, which made me feel great. Buffets were completely manned by masked servers, and break food was in individual containers.

3. When optional, people truly make it their option. You could tell that everyone was very excited to get back together in a conference setting. And generally, very few attendees chose to wear masks because they were optional. While chairs were spaced apart in all the sessions, we still gathered up and sat 8 to a table in the general sessions. The longer we were on site, the more comfortable people became with shaking hands and communing together over association work.

From my experience at GSAE, most people – at least in our association world – are ready to put COVID-19 behind us. They crave the in-person dynamic to learn and share from one another. I am hopeful that the attendance for my meetings this fall supports this theory and I am looking forward to continuing to gather safely together in the future.

Debbie Johnson serves as the executive director with the Florida Watermelon Association (FWA), Georgia Onsite Wastewater Association (GOWA) and the Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association (ECGA). Debbie received both her undergraduate degree in Accounting and Masters in Business Administration from Auburn University. Read Debbie’s full bio here.



Association Services Group is an AMCI accredited association management company with a demonstrated track record of success serving a wide range of client associations. We distinguish ourselves from other AMCs by focusing on customized services and ongoing communication with all levels of association leadership. Our clients can depend on transparency and accountability, including measurable results.

Founded by Charles Hall in 1995 in LaGrange, Georgia, ASG provides professional management services to trade associations, membership societies and not-for-profit organizations. Currently, ASG serves 17 full-service clients and eight project-service clients with a staff of 35 employees. ASG is one of only 81 AMC Institute accredited management firms in the country. For more information on ASG, visit