Sector and AuSAE News

  • 08 Oct 2021 10:31 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Associations offering trial memberships need to make sure the trial is appealing enough for people to see value in upgrading, says membership expert Joy Duling.

    Bringing in new members via a discount or a free trial can be a real kick in the pants for your engagement—but it needs considerable thought before it launches if you want temporary members to stick around.

    Joy Duling, CEO of The Joy of Membership, says that associations often set up free or trial memberships that can bring in new potential members and boost advocacy engagement.

    Duling says that strategies like this can be effective if associations know what their goals are for offering a trial, with a keen eye on how it will convert trial members to long-term ones.

    “If an organisation is looking at free memberships, it all goes back to thinking about why,” Duling says. “Why do we need free? Is it so that we can give a little tease, or is there another way to do that?”

    A few insights on the matter when structuring your own offering:

    Target specific groups. Whether it’s students, those new to the industry, or retirees, putting a narrow scope on who you’re targeting with trial memberships can help you round out your base or boost participation for specific initiatives. Duling says that this kind of membership structure may be useful if, for example, you’re looking to increase your advocacy efforts or build a talent pipeline in your field.

    Consider charging a nominal fee. Just because it’s a trial doesn’t mean it has to be free. In 2019, the International Public Safety Association offered the opportunity to test out its membership for just $5, giving trial members access to publications and webinars, and timing it to the group’s fifth anniversary that year.

    Don’t give away the whole thing. Duling warns that giving trial members access to your entire slate of member benefits may create challenges in trying to further incentivize them to stay with the organization. “I think that it is better to carve out a piece for the free members to have access to,” she says. “You really want to show three things: You want to show that you understand the problems that the target audience is facing, you want to show that you understand them and how they need to solve problems, and you want to show that you understand the path forward for them.” She says the goal is to show them value “while still encouraging them to take the next step.” One successful example: The Healthcare Financial Management Association offered a month-long trial that offered all membership benefits except access to the association’s print magazine, and found that nearly half of all trial members signed up for full membership.

    Build with an end date in mind. Whether the free or trial membership ends because, say, a student graduates from college, a startup reaches a certain level of revenue, or a promotional period has simply ended, it needs to end, Duling says. She compares the strategy to what Baskin-Robbins does with its little pink spoon, allowing customers a taste of the full offering. “I think the little pink spoon model works really well for free memberships,” she says. “The intent is not that you stand there all day and eat ice cream with your little pink spoon. You’re given a taste of what you actually like, and then you’re invited to eat the big bowl after you’ve had the little spoonful.”

    Analyze what’s working and what’s not. For organizations that already have a trial membership option but find the approach to be ineffective in converting members to full status, Duling suggests analyzing the process from the trial members’ perspective in an effort to understand what is most likely to lead them to take the next step. “I really find that a lot of organizations that haven’t been necessarily strategic in creating a free membership, they just lack that next step,” she says.


    Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun

    originally posted here

  • 30 Sep 2021 12:55 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    If your association has an existing scholarship program for students in your industry or is considering starting one, here are a few ideas that can help ensure its beneficial to your organization and scholarship recipients.

    Does your organization have a scholarship program for students in your industry, or are you interested in launching one?

    “Scholarships are a powerful way to help attract, empower, and advance the future of our industry,” said Matthew Rosales, senior manager, scholarships and grants, at the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

    But thoughtful administration is necessary to ensure a return on your investment and impart positive change in alignment with your mission. Since the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) is an expert in scholarship administration, we wanted to share tips for developing a successful program, along with some ideas from a few of our members.

    Scholarship Program Intent 

    When developing a scholarship program, consider what your association hopes to accomplish. That will determine which students to support and how best to support them. It will also help define program specifics, such as the resources required, activities to pursue, and potential benefits to recipients. 

    For example, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants was looking to increase the number of future accountants in the pipeline, boost diversity in the accounting profession, and establish relationships with students.

    “We accomplish this by exposing high school students to the field and providing them with scholarships, supporting Black/African American and Hispanic accounting students, and giving students free memberships, with the hopes that those students become dues-paying members later in their careers,” said Edwin Gonzalez, scholarship program manager at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

    Scholarship Program Administration

    Associations offering scholarships focus most of their administrative efforts on four key phases of the scholarship lifecycle: recruitment, application, selection, and awarding. 

    Recruitment. Strategic recruitment efforts can yield a robust pool of qualified applicants. When messaging and marketing, consider ideal candidates and tailor content and communications (including images) to target populations. Share information about your program with groups or organizations that serve the types of students you’re looking to support. 

    Application. Include application questions that collect must-have demographic and educational data, as well as those that generate information that help determine the strength of an applicant’s fit with the scholarship opportunity. Through written or video essay prompts, for instance, applicants can share about their interests in the industry or their involvement in the field to date. 

    Selection. This should reflect program intent. Selection criteria and tools such as rubrics or scorecards should allow evaluators to assess how applicants compare to ideal recipients. Build and steward relationships with members by inviting them to participate in the selection process, and feature award winners in your member communications.

    “We highlight scholars in our member communications and issue press releases on each cohort, showcasing them in national accounting and business publications,” Gonzalez said.

    Awarding. The size and scope of awards depend in part on what the association hopes to accomplish. Consider the intended impact, then define which expenses the scholarship will cover to determine a meaningful award amount. An association can disburse award payments directly or outsource that aspect of scholarship administration to another organization. 

    Accountability in Scholarship Program Administration

    Scholarship providers must abide by relevant federal, state, and local laws governing scholarship provision. Such regulations include student records release and retention, IRS reporting, and more. NSPA recommends that associations consult their legal counsel and tax attorneys for advice specific to their organizations and activities. 

    Associations that offer scholarships should also adhere to the highest ethical standards. In particular, ensure ethical conduct in the areas of student information collection and protection, conflict of interest, bias, equity, and selection. Also document policies, procedures, and examples of exceptions to such rules. 

    Program evaluation can provide further accountability. Develop a framework for collecting and analyzing information about program activities and outcomes; then use that information to track progress towards identified goals (and pivot as needed).

    “Make sure to routinely compare your scholarship recipients’ demographics against your industry’s demographics to see how your breakdowns compare against the industry at large. This act of benchmarking will give your organization a better perspective of what segments of the population are underrepresented in either the industry or within your own scholarship constituency,” said Rosales. “It is good practice to regularly review your application and selection processes to identify ways to help support more students from underrepresented communities within your industry. Additionally, this may also help show where your industry may be lacking in terms of specific demographic representation.”

    By taking these steps, your association is sure to get a strong start to its scholarship program or improve its current one.

    Originally posted here

  • 24 Sep 2021 5:18 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Thinking like a chief executive and other C-suite staff isn’t only for CEO and CAE aspirants. Applying an expansive view to the work you do now is a great way to add value and realize professional fulfillment.

     The helicopter view, cultural cultivation, and digital-inclusive decision making are three key threads among the many woven through the newest edition of ASAE Professional Practices in Association Management, a handbook for the field and critical CAE candidate reading. The book’s narrative assumes an executive lens, which isn’t a bad way to think about the work you do now and could be critically important to the roles you want in the future.

    As in other fields, the association management body of knowledge is codified through a regularly recurring job task analysis, which underpins the CAE content outline, updated literature, learning programs, and other resources. Professional Practices in Association Management is a key installment in the field’s literature. ASAE published the fourth edition in February 2021.

    Edited by Susan S. Radwan, CAE, Professional Practices covers topics ranging from boards and governance to digital communication strategy to membership and engagement. All the while, the 65 contributing authors reinforce executive responsibilities as mission stewards, risk managers, idea brokers, and myriad other roles. Here are three executive-mindset messages from the book, among many.

    Take the Helicopter View

    A systems-thinking perspective is necessary both for successfully navigating the CAE exam and for executive management. As Radwan writes early in the book, “systems thinking can be likened to holding a ‘helicopter view’ of a situation or decision”—that is, high enough to comprehend what is at ground level, understand interrelationships, and see the destination, but not so high as to lose touch with reality. Chief staff executives ask questions such as these:

    • How does this moment affect our strategic positioning, our branding, our alignment with mission, and our alignment with the strategic plan?
    • How does our response to this moment align with the desired culture of the organization?
    • What unintended consequences will occur in reaction to this decision?

    Likewise, taking a helicopter view encompasses foresight, or the discipline of learning about and preparing for alternative futures and their implications. Writes Jeff De Cagna, FRSA, FASAE, “By building future literacy through the duty of foresight (and the intentional learning it requires), [chief staff executives] can minimize the fear of the future that might otherwise leave their boards in paralysis.”

    The 'helicopter view' is high enough to comprehend what is at ground level, understand interrelationships, and see the destination, but not so high as to lose touch with reality.

    Cultivate Healthy Culture

    Winning culture starts at the top, because good governance is crucial to organizational health and performance, as documented in ASAE Research Foundation studies. As Beth Gazley, Ph.D., a principal researcher on those studies, writes, “Good board structure supports good board culture, but only with a healthy culture does the right structure emerge.”

    Similarly, a clearly envisioned and embraced culture is vital at every level. Authors encourage zeroing in on the cultural elements that drive desired performance. As Trevor Mitchell, MBA, CDP, CAE, writes, “Culture and performance need one another to be successful. You could have the best vision and strategy for the organization, along with clearly articulated milestones and measurements. Yet if you don’t have the culture to support this direction and demand the desired performance, you will most likely stall out. At best, you will have incremental success.”

    As other authors emphasize, organizational culture must be strategically aligned and pivot-ready, and the talent you hire also must be culturally aligned. Further, in 2021, organizations cannot be their best if they do not embrace and engage diverse perspectives and inclusivity—not merely as tasks but as part of their very fabric.

    Make Digital-Inclusive Decisions

    “Digital first” is hardly a foreign concept today, but it bears emphasis, because technology, digital approaches, and business strategy and decisions are inseparable. Writes Prabhash Shrestha, MS, PMP, CAE, “The association’s long-term sustainable value to customers, members, and nonmembers alike will be created only by unifying business, operation, and technology strategies to cocreate exponential value. As such, technology must be part of every association’s business strategy.”

    Originally posted here

  • 24 Sep 2021 5:12 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    All associations want exhibitors to have a good experience and generate leads at their virtual events. So what can organizers do to help? After reviewing 461 virtual conferences, virtual and hybrid events platform Swapcard offered 10 data-backed recommendations in “The Business of Virtual Events: How to Close Business Deals at a Virtual Event, According to Data.” Here’s a look at five of them.

    Encourage interactions before the event. Swapcard data reveals that in the days leading up to a virtual tradeshow, up to 28 percent of the time attendees spend exploring the platform is devoted to browsing exhibitors. That means exhibitors can capitalize on attendee interest before the show opens. Because of this, organizers should open the platform ahead of time and implement an effective communication strategy that urges exhibitors and attendees to use the platform in advance of an event.

    Extend the event lifecycle. Inbound messages and requests from attendees to exhibitors peak after a tradeshow, meaning crucial business opportunities fall into their laps once the event is over. Organizers should consider creating year-round communities where networking opportunities remain available outside the confines of the live event.

    Offer sponsored session opportunities to exhibitors. During a one-day virtual conference, more than 40 percent of exhibitor leads came from attendees who watched a sponsored session; for a two-day conference, it was 50 percent, according to the report. Associations should review their sponsorship packages and offer exhibitors the option to sponsor sessions. “Speaking at a sponsored session will position exhibitors as experts on a particular topic, making them more credible to attendees,” the report states.

    Emphasize the power of virtual booths. The research shows that, of all business closed during virtual tradeshows, 30 to 45 percent happens at the virtual booth. Exhibitors should make their virtual booths immersive and interactive, while organizers should provide tips on creating virtual booths that are appealing and customized.

    Promote subtle networking. Although there are many different sales styles, exhibitor messages in virtual platforms that are too pushy or “sales-y” don’t work. For example, according to the report, 64.8 percent of meeting requests that were accompanied by generic sales messages were not accepted. Organizers should stress to exhibitors the importance of subtle outreach and make them aware of the features on the event platform that will help them connect with attendees in this way.

    Originally posted here

  • 24 Sep 2021 5:06 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Sparking better member engagement is all about talking like real people do in everyday life. Conversations are not one-sided—they are a give and take—a concept that is often absent in member communications. Here’s how to do better.

    Communicating with members like we do with people in the real world sounds easy. But something gets lost in translation when we write emails, even when we try to make them more personal by using a person’s first name in the salutation.

    You can personalize emails in any system, but “it’s not personal, it’s a mail merge,” says Dave Will, cofounder and CEO of PropFuel, a conversational engagement platform. “The way you make something personal is by creating a way for somebody to interact with you.”


    When you ask a question, listen to what the person says, and then take action. You won’t know what kind of action to take unless you hear what they have to say. “That’s how humans interact,” he says. “But we don’t treat our members like that.” The idea is to spark a conversation.

    The way to engage members is to start with a question—not a rhetorical question—but something like: “Your membership expired 30 days ago. Are you planning to renew?” If the answer is no, find out why not. If the answer is yes, then find out why they haven’t renewed yet and give them the link to renew.


    “You’re talking to members with a human approach to conversation and engagement, you’re not using a digital approach,” Will says. It’s replicating the way people talk to each other rather than having a more transactional correspondence. “If you make it more like what you would say to someone in everyday conversation, then you’re more likely to get a response,” he says. “Stop thinking like a broadcast system and start thinking like a human.”


    Members are getting an individualized experience with the association. If you ask them a dozen questions over the course of a year, every member will take their own journey through their member experience based on how they answered questions about what’s important to them. Some might be focused on getting professional certification, while others might want to get a better job.

    Associations will double the level of engagement because members will engage more. “They’re going to sign up for more things, renew faster, and take more action because they’re actually engaged in a conversation as opposed to deleting an email,” Will says.

    Article originally posted here

  • 22 Sep 2021 10:42 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    The event industry has changed rapidly over the last 18 months as a result of Covid-19. Disruption has impacted event organisers, venues, and suppliers alike.

    We are seeking to better understand the event landscape over the next two years; what is on the horizon, and what do those organising events, big or small, need or want that might be different to that past?

    Participate in our survey for a chance to win one of five $200 pre-paid VISA cards.

    CLICK HERE to participate

    We would greatly appreciate your involvement in this important research project which will help shape the future of MCEC, providing the best possible experience to organisers and attendees.

    Research is being run on our behalf by TKP, an independent research agency. For more information, please contact Samantha Bell from TKP at, or Florence Aimonetti from MCEC at

    Answers will be confidential. You can find TKP’s Privacy Policy here.

    We thank you and look forward to your participation!

  • 17 Sep 2021 5:25 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Many associations spent 2020 giving their webinars away for a free. However, a new report suggests organisations should offer a mix of both paid and free webinars to help boost nondues revenue.

    With many associations looking for additional ways to generate revenue as they try to recover from the economic turmoil of COVID-19, some are turning their attention to monetizing webinars. Tagoras, an educational consultancy that produces the Leading Learning podcast, recently surveyed associations and nonprofits about how they price webinars and the revenue they generate. The research sheds some light on what practices are working and where organizations might want to concentrate moving forward.

    “A lot of organizations worry that you can’t charge for webinars at this point,” said Jeff Cobb, Tagoras managing director and cohost of the Leading Learning Podcast. “But it’s clear that organizations are able to charge at a pretty reasonable rate, and that they can both charge for webinars and get sponsorship for webinars.”

    The survey data showed many organizations have hosted free webinars, while others charge regularly for them. The good news is that an association’s webinar pricing strategy doesn’t have to be either free or paid. They can do a mix.

    “You’re able to do the combination of charging fees for some webinars, getting sponsorship for other webinars, and having a strong portfolio of some free, more content-marketing webinars,” he said. “The key there is managing those strategically, as differently positioned offerings. You don’t want there to be confusion between your free webinars and your paid webinars.”

    So, how does an organization clearly distinguish between something members need to pay for versus something they should expect for free? Cobb says it comes down to two areas: content and branding.

    “If it’s primarily informational, it may also be primarily a form of content marketing, or a touchpoint with your audience that you get a lot more mileage out of not charging for it,” Cobb said. “You’re putting it out there as a free resource from your organization.”

    However, Cobb said when the content is something “more unique to your organization or to the subject matter experts that you have access to” or something “that really is going to give people very applicable knowledge or help them learn a new skill, that is when you start thinking, ‘Yes, we need to be charging for this.’”

    In terms of branding, anything an organization is charging for shouldn’t be called a webinar.

    “Webinar itself, at this point, is a highly generic term, and in people’s minds, they expect something called a webinar to be free,” he said. “Take those things that you might have called webinars—things that offer a higher value and you really have a strong case for charging for them—and consider calling them something else, even something as simple as an online workshop or training.”


    According to the study, webinar pricing varied based on length and type of organization offering it. When Tagoras averaged it out, a one-hour webinar fell in the $40-$75 price range for participants. On the sponsorship side, pricing ranged from $2,400 to $11,000. However, Cobb said associations shouldn’t use this data as starting point for their pricing.

    “You have to consider: How does the webinar compare to other education content or events that you’re offering?” Cobb said. “Where do webinars fit into your overall portfolio? And you have to make sure that what you are charging for that webinar aligns with what you’re charging in other places for other ways that you’re delivering value to your members.”

    In terms of sponsor benefits, most were allowed to include their logo and linked text, were given an opportunity to present, and provided with a list of registrants. Cobb added that with registration lists, organizations should consider how to manage the process so they feel comfortable and participants do as well.

    One area that was surprising in the research was the practice of group registration—where businesses registered several employees for webinars. “If you don’t have a group registration strategy, I would definitely look at that,” Cobb said.

    Organizations who are doing group registration often provide conversation guides for the participants to use after the webinar. “It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can just be: Here are three points to discuss after the webinar together,” Cobb said. “It helps people remember what happened in the webinar a lot better. It helps people get more value out of it, and it helps them bond with each other and bond more as an organization.”

  • 17 Sep 2021 5:20 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    The pandemic’s impact on businesses has led to higher competition for sponsorship money. Being able to offer sponsors content placement and provide performance data can help associations win coveted sponsorship dollars, experts say.

    The pandemic’s lingering economic effects continue to have associations looking for nondues revenue in every spot possible. One area that organizations look to is sponsorship. While event sponsorship was always big, the pandemic has left that more nebulous. In order to stand out in today’s environment, two experts suggest looking at ways to provide sponsors a platform for their content and then showing them how much members engage with that content to stand out.

    Bruce Rosenthal, a corporate partnership strategic advisor, said competition for sponsor dollars is fierce in today’s environment.

    “When we look at any trade or profession, there are numerous associations in that space, so companies have numerous choices—both national and the state affiliates,” Rosenthal said. “There are so many associations competing for the same sponsorship dollars.”

    Rosenthal noted that sponsors also are using social media and their own webinars to reach potential customers, meaning associations are competing with internal marketing for dollars as well. Rosenthal and Jeff Schottland, CEO of digital content solutions firm Lead Marvels, contend that associations can stand out as good sponsorship candidates by highlighting sponsor-written content and thought leadership.

    “One way the association can rise above is to think more about how to offer digital content marketing and thought leadership strategies that corporate sponsors and advertisers are demanding,” Schottland said. “[Sponsors and advertisers] want to be the thought leader, and they want to receive leads. It would benefit associations to think: How can we develop these solutions to remain competitive?”


    Rosenthal and Schottland point to the launch of the American Public Transportation Association’s Knowledge Hub, as an example of a way a site can feature sponsored content on a variety of topics.

    When it comes to allowing sponsors to include content, associations sometimes worry the content won’t be appropriate for their members or will be useless sales pitches. While that is a valid concern, Schottland and Rosenthal note that there should be multiple layers and filters to make sure content is vetted. When that’s the case, sponsored content can provide valuable insight for members that they wouldn’t otherwise get.

    “There is so much going on now with COVID, with globalization, with diversity and equity issues, it is difficult for associations to provide all the content,” Rosenthal said. “A lot of what we’re talking about is not just to meet the needs of sponsor companies, but to meet the needs of members. [Associations] need more information on more topics, and [they] often don’t have the bandwidth, the staff, or the money to produce all that content.”

    Schottland notes that including a content hub on an association’s website not only has an advantage for the sponsor but also for the organization. “[Members] are not going to another website to find that information they need,” he said. “They are turning to the association as the one-stop shop.”

    If an organization isn’t keen on content from sponsors, Schottland said corporate partners can also sponsor research or other thought leadership produced by association staff.

    “Do it in a collaborative approach,” he said. “Here is the association white paper, e-book, report, or survey results in partnership or sponsored by ABC vendor. They can position themselves, the association, as the thought leader but also generate some sponsorship dollars.”


    In addition to allowing partners to sponsor content, it is key to provide metrics about how that content is performing. Schottland said metrics to include are time spent on site, page views, leads, and conversion rate. The conversion rate is how many people who visit the page where the content is download the content. So, if a 100 people visit the page and 50 download the content, that’s a 50 percent conversion rate.

    Data helps the sponsor know if their content is connecting well with members or if they need to do something different. The overall picture of content performance is useful to the association. “They are seeing what content is resonating, what the topic of that content is, and can use that market intelligence to shape their next event or next product,” Schottland said.

    Rosenthal noted these metrics are what companies typically get when they sponsor for-profit endeavors, and associations can compete better if they offer that same info. “If the association provided all the metrics as well as for-profits, I think these companies would go to the association,” Rosenthal said. “They really value the affinity with the association.”

  • 16 Sep 2021 3:25 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Let's imagine it is December 31, 2029. What did your association do throughout the rest of this decade to shape a different and better future for stakeholders and successors?

    Last month, I posted the backcasting prompt pictured above to LinkedIn following my late June session at the Virginia Society of Association Executives Annual Conference in Virginia Beach. My sincere thanks to everyone who liked the original post. What I noticed, however, is that no one accepted my invitation to offer a response to the prompt.

    To assist association boards and staff with sparking new conversations through this thought experiment, I have created four example responses to this prompt based on the four major forces of turbulence I see shaping this decade. After the four responses, I share some questions you can use to frame a conversation inside your association.

    Four example prompt responses to spark new thinking

    Addressing AI/automation

    "In the early years of the 2020s, our association's concerns about the detrimental impact of AI and automation technologies on our profession led us to refocus our education. Instead of concentrating entirely on developing our learners' technical skills, i.e., what they need to know to work in our field, we created new professional credentials that helped build their digital and human skills as well. By the end of the decade, research showed that our credential holders were in demand, especially among employers who initially implemented AI and automation technologies to handle routine tasks and activities. Those companies now needed human workers who could effectively collaborate with machine intelligence and other human workers to facilitate the work of innovation."

    Addressing the climate crisis

    "To be completely honest, we struggled with shifting our association's thinking and action toward the future. Our board initially resisted even having the conversation, but once they did, it didn't take long for them to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a fast-moving version of the global climate crisis. Working with that shared understanding, our board refocused its stewardship on a foundational question: how can the association work to reduce our field's carbon impact by 50% or more within ten years? We reached out to other organizations in our space, and everyone agreed to put everything on the table. The group identified specific outcomes we would strive to achieve together, and while we are not yet where we want to be, but we are making consistent positive progress."

    Addressing human inequality

    "The COVID-19 pandemic revealed (and exacerbated) a depth of human inequality in the United States that was intolerable to our association, our people, and our industry. We knew we couldn't simply 'return to normal' because what we thought of as normal was grounded in the discrimination, exclusion, and exploitation of millions of people over decades and centuries. Our board took a strong stance by committing the association to a newly-created ethical purpose of prioritizing the wellbeing of people over profits. As a result, the association shifted its advocacy work away from protecting the industry's traditional interests and toward creating a more equitable economy and inclusive society for all Americans. It was a huge and difficult shift, and it was the right thing to do."

    Addressing ideological extremism

    "The Capitol insurrection on 1/6/21 was horrifying, but it wasn't until we heard the same voices of ideological extremism during a board meeting the following week that we understood the threat was inside our association. It was a painful realization, and yet one we could not ignore. Ideological extremism was an existential threat to our association's commitments to expertise, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and attracting young people to work in our field. It was clear that simply "agreeing to disagree" and being civil would not be enough. We implemented an entirely new process for identifying, recruiting, and seating board members, developed a fact-based, data-infused, and learning-oriented approach to board decision-making, and said goodbye to those who would not adapt."

    Having a conversation on these prompt responses

    To be clear, I do not offer these responses because they are the only ideas worth pursuing or because they are somehow "correct." Their sole purpose is to challenge association orthodoxies and convey a sense of both possibility and urgency for new thinking and action.

    With that intention in mind, here are some questions you can use with your association's board to frame a conversation around the backcasting prompt and the example responses I have provided:

    1. What is your reaction to the prompt and the four responses? Which response most challenges you? Which response most inspires you? What questions does each response raise for you?
    2. What is the highest ambition we can pursue as an association before the end of this decade? How do the example responses challenge us to be bolder in our thinking?
    3. If the stakeholders and successors who will be most affected by our decisions were listening to our conversation, how well would it honor their highest expectations of us? What sacrifices are we prepared to make to meet their expectations and fulfill our responsibility to them?

    MY CHALLENGE TO YOU: We need to accelerate our decision-making, so I challenge you to complete your association's thought experiment process around the backcasting prompt, i.e., from first conversation to crafting your response, in 60 days or less.

    Jeff De Cagna

    Executive Advisor, Foresight First LLC

    Looking back from the last day of the decade: a thought experiment for association decision-makers - Jeff De Cagna (

  • 16 Sep 2021 3:18 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Tactics for wooing sponsors for virtual and hybrid events can be very different than the techniques used for in-person meetings. Here are six steps to take to better explain the benefits of virtual and hybrid to potential sponsors.

    Creating an exhibitor and sponsorship prospectus for your virtual or hybrid meeting doesn’t have to be complicated. As a seasoned professional, you possess the tools necessary to produce a prospectus that allows your association to achieve its goals while delivering ROI to exhibitors and sponsors.

    Over the past 16 months, my staff successfully sold and managed exhibits and sponsorships for 20 virtual association expos. Each began with a thoughtfully crafted prospectus that precisely highlighted the benefits of participation to exhibitors and sponsors while reflecting the association’s culture and mission.

    As our industry transitions back to in-person meetings, including virtual elements in your prospectus will widen the size and scope of revenue opportunities. While creating the prospectus may seem daunting, this six-step plan will guide you through the process.

    Step 1: Create a New Financial Model

    Traditionally, a significant amount of the revenue from in-person events results from the sale of exhibits, with a minority from the sale of sponsorships. These budgetary assumptions are entirely different for virtual events, where sponsorships produce the majority of the revenue. You must change accordingly and plan for many more sponsorship opportunities.

    Be realistic about the exposure and revenue virtual exhibits generate. Promote the virtual booth as an online resource center rather than a significant lead-generation opportunity.

    As the industry turns to a hybrid format, you have the opportunity to use virtual opportunities to your advantage, supplementing your in-person offerings. If your exhibitors have a strong in-person presence, you might be inclined to offer them complimentary virtual booths. Conversely, if sponsored content holds the most attraction for participating companies, make it available virtually to increase their ROI.

    Step 2: Compile Marketing Language for ROI

    Clearly communicate the components of the virtual/hybrid opportunities in your prospectus. In addition, spell out any benefits of the format. These could include:

    • Increased attendance, especially international attendees
    • Useful analytics from detailed session and booth tracking
    • Ability to engage potential customers during COVID restrictions
    • Enduring exposure by making the virtual platform available for months, not days

    Be specific in explaining what your virtual or hybrid meeting looks like. Explain the schedule: live versus recorded content, engagement opportunities, and how long content will be available post-event.

    Step 3: Match Virtual Sponsorships with Typical In-Person Sponsorships

    Sponsoring companies return year after year because they value the opportunity to communicate with your attendees. However, remember that sponsors aren’t technical experts. Make them comfortable by identifying virtual sponsorships that are similar to those available at your in-person event. Make a list of each in-person sponsorship at your past events and write a closely matching virtual sponsorship next to each item. To complete this step, you must thoroughly understand your virtual platform’s capabilities and know how to use its features to your advantage.

    Step 4: Classify and Match Sponsorship Categories

    Companies recognize event ROI in four main categories of sponsorships: brand awareness, product or service promotion, access, and thought leadership.

    Categorize each in-person sponsorship into one of these categories and offer similar virtual sponsorships for each category. For instance, program guide advertisements at your in-person event belong in the product or service promotion category. The corresponding virtual sponsorship might be for advertisements on your virtual platform. Sponsorship of an invitation-only president’s reception may be a combination of brand awareness and access at your in-person meeting. Perhaps create a virtual reception the night before your event and invite your board of directors, CEO, and valued members, as well as the sponsor. The sponsor stills get exclusive access to this selective group. Also consider adding their logo to the invitation and virtual platform.

    Step 5: Create Unique Options in All Categories

    Brainstorm new ideas to fill gaps you see in each category. Rely on your association’s familiarity with attendees and participating companies to create unique sponsorships that companies will be excited to purchase, and attendees will appreciate. Examples include:

    • Brand awareness. General session speaker introductions, poster gallery, or sponsored ribbons.
    • Thought leadership. Sponsored content in different timeslots during your event, such as symposia, theatre, lightning rounds, and so forth.
    • Access. First-time virtual attendee orientation or collaborative rooms.
    • Product or service promotion. Commercials, virtual platform ads, or a “Know Before You Go” email banner.

    Step 6: Create the Structure of the Virtual Exhibit Booths

    Be realistic about the exposure and revenue virtual exhibits generate. Promote the virtual booth as an online resource center rather than a significant lead-generation opportunity. Exhibitors will appreciate the chance to share their promotional materials with attendees. Consider these tips:

    • Offer two price points—standard and premium—to allow companies who are hesitant to pay for virtual exhibit space a chance to say yes.
    • Connect the virtual booths with any sponsored educational session descriptions. Attendees can easily click from the session to the virtual booth for additional information.
    • Don’t offer additional graphics or content at a la carte prices. While tempting, this becomes unnecessarily complicated. Keep it simple, and your staff and exhibitors will thank you.\
    • Schedule time for visiting booths. Allow 30 minutes each day for exhibit hall hours. Offer incentives such as gamification to entice attendees to visit virtual booths.

    In a hybrid model, virtual booths become an online buyer’s guide. Exhibitors can have information posted online in addition to their in-person booth for maximum exposure to attendees.

    Originally posted here

The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

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