Sector and AuSAE News

  • 21 May 2021 5:31 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Communicating directly—and personally—with members is a great way to highlight new resources and other benefits without sounding like a sales pitch.

    The Health Industry Distributors Association recently announced a 21 percent surge in corporate members, exceeding national benchmarks for trade association member renewal rates. The group achieved the increase in several ways, including responsive communications tailored specifically for members’ top priorities. Kelley Taft, HIDA’s director of membership, and her team found a successful—and super easy—way to inform members about the new resources.

    HOW DOES IT WORK?

    Taft’s team created the tools to help members communicate more effectively with their customers, government officials, and other stakeholders. The resources include infographics, fact sheets, sample op-eds, and presentations.

    The challenge? “You create all these resources and then you send nice marketing emails and members still don’t see them,” Taft says.

    Solution? Keep it simple—and personal. Taft’s team came up with a members-only email called “HIDA Heads-Up.” It isn’t a marketing email, Taft says, “and that is key.” It is just a regular email that her team writes and sends out under her name.

    WHY IS IT EFFECTIVE?

    Every time a HIDA Heads-Up goes out to members, she says, “they love it.” The emails are casual, in Taft’s own voice, and intentionally not a sales pitch. Members email her back personally to thank her for thinking of them, she says. They appreciate the personal communication and feeling of connection.

    “When an email comes from the membership director, they do pay attention to it,” she says. “That simple, tiny thing is a great way to share resources.”

    WHAT’S THE BENEFIT?

    The personal emails give Taft a chance to connect with members in an offhand way and casually catch up on life, kids, work, and more. She always writes them back directly because she doesn’t want to lose the personal touch. “It’s my favorite thing we’re doing right now,” she says.

    The HIDA Heads-Up emails have been so popular that the marketing team asked if they could put them on a schedule. Taft pushed back. “It has to be organic,” she says.

    LISA BOYLAN,  Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now.


  • 14 May 2021 5:51 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    A new report shows a downward trend in association membership over the past year. But it points to strong leadership and the ability to serve members in a more customized way as promising factors in ensuring long-term sustainability.

    The new McKinley Advisors 2021 Associations Viewpoint report centers on the notion that there is no collective without the individual. That is particularly significant because associations are, of course, collectives, but the report notes that sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the unique needs and perspectives of the members who make up those communities.

    The past year brought this tension into stark focus. Considering the individual means really listening to members and responding to their needs, which associations have done out of heightened necessity over the past year. And they will need to continue prioritizing that same proactive, responsive approach to member priorities.

    “Associations have traditionally taken a really broad approach to serving their members,” said Shelley Sanner, CAE, senior vice president of industry relations at McKinley Advisors. When associations began to pivot at the start of the pandemic, they “started thinking about how to serve each person in a more customized way.”

    The study’s findings reveal, not surprisingly, that the number of associations reporting membership declines has nearly doubled in one year, with professional associations being particularly hard hit. While survey respondents were increasingly concerned about membership and revenue declines, they said they are optimistic about the strength of their leadership.

    TOP 2021 PRIORITIES

    The study also shows recognition that long-term sustainability will require strategic commitments. The top three priorities for 2021, according to respondents, are generating 


    Associations are going to have to assess themselves and ask big questions, Sanner said. Questions like: “How can we make membership more valuable, not just from a transactional perspective or from a communications perspective, but by making it more meaningful?”

    PROFESSIONAL PRIDE

    An area of opportunity is the emotional connection that people feel to their field or profession, Sanner said. Associations need to look at ways to leverage that connection and celebrate the work the industry is doing.

    “Have people feel pride in what they’re doing and feel recognized for what they’re doing,” she said. “Everyone wants an emotional connection.”

    A possible communications strategy could be a shift to telling more stories about members. Such campaigns won’t necessarily have a rapid or concrete return, but they will be powerful. “Members will talk about that and feel recognized and feel emotional connections” to their professions, industries, and associations, she said.

    Sanner is optimistic because she knows associations have problem solvers as leaders. Associations will need to reinvent themselves if they haven’t already, and continue to reinvent themselves. “The challenge and the crisis is the test,” she said. “It’s the opportunity to stretch and be stronger.”


  • 14 May 2021 5:30 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    In a year when people are seeking community and have the desire to connect, it should come as no surprise that association online communities continue to be highly successful member engagement tools. Communities can pay big dividends when it comes to building an engaged and loyal membership base. They enhance the member experience and facilitate the open exchange of ideas, which helps increase overall membership value.

    However, it's not as simple as "if you build it, they will come." While every association's online community is unique, here are four tips to keep in mind when building or developing activity within your community.

    1. Content is key. Having fresh content and active discussions are the hooks that keep people coming back and engaging with others. Try this: put together a list of dedicated members who you can call on to post seed questions to keep the discussion moving. Many of our clients create lists of possible discussion questions even before the community has launched so that they have content ready to go if organic conversations need a boost.
       
    2. Actively manage the community and the conversation. Plan to dedicate staff time to managing the community. If questions are posted that need answers from the organization, make sure they are answered in a timely manner. If discussion topics are posted but there are no responses, call upon one of your dedicated members and ask them to respond. If there is a lull in new posts, break out your list of seed topics to get a new conversation started. It's critical, especially early on, to proactively spark, support, and encourage participation. As your members become more engaged, you will find less time is needed to manage the community.
       
    3. Be smart about segmentation. Many online communities have the ability to segment their full audience into sub-groups. On the plus side, sub-group categories often focus on specific topics that attract people who otherwise might not be interested in participating. However, over-segmenting your community can backfire, especially in the beginning. Creating smaller and smaller sub-groups can mean that there is less relevant content available for each group, which can decrease participation and affect overall community engagement. Our clients often find segmentation works best after they have established organic conversations and engagement in the core community and before they create sub-groups.
       
    4. Develop an opt-in policy and a communication strategy. There are typically two options when enrolling an audience in an online community: (1) automatic enrollment of all members/stakeholders (with the ability to opt-out), or (2) an opt-in-only policy requiring all participants to join individually. Generally, there is more success with the first option. Automatic enrollment eliminates the need for people to take an extra step. Where we do see the opt-in approach work best is when segmenting a community into sub-groups – here people can decide where they belong based on what interests them most.

      In terms of communication strategy, many platforms send out a "daily digest" email to everyone who is enrolled in the community with information on "what's new" to encourage people to log in and join the conversation. If you have auto-enrolled everyone into this communication, your reach is much greater than would be when having people opt-in individually. The daily digest approach also helps to get the word out about your new community. Also, make sure you take advantage of the communications you already have with your members and stakeholders. Include announcement of your community in your acquisition and renewal programs as a new member benefit, promote it at your events, or include links to popular threads in your e-newsletter.
    There is substantial power in an online community. In a world where opportunities to interact online abound, you can harness that power into meaningful engagement and interaction that adds real value to your members' personal and professional growth, and at the same time enhances your organization's relevance and indispensability.

    If you would like more information on strategies to engage your membership, contact Jana Darling at jdarling@marketinggeneral.com or 703.706.0349.

    Written by MGI Account Supervisor Kelsey McKinney.


  • 07 May 2021 5:34 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Many accounts of how boards have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic highlight a closer than usual collaboration between boards and their management teams. The nature of the crisis has required ‘all hands to the pumps’ in many organisations and has forced the usually accepted division of labour to be set aside in the short-term interests of survival. This has seen many board members rolling up their sleeves and becoming a de facto part of the management team.

    Board members can be a valuable source of advice and assistance for the chief executive and staff at any time, but especially in a crisis when making the best use of all available resources is vital. It is often necessary to set aside role formality, hierarchy and status differences to access board members, many of whom have extensive executive experience themselves. Older directors have often gained hard-won experience, for example, in past economic downturns. Having everyone pitch in can add significantly to the energy, flexibility and speed of decision-making needed to survive a crisis. It can also create a satisfying sense that ‘we are all in this together’.

    But crises pass. Many boards are now thinking about what their pandemic response experience might suggest as a better ‘new normal’. As part of this, some are undoubtedly considering the benefits of having a different kind of working relationship with management. However, it should not be assumed that what worked (and was necessary) during a crisis will work just as well in ‘peacetime’.

    A particular point to be conscious of is the need for absolute clarity between respective board and staff roles and responsibilities. Whether in a crisis situation or not, one constant risk is that directors’ advice can be experienced or interpreted by employee recipients as instruction. When that confusion happens, the essential chain of accountability (board-chief executive-staff) is at risk. For example:

    • Staff members on the end of individual directors’ advice are unsure as to its authority.
    • Staff members receiving contrary advice from different board members face calculating whose advice they can least afford to ignore.
    • Faced with advice they know to be contrary to their own experience or their best professional judgement, they are uncertain—even fearful—about the consequences of not following that advice.
    • When different board members offer conflicting advice, the board's collective authority is fragmented and undermined.

    If board members are conscious of these risks, they may be wary of crossing the boundary between governance and management, and reluctant to offer valuable and timely advice when it would be helpful.

    Basic principles in the board/staff relationship

    For a fully effective board/staff working relationship, nothing good comes from this kind of hesitancy and confusion. However, an understanding of some basic principles (and the disciplined application of them) can easily prevent the problem from arising.

    Giving instruction

    This sits primarily at the board/chief executive interface and should embrace the following principles.

    1.  The board should issue instructions only to the chief executive

    A governing board usually has only one employee (the chief executive). It should not instruct staff reporting to (or through to) the chief executive. They work for the chief executive, who is accountable for marshalling staff resources to meet the board’s expectations. When a board instructs other staff, it assumes some of the chief executive’s staff management responsibilities and prerogatives. This means the board cannot then hold the chief executive accountable if its directions to other staff are misinterpreted or misfire in some way.

    Unless board members understand the difference between instructing (which only the whole board can do) and advising (which anyone can do), even the chief executive can become confused.

    2.  The board should express its expectations and instructions only as a full board

    The board should always speak with one voice when instructing the chief executive, although the final decision on what the instruction is, like other board decisions, need not be unanimous.

    The one-voice principle, while readily agreed to, is often undermined. For example, in many organisations, the board chair is considered the ‘boss’ of the chief executive, disregarding the fact that the chief executive works for the board as a whole. This diminishes and detracts from the collective responsibility of the board.

    When a board struggles to speak with one voice—whether issuing instruction or advice—the chief executive is inevitably pulled in different directions.

    The possibility of weakened accountability and confusing communication significantly increases when these two principles are not clear and consistently applied.

    Giving advice

    If individual board members have no authority over the chief executive or staff and cannot instruct them, is giving them advice acceptable?

    Advice or counsel from a single member of the board is in order, as long as the recipient has no obligation to take the advice or even give it a hearing.

    Recipients of advice are implicitly accountable for what they do with that advice. The board should therefore be explicit that recipients may accept or reject advice from any source on its merits—including when it is offered by the board as a whole or by directors as individuals.

    This seems simple enough but dealing with advice from a board committee may be more problematic. This is, in part, because some board committees are explicitly set up to match specific operational (i.e. staff) functions and to monitor, advise and assist staff in relation to those functions (e.g. personnel, public relations, marketing, finance, etc.).

    It is difficult for staff to ignore advice from a formally established board committee even if the committee's function is only ‘advisory’. It is equally difficult for members of such a committee to remember that their deliberations are to produce advice and not to make decisions or give instructions.

    Committees established mainly to advise and ‘help’ staff actually compromise them. For example, staff members will likely be reluctant to tell such committees that their advice is unhelpful or that staff time taken up by the committee costs more than the committee’s advice is worth. Nor is it easy for staff to tell an advisory committee that they prefer advice from another, often better-qualified source. So, when the board sets up a committee to advise staff, staff have three basic options:

    • to assume committee suggestions are, in effect, instructions and that, when they do as suggested, the board is taking responsibility for the consequent outcome
    • to pretend that they value the committee's suggestions and are following them
    • to ‘manage’ the committee so that it ends up giving advice that suits what staff were inclined to do in the first place.

    For these reasons, a board should establish committees only to advise itself, not to help staff discharge their responsibilities.

    A lack of clarity of decision-making rights is at the core of many board/staff working relationship issues. It is up to the board to be clear which decisions it reserves to itself and which it delegates to the chief executive.

    For the latter, the chief executive (and thereby staff) should have total control over all processes for procuring and applying the advice they need, including from individual board members or the board as a whole. The chief executive and staff should be able to put together any advisory arrangements they wish. They should be able to retain or release advisors at their initiative. This level of authority ensures that the chief executive is always accountable to the board for performance no matter where she or her team obtains the advice they need.

    Following these principles means that board members must take their board ‘hat’ off when advising staff. This not only frees staff to treat board member advice on its merits but empowers board members to offer any advice they deem appropriate. They can do so without feeling that they are meddling in or compromising decisions that have been delegated to staff.

     Board Works Role of the board, Covid19

    Author: Graeme Nahkies Published: Apr 27, 2021

    Understanding and respecting the difference between advising and instructing » Boardworks

  • 07 May 2021 5:31 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Inspiring the Future is an exciting new programme where volunteers from the world of work show students the career possibilities available to them.

    Research shows that young people have narrow aspirations and are held back by stereotypes. Role models can help change that – and the programme needs people from all walks of life to be those role models.

    So come along to this online webinar 7.30pm Wednesday 12 May hosted by @Tertiary Education Commission chief executive @Tim Fowler. Hear all about Inspiring the Future, why it’s so important and how easy it is to be involved as a role model. [https://bit.ly/ItFWebinar]



  • 07 May 2021 5:19 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Getting members to renew is challenging every year—but this year in particular, associations need effective strategies for member retention. These articles have smart advice from association pros.

    Membership renewal is a perennial topic in the association space, but recently the conversation has felt more urgent because of the pandemic.

    This time last year, for example, some associations were considering waiving dues for new members. And while those short-term policies may have ended by now, the retention challenge always remains.

    Fortunately, the association world includes a lot of smart membership strategists. Read on for a few highlights from the Associations Now and ASAE archives highlighting the latest knowledge in member renewals.

    How to Craft Member Renewal Messaging Amid COVID-19 Crisis. Association consultants Scott Oser and David Patt, CAE, highlight the need for a strong value message during the pandemic. “You need to maintain people’s loyalty and their trust,” Patt says. “You don’t want people to say, ‘I really don’t need this.’ You have to come up with a way to make them still want you.”

    Get More Renewals With a UX Mindset. User experience research in the ‌Membership Renewal Guide produced by Marketing General Incorporated in 2019 includes recommendations for wording, payment options, and renewal cycles. “If you’re not already testing subject lines in renewal emails, start doing it now,” writes Associations Now former senior editor Tim Ebner.

    First-Year Renewal Issues? Tweak Your Onboarding Strategy. A survey from GrowthZone included a disturbing stat: Just 11 percent of survey respondents reported an increase in first-year member renewals. “It’s extremely important that new members understand the value you bring to their lives,” says Amy Gitchell, senior marketing communications specialist at GrowthZone. “In the survey, associations whose members recognized their value proposition reported higher renewal rates overall.”

    Three Ways to Boost Membership Renewal With Video. In a webinar earlier this year, Gather Voices CEO Michael Hoffman made the case for video as a tool for building engagement in a member community. “Engagement is about creating something new and letting members be the star of the show,” he says.

    3 Questions to Ask Before Adopting Auto-Renewal. Auto-renewals are all the rage outside associations—your phone carrier and power company probably convinced you to sign onto one at some point. But for associations, the equation is more complicated, wrote Rita Santelli, MBA, then CEO of The Savvy Org. “Auto-renewal, just like any other feature of membership, must be member-focused to succeed,” she noted. “It requires understanding your members’ needs and providing ongoing staff support to meet or exceed those needs.”

    Put Two-Year Renewals to Work for Your Members. Extending member renewals over a two-year period can save money for both members and associations, according to Patricia Qvern, operations manager at Quality Contact Solutions. “In my experience, after working with several associations that offer two-year membership as an option, typically, 10 percent to 30 percent of renewing members take advantage of the cost savings and convenience of a two-year membership,” she writes.

    ERNIE SMITH - 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.


  • 07 May 2021 5:14 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Association leaders appreciate the importance of innovation and creativity - especially in light of the pandemic. Revenue loss has caused everyone to consider new business models. But actually fostering and implementing innovation during the crisis has proven to be a challenge for many. Here's a quick list of ten business models to inform and, perhaps, inspire new ideas:

    Advertising

    Revenue is generated by charging advertisers based on various criteria such as visibility, exposure, etc. Value must be created for two entities in this model - the advertiser and the consumer. Examples include ads in associations print and digital publications.

    Affiliate

    Clickable links embedded in relevant content result in commissions paid for each purchase generated by the link. A good example of this is linking to a vendor in a blog post related to their specific product. 

    Brokerage

    Brokerages connect sellers and buyers and ensure the transaction between the two runs smoothly. In exchange for this service, a fee is charged to either the seller, the buyer, or both. Investments and real estate are common examples of brokerage.

    Crowdsourcing

    Leveraging content contributed by a large number of people to sell directly or indirectly. Goods examples of crowdsourcing are traffic applications and online communities. 

    Customization 

    Revenue is generated by tailoring a product to a specific clientele. This is commonly seen in high-end products such as executive medicine or luxury travel. This may be a viable model for associations with niche audiences.
        

    Fractionalisation 

    Instead of selling a whole product to a single customer, a portion of the product is sold to multiple customers. Examples of fractionalization include timeshare properties and rent-a-CFO.  

    Freemium

    A basic level of a product or service is given for no cost, but fees are charged for enhanced features or access. Pandora and Dropbox are examples of companies using freemium effectively.  

    Licensing/Leasing

    Content is rented out for use by other companies for a fee. Associations have commonly embraced this with member list rentals, but it can apply to other practices such as logo use. 

    Markup

    Revenue is generated by buying a product or service then increasing the price before selling it to customers. Markup is a very common practice in the open market but maybe underutilized in associations. 

    Production

    A company produces a product and sells it to customers. Again, a common business model but one that may have new applications for associations. Do your members need a product that doesn't yet exist? Or do they need a higher quality product or better aligned than they currently have? 

    Subscription

     A target audience is allowed to use a product or service for a finite period of time in exchange for a fee. The subscription model may have applications well beyond membership and/or in subsections within the membership. 

    Ideation and iteration are important elements of creativity. What really stands out for you and your team when you review this list? Are there items that frustrate or inspire? Why not throw some ideas on the wall and see what's possible? 

    By Ms. Donna Oser, CAE
    Michigan Society of Association Executives
    12855 Oneida Woods Trl
    Grand Ledge, MI


  • 29 Apr 2021 6:51 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) is calling for nominations from eligible members interested in serving as a Director of the Board. 

    There are currently three (3) positions available for appointment via general election which are a result of the end of tenure of the following Directors:

    Lyn McMorran - Chief Executive, Financial Services Federation NZ
    Peter Saffin - Chief Executive Officer Mathematical Association of Victoria
    Michelle Blicavs - Chief Executive Officer, Association of Consulting Surveyors NSW & National

    All three Directors are eligible to nominate for re-election.

    Members are invited to express their interest in appointment to these vacancies for a two-year term commencing in May 2021.

    Skills and attributes

    AuSAE directors play an active and visible leadership role in the association sector.

    All potential directors should be able to demonstrate a commitment to leadership, integrity, interpersonal and communication skills, a passion for Associations, business acumen, and an understanding of corporate governance.

    The board of AuSAE value and seek diversity as defined by gender, ethnicity, age, role, and level of experience and encourage applications from all types and sizes of eligible member organisations or individual members.

    Commitment

    The culture of AuSAE requires a working board, with a current focus on supporting organisational growth.  Directors should expect to contribute at least 4 hours a month in their role, in addition to attending 4 teleconferences (1.5 hrs) and 2 face to face meetings per year. 

    Directors may also be asked to attend and host AuSAE events, and events hosted by our valued alliance partners.

    Election and appointment process

    Appointment to the board will be determined by election from the membership.  Please note that the nominee must be a current financial member, in an eligible category of the association on application.

    To express an interest for the Board position you will need to provide: 

    All nominations must be received by 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday 4 May 2021.

    Please click through for a copy of the AuSAE Constitution and By-Laws.

    Regards,

    Lyn McMorran
    President

    Australasian Society of Association Executives
    e: president@ausae.org.au 


  • 29 Apr 2021 5:45 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    The new normal is pushing associations to adapt and improve. Focusing on outcomes-based efficiencies, embracing transparency and value, and maximizing resources will help your organization succeed.

    The past year has been uniquely disruptive for many associations, forcing them to pivot their operations in real time. While the transition to remote work and digital engagement is the most obvious change, the sector has experienced upheaval on many fronts.

    According to one survey, nearly 60 percent of association leaders reported having to cancel or postpone events, along with reduced revenue and diminished user engagement. Meanwhile, associations play a pivotal role in helping organizations and employees navigate a post-pandemic landscape, providing essential connection, insight, and guidance at a critical time.

    Even as the impact of the recent pandemic eventually recedes, it is evident that many of the challenges associations experienced are unlikely to abate soon. This new normal requires associations to update their capacity and enhance their approach to efficiency, transparency, member contributions, and personnel management. In other words, the pandemic is pushing associations to adapt and improve. For associations looking to thrive in a post-pandemic environment, here are three ways to begin that process today.

    Focus on Outcomes-Based Efficiencies

    Professional associations have differentiated their revenue streams in the past several years. In the 1950s, membership dues comprised nearly 96 percent of total revenue. Today, that number is closer to 45 percent as associations have built better business models based on seminars, training, studies, and other resources. Unfortunately, these efforts were no match for an unprecedented global pandemic.

    While the implications of these assessments will look different for every association, realigning personnel resources with organizational goals and objectives is imperative.
    With conferences and seminars cancelled and companies preserving professional development resources, many associations are making difficult decisions about their budgets. To remain competitive, associations should focus on what matters most, reviewing the mission and developing new efficiencies based on these priorities.

    To be sure, calls for new efficiencies often mean reducing staff, services, or both. While associations will need to do more with less, better time and expense management practices can help curtail costs while maximizing resources for what matters most by focusing on:
    • Spending. Everything from organizational drift to spending on services not provided can negatively impact associations’ financial outlook. Analyzing spending allows leaders to align financial resources and operational objectives.
    • Personnel allocation. Time tracking and personnel allocation can produce critical insights into human capital allocation, ensuring that they are devoted to the most critical tasks.
    • Resource management. Associations exist for a particular purpose. Time and expense management help leaders align resources and purpose.

    In other words, efficiency doesn’t have to diminish organizational capacity. Instead, it can be an opportunity to realign resources and outcomes, allowing associations to best perform during the pandemic and after it passes.

    Embrace Transparency and Demonstrate Value

    When companies and professionals have limited resources allocated for association fees, they need to know that they are spending their money wisely. Professional associations can keep people invested by renewing their emphasis on transparency to demonstrate value at every level.

    In the nonprofit space, which serves as a valuable litmus test for professional associations, 70 percent of contributors demand insights into an organization’s overhead costs before committing financial resources. In this way, professional associations can cater to these demands by updating their governance and oversight efforts through enhanced time and expense practices. In return, associations can clearly convey financial resource allocation, fiscal year overhead projections, staff and volunteer pay and equity, and proficiency and professionalism in financial literacy and stewardship.

    Fiscal and operational transparency demonstrate value, positioning associations to retain members in an uncertain season.

    Maximize Personnel Resources

    In many ways, this is a reflective moment. It’s an opportunity for associations to review their products, processes, and personnel, while optimizing for a future that undoubtedly looks different than the past.

    While the implications of these assessments will look different for every association, realigning personnel resources with organizational goals and objectives is imperative. It’s also impossible to achieve without the right insights. That’s why leaders will evaluate expense records, time and resource allocations, and other metrics to make data-driven decisions about the future. In doing so, associations can make sure that they are best meeting their goals and objectives.

    As industries change and workers adjust to new norms, professional associations will play a crucial role in helping both navigate this disruptive and challenging time. Of course, they need to take care of their own affairs too, adapting and improving to meet the moment. By measuring their outcomes, demonstrating value, and maximizing personnel resources, associations can best support their constituents, allowing more people to thrive in the months and years ahead.

    Alan Tyson

    Alan Tyson is CEO of DATABASICS in Reston, Virginia.

  • 29 Apr 2021 5:43 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Hybrid conferences may be the next big thing in meetings, but because they involve face-to-face and virtual participants, they come with their own unique set of planning challenges. As associations begin executing hybrid events, here are some questions to ask during the planning stage.

    Associations and attendees alike are eager for the return of large, in-person events, and with vaccination numbers continuing to rise, that may be on the horizon soon enough.

    But even with this renewed optimism, many groups are planning hybrid conferences in the near term. Planning a conference that includes both in-person and virtual components is no easy feat and requires meeting professionals to consider additional logistics and possibly new technology solutions. Before you get too far into the weeds, here are three questions to answer during the early stages of planning.

    HOW DO WE STAFF A HYBRID CONFERENCE?

    Association meeting pros have long known exactly who they need on their team to execute a flawless in-person event, and the pandemic has taught them how to do the same for virtual conferences. But hybrid meetings will require even more staffing adjustments to make sure attendees have a worthwhile experience, whether they join online or in person.

    In a blog post this month, Bizzabo outlined several key roles to consider making part of your hybrid events team. For example, on the virtual side, they suggest an event technologist to help select the right technology for the event and get the most out of your technology stack, and an executive producer to keep the virtual aspect of your event running smoothly. As for your in-person event team, Bizzabo recommends an onsite technician to make sure microphones and internet connections are working and even a speaking coach who can help your presenters communicate effectively to both audiences.

    DO WE NEED DIFFERENT MARKETING STRATEGIES?

    According to MeetingPlay, organizations should market a hybrid event using the same channels they would use to promote live events. This includes social media, content marketing, email marketing, paid advertising, and so forth.

    However, marketers will need to plan differently when it comes to timing. For example, registration numbers for virtual conferences typically increase dramatically the week before and even past the event’s start date. This is a different trend than what planners typically see with in-person events. To maximize their online audience for a hybrid meeting, associations should consider increasing their marketing efforts the week before the event kicks off.

    HOW DO WE FACILITATE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN IN-PERSON AND VIRTUAL PARTICIPANTS?

    This is a true challenge of hybrid events. After all, it’s easy to see how in-person attendees would wind up chatting with each other during a break between sessions, while virtual attendees might step away from their screens.

    Some ways that organizers have overcome this challenge: putting a screen onstage to allow remote attendees to take part in a presentation and ask questions, hiring a virtual emcee to who collects questions and comments from the remote audience, and handing out tablets to in-person attendees to allow them to have one-on-one chats with virtual participants.

    And, if these connections between audiences can’t be made during the live event, consider using the digital platform as a place for all attendees to connect post-conference. For instance, Michelle Hopewell, regional marketing director at the Duke Energy Convention Center, offered these suggestions to the Northstar Meetings Group blog: “Keep session chats open following the event to create a community resource center and continued networking opportunities,” she said. “[Allow attendees to] trade virtual business cards, and encourage guests to share and create connections based on the virtual meeting.”

    SAMANTHA WHITEHORNE

    Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now


The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

Australian Office:
Address: Unit 6, 26 Navigator Place, Hendra QLD 4011 Australia
Free Call: +61 1300 764 576
Phone: +61 7 3268 7955
Email: info@ausae.org.au

New Zealand Office:
Address: 159 Otonga Rd, Rotorua 3015 New Zealand
Phone: +64 27 249 8677
Email: nzteam@ausae.org.au

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