Archive for the 'Social Media' Category


Navigating Extreme Association Trends

ASAE held its annual Great Ideas Conference in Orlando, FL last month. During that conference, Scott Oser and I had the pleasure of presenting a session titled, “Under Pressure: Navigating Extreme Association Trends.”

More than 50 association executives hailing from across the country attended our session. We were pleased so many of our colleagues were willing to take the plunge, as this session required an extensive amount of audience participation.

Ultimately, the goal was to openly discuss three apparent trends in the association community. They are as follows:

  1. Membership is dead
  2. The demise of face-to-face meetings
  3. The social media imperative

Attendees were led through a series of exercises that allowed them to reflect on what they thought about each trend, how they believed the trend related to their organizations and any action items they might want to explore upon returning home. Fortunately, our colleagues were not shy. Following is a summary of their insights.

sprint-unlimited-my-way-undead-zombie-commercialMembership is dead; or is it?

This so-called trend has been heard loud and clear throughout the association community for years now. Although it’s received a lot of press, there are a number of recent studies indicating that membership in many associations is, in fact, growing.

After reviewing facts supporting both sides of this trend, attendees did not believe that membership is in a desperate state of decay. Rather, attendees agreed that the membership life cycle is changing and lapses in membership, when members leave for a period of time before returning, are becoming more common. They also discussed the need for more personalized membership experiences, requiring more membership data and a more targeted marketing approach. Finally, nearly all participants agreed that if associations understand the needs of their members and have a strong value proposition, the existing membership model is a viable option so long as tweaks are made based on industry needs.

conferenceThe demise (or rather reduction) of face-to-face meetings

Everyone’s professional development budgets are strapped these days and time is limited. We’re all busy; there’s simply no going back. So while our participants indicated a necessary reduction and consolidation of face-to-face meetings to right size the number and type of meetings planned each year, there’s simply no evidence they’ll be canceled altogether (at least not in our lifetime). The reason is simple: networking. In fact, in a global survey of 2,300 Harvard Business Review subscribers, 95% said that face-to-face meetings are both key to successful long-term relationships and to building strong relationships.

We did, however, determine that this shift in the professional development landscape has rightfully encouraged many of us to re-evaluate our face-to-face meetings to ensure exceptional attendee experiences that focus on learning research, supporting the styles and preferences of our attendees. Moreover, there’s a renewed emphases on identifying and offering quality topics and facilitators that meet attendee needs (vs. wants). This has resulted in tighter value propositions and more thoughtful marketing collateral. Many had also explored hybrid conference models (including live streaming, virtual expos and the like) as a means of opening up their associations to new audiences.

Social-Media-Manager-Job-DescriptionThe social media imperative; are you crazy?

The introduction of social media has had a profound impact on the way associations reach their members and customers. In fact, there’s been so much talk about social media and its benefits that you might think failing to allocate marketing resources to social media would justifiably harm your organization. While a good number of associations are using social media to their advantage, there are an equal number of associations that are not. And believe it or not, they exist to tell the tale.

When presented with points and counterpoints to the use of social media, our colleagues did not easily reach consensus. What they did agree on, however, is important: If you are going to use social media, you must have a strategy in place that leverages best practices and you must allocate the appropriate resources to effectively implement your plan. If you are not using social media smartly, or if you are unnecessarily pulling your staff away from other essentials products or services, you may be doing more harm than good. That said, participants seemed to concur that most organizations should have some form of social media presence. At the very least, if a member or a prospective member searched for your organization on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, they should find a link to your website for more information.

Final thoughts

This session was held on the very first day of the conference so we were able to follow-up with participants for the next couple of days. Time and again we heard from our colleagues that they appreciated hearing both sides of each trend. They also enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss with their peers how each trend applied to their unique situations. Many attendees told us that far too often only one side of the issue is presented. Moreover, it’s often implied that going against the grain would somehow result in dire circumstances. Both Scott and I believe this is rarely the case and are very happy we were able to bring attendees together to discuss a number of the most “controversial issues” facing our profession – if only for 75 minutes. More conversations like this need to happen in our organizations before new ideas are implemented if we are to remain viable, solvent organizations in the future.

Tell us: Where do you fall on each of these issues?


Sharing our Great Ideas

The ASAE Great Ideas Conference is right around the corner. If you’ve not attended before, I highly recommend looking into it (if not this year, then next year). The event focuses on creative approaches to everyday issues in association management and is built around the sharing of – you guessed it – great ideas.

Unlike other events, this conference offers a relaxed, but business-oriented environment where you can step back from your day-to-day routine and be exposed to new thinking. Likewise, many of the ideas garnered at this conference can be immediately tweaked and applied to your own organization.

Scott Oser

Scott Oser, president, Scott Oser Associates

During this year’s program I have the good fortune to be speaking with my two favorite Osers – Donna and Scott. Scott Oser is the president of Scott Oser Associates and has more than 17 years of marketing experience in the association and publishing industries. Throughout his career, Scott has excelled in developing, implementing and analyzing multi-channel direct-marketing programs and is highly skilled in creating effective membership, marketing and sales programs.

Together, Scott and I will present:

Under Pressure: Navigating Extreme Association Trends
Sunday, March 9, 2:45 – 4 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Orlando, Plaza D

The session description reads as follows:

Countless authors and thought leaders claim to have identified “The Next Big Association Trend”—the end of the traditional membership model, the demise of the face-to-face meeting, the rise of the social media imperative. It’s confusing to know who to listen to and how it all applies to our organizations. Join us for an open and honest discussion about some of the most highly debated subjects in the industry today. We’ll clear the air about these polarizing association trends and you’ll leave with a simple strategy for evaluating the appropriateness of the next “Big Trend” within the context of your association.

Whether or not you’ll be in Orlando, join the discussion on Twitter by following @aaronwolowiec, @scottoser and the hash tag #ideas14 LO1.

Donna Oser, director of executive search services, Michigan Association of School Boards

Donna Oser, director of executive search services, Michigan Association of School Boards

The second Oser I’ll be speaking with is Donna Oser, CAE. Donna currently serves as the director of executive search services for the Michigan Association of School Boards; however, she also has extensive experience as a management consultant, coach and facilitator and specializes in membership, non-dues revenue and business innovation. We worked together to develop the myLounge concept for ORGPRO in 2013 and have since facilitated a number of presentations together. Some may say we’re kindred spirits.

Together, Donna and I will present:

The Solution Room: Burning Issues Resolved
Monday, March 10, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Orlando, Florida A

The session description reads as follows:

The Solution Room is an innovative framework for knowledge sharing that provides participants with a brief but powerful consulting session on an issue or a topic of their choosing. Participants can expect to walk away with a variety of ideas and resources that can be immediately applied to their greatest workplace or personal challenges. Come prepared to actively participate!

Moreover, session participants will debrief the Solution Room framework and identify its applicability to their own organizations. Once again, you can join the discussion on Twitter by following @aaronwolowiec, @donaoser and the hash tag #ideas14 LO2. Handouts for both sessions will also be available here later this week.

In the meantime, tell us in the comments about a session you’re presenting at Great Ideas – or one you’re particularly interested in attending.


Goodbye e-learning

TechStockPhotoAs a former journalist, I love data. And trend data are even better.

So when I came across “Association Learning + Technology 2014,” a recent report by Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, founders of consulting firm Tagoras, imagine my delight!

Young or old, technology has redefined the way we learn and work. As 8-to-5 days at the office have slowly turned into 24-hour social media networking from the car and virtual meetings during the kids’ soccer practices, social media has filled in the gaps.

“The world of continuing education and professional development has changed dramatically in the past few years,” Cobb and Steele said.  “To meet member needs and stay out in front of the competition, you need to arm yourself with real data targeted to help you grow your programs.”

The 52-page Tagoras report provides such data, which were collected based upon a survey of 200 trade and professional associations. “Association Learning + Technology 2014” is designed to help association leaders strategize for a new learning landscape, while meeting their members’ needs for convenient and quick access to information.

There’s a goldmine of information in the report, which you can get for free if you subscribe to Tagoras’ free e-newsletter.

I’m sure the trends and data provided in the report will provide future blog fodder. But for starters, Cobb and Steele have abandoned the term e-learning and instead use the term technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning.

Nearly all survey respondents – 88.7 percent – indicated they use some form of technology-enabled learning. The most popular form of such learning, according to the report: webinar.

As for social media, 33 percent of respondents reported using YouTube for learning programs, followed closely by Twitter (32 percent). Facebook was next, followed by LinkedIn. Nearly 37 percent of those surveyed indicated they have a mobile learning platform, and live streaming – rather than virtual conferences – seems to be an upcoming trend.

Another key takeaway: The majority of all respondents report technology has increased their revenue from educational offerings, but less than a quarter have a strategy in place to launch new learning platforms.

Cobb and Steel found organizations that consider themselves to be very successful:

  • Report increased net revenue from their education offerings as a result of their use of technology for learning.
  • Have a formal, documented strategy for their use of technology for learning.
  • Have formal, documented product development and pricing processes that cover their technology-enabled and technology-enhanced learning.
  • Offer facilitated online courses, gamified learning, virtual conferences and at least some mobile learning.
  • Use a learning content management system (LCMS).
  • Offer a formal credential (e.g., a certification or license), regardless of whether the credential is their own.

As the association industry transitions into technology-enabled learning, other trends will emerge, the report said. There will be:

  • Growth in implementation of learning platforms and their integration with other key systems, like association management systems.
  • A continued focus on professional instructional design to help ensure educational products are effective.
  • The slowly growing use of social media for learning and increased dabbling in emerging products, like microcredentials and massive courses.
  • An increase in competition that will, in turn, drive experimentation as associations look at how best to deliver more value.
  • The professionalization of the education function overall, as the adoption and integration of sophisticated technologies increase the demand for savvy, experienced leaders in the continuing education and professional development business.
Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

“We want to see more associations develop and use a strategy to guide their use of technology for learning,” Cobb and Steele said. “Gut-level governance can work, but more consistent approaches empower staff all over the org chart.”

While all this may seem overwhelming, “Associations Learning + Technology 2014” is an incredible measurement tool for associations, regardless of size and budget. As associations plan educational programs, sessions and conferences, it’s becoming increasingly important that technology take center stage.

But it’s O.K. to start small. Maybe the answer is a hybrid conference – in-person and live stream. Or maybe it’s establishing a professional group on LinkedIn. Or perhaps smaller associations can establish a YouTube channel and provide “tips of the day.” (By the way, this is a great project for interns, who love to create videos and are social-media savvy.)

The point is: Don’t be afraid to taste technology. And don’t leave your clients and members hungry or with a bitter aftertaste in a world full of ripe and delicious technological treats.

So, tell us, are you embracing technology-enabled learning? How do you incorporate technology into your matrix of educational opportunities?


There’s an app for that

Mobile appsIn this appilicious world, it’s hard not to be addicted to smartphones. From recipes to sports to stocks, it seems there’s an app for everything.

And it’s not just big businesses that have jumped on the app bandwagon. I recently attended an app swap (we public relations professionals are obsessed with new trends) and discovered a Lansing-based mom-and-pop store has joined the app market.

Next year promises to deliver exciting new mobile technology, so when planning digital strategies, associations should consider mobile apps and websites, said Kim Harwood, president of  Results at Hand Software.

“Mobile is a great opportunity to serve your members better with tools and services to meet each member’s need,” she said. “Your association can leverage mobile technology for advocacy, education, member communications and engagement activities. Our whitepaper, ‘Strategic Mobile Trends for Associations in 2014 and Beyond,’ highlights some available tools and trends worth considering so that your association can get the most out of mobile and use it most effectively to engage your constituents.”

Results at Hand develops mobile-centric solutions for associations, events and direct sales organizations. For its newest research project, r@h has designed the 2014 Mobile Readiness Survey to gauge the mobile readiness of associations.  Those who take the short survey will receive a copy of “Strategic Mobile Trends for Associations in 2014 and Beyond” as well as results from the survey.

Based on its research and a recent report from Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research company, Results at Hand has identified 10 mobile trends that will influence the association industry:

  1. Native vs. Web-Based Mobile Apps
  2. Responsive Design
  3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  4. Cloud Storage and the Personal Cloud
  5. Geolocation and Near Field Communication (NFC)
  6. Mobile Payment Systems
  7. Mobile Video
  8. Mobile Advertising
  9. Mobile Security
  10. Event Apps

“An additional growing mobile trend we will hear more about in 2014 is the use of peripheral devices and wearable technology that integrate with mobile phones, such as glasses and watches,” Harwood said. “Given the diversity of mobile devices and mobile accessories, developing strategies that allow and encourage members to use the best tools for them to accomplish their goals will be of increasing importance. Association resources can be a great tool, but only if they work on the devices that association members use daily.”

For this blog post, I read the whitepaper – three times. But since I’m not a techie, I think it’s best to leave the details to the pros. So I encourage you to request it and read it. I think you’ll be amazed at the growth potential these trends offer.

That said, I think it’s especially important to point out trend No. 10, event apps, perhaps because they’re among the most common apps used by associations.

Results at Hand app.

Results at Hand app.

For mobile app newbies, event apps are a good place to start – for things like creating event guides. They reduce printing costs while increasing engagement and fostering networking. And users can easily integrate apps into their social media platforms. (Trend No. 4, cloud storage, is also an incredible cost saving tool. And, it’s not hard. My 11 year old uses it for school every day!)

The current trends in mobile event guides include polling, customizable agendas, gaming, video, contact exchange, geolocation and social media integration, according to the whitepaper. For associations, polling, gaming, CEU tracking and GPS are hot topics that will continue to dominate in 2014.

So as 2013 comes to a close and you plan for 2014, will you incorporate mobile technology into your communication plan?

Whether your IT staff is ready to go or whether you’re just scratching the surface, consider participating in the Results at Hand survey. Research is the first step to designing best practices, and, who knows, you may be more ready than you think.


Extreme trends or the new normal?

ASAE Online Engagement Center

An online engagement center at the 2012 ASAE Annual Meeting. Photo courtesy of ASAE on Flickr.

A couple years ago, I was sitting at my desk when I got a text message from my dentist with an appointment reminder.  So naturally, I checked Facebook, which encouraged me to “like” his page. Yep. Even my dentist has climbed aboard the social media bandwagon.

The truth is, I’m a customer, and these days, I text rather than talk and my smart phone works harder than my laptop. I check news on Twitter and connect with friends on Facebook. Good observation for a dentist, right?

But it’s not just my dentist. It’s my doctor, my employer, my grocery store, my gas station.

Times are changing. And this is how customers operate. In a 24/7 plugged-in  society, businesses need to embrace change and welcome technology.

Some might say this is extreme. But is it?

This month, I’ll be writing about a couple trends that could help associations remain viable – perhaps even become more profitable – in a constantly changing world. I’ll talk to two experts in innovation, Jeff De Cagna, founder of Principled Innovation LLC, and Sarah Sladek, founder of XYZ University. Both strategists have graciously agreed to share some of their much sought-after advice.

De Cagna’s book, “Associations Unorthodox,” may one day redefine association operations. In the e-book, he lists six radical shifts toward the future. Especially of interest to association professionals: Go all in on digital.

De Cagna argues that face-to-face experiences are becoming obsolete.  By offering more digital platforms, associations will better engage and serve their members in the methods they prefer. Gone are the days of 10-page newsletters and here to stay are the days of SMS alerts.

And it seems American Society of Association Executives is listening.

During its annual meeting, which will be held Aug. 3-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, ASAE will engage and connect members – even if they can’t attend physically. For example, ASAE Annual Meeting Daily Now will be blogging about the event. And, by the way, if you want to join the blog roll, you can do so.

The Twittersphere will be buzzing with tweets, Instagram photos and hashtags during the event. You can follow along on Twitter using #asae13  and the handle, asaeannual. Also, ASAE is collecting a list of Twitter handles, and is asking people to join the Twitter roll, even if they don’t plan to attend. And, of course, there’s Flickr.

I’ll ask De Cagna what he thinks about all this, so stay tuned.

Next up will be Sladek. Her book, “The End of Membership as We Know It” explores the new challenges and opportunities facing organizations. Membership isn’t dead, she argues, but associations must look toward the future.

This should be an exciting month of blogging! I know there will be counterarguments and hesitations, but fostering conversation is what this blog is all about. So until next week, I hope you’ll spill it here.

What trends are you noticing? Are you embracing social media? Is there anything you’d like me to ask these two great minds of change?


Advice from the front line: Social technology, engagement and events

I was recently asked by Maddie Grant of SocialFish to answer a handful of questions about social learning. One, in particular, caught my attention. I’m including here both the question and my response. I’d love to see how many people are willing to add their advice (and life experiences) to this post.

What advice do you have for someone trying to incorporate social technology and engagement into:

- the formal online learning programs they manage?

During online learning programs, people try their best to multitask. This means that, realistically, they have only one eye or ear on the webinar. The balance of the time they’re likely checking and responding to email, surfing the Internet, looking over a calendar, drafting a memo or balancing a checkbook – or some combination thereof. The likelihood that you have 100 percent of their attention from start to finish is slim to none. Therefore, the best way to keep participants engaged – and therefore the best way to demonstrate return on learning – is to give them something meaningful and constructive to do throughout the program. This could take the form of a moderated chat (in the online learning platform), a question and answer forum on Facebook or Twitter, bonus content (behind-the-scenes pictures and interviews, as well as ebooks, worksheets, checklists, best practices and the like) pushed out via an online member community, live polling or an interactive technology solution for taking notes. Whatever the approach, ask the participant to do more than just listen.

- an online program to complement a live event? (Or a hybrid event.)

Whether the programs happen simultaneously or consecutively, the key is to bridge the two experiences. The onsite experience is generally most appealing because of the face-to-face engagement and inherent networking opportunities available. However, when those participants attending virtually feel as though they’re a part of the onsite experience, they will likely enjoy the format that much more and find it to be an efficient and effective use of both their time and financial resources. Hybrid events may be complemented by social technology in one or more of the following ways: live audio or video streaming, online presentations, live commentary or transcripts, online chat or discussion forums, live blogs, event photographs, event videos, and the integration of other social media tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

- a face-to-face session or program?

For a face-to-face program, it’s important to complement and enhance the learning with social technology while not allowing the technology to detract from the overall goals and objectives of the event in any way. Because all of the participants are meeting together in a single location, some of the natural hurdles experienced in an online learning program are eliminated. Therefore, don’t use every technology available to you and your team. Rather, select a handful of solutions that will improve the learning environment while still leveraging in-person engagement. (Imagine any teenager glued to the television screen playing video games – or any sports enthusiast intently watching Monday night football. Getting them to sustain a conversation or take a break for dinner is nearly impossible. This should not be your intended outcome during a face-to-face program.)

So, my question to you is this: Respond to one, two or all three. Whatever you do, give us your best advice from the front line on this intersection of social technology, engagement and events.


5 places online you’ll find Event Garde this week

1. Website launch

We’re so proud this week to showcase our new and improved website. Check it out and let us know what you think. From services to clients and from testimonials to social media, it’s all there. Special thanks to the The Image Shoppe for breathing life into this project.

2. Meeting Minds

Following a presentation I delivered for Experience Grand Rapids on justifying conference expenses, writer Cami Reister developed this post chock-full of planner tips. Highlights include my thoughts on controlling costs, maximizing resources and demonstrating conference value.

3. Reno Tahoe Meetings

In this guest post, I discuss why partnering with a CVB is good for business. Included in this piece are no-cost, high-impact ideas for collaborating with a convention and visitors bureau in your next host city. And if that’s not enough, read it for the TripTik reference.

4. Defining statements

On the Just Zubris Weblog, a 2011 post I wrote (What’s your “defining statement”?) was featured as one of 10 entries focused on the topic of defining statements. (Seems as good a time as any to once again plug the book Growing Your Business! by Mark LeBlanc.)

5. Freemium

Finally, my friend Wade Slaghuis (an MBA student at Grand Valley) interviewed me last weekend for a class assignment illuminating the intersection of small businesses and social media (and we all know I’m no stranger to Facebook). This is the product of that interview.


Practice what we preach: Breathing life into curated content

On July 26, I had the good fortune of presenting a webinar for Higher Logic. Titled “Curating Conference Content to Promote Member Engagement,” this session delivered five simple, but effective strategies for curating conference content. A link to the presentation – complete with examples and case studies that may be easily adapted for implementation within your own organization – is available here for download.

During the program, a simple poll question was asked: “Does your organization currently curate content in some way following your major annual meeting?” Here, major annual meeting was defined as the meeting with the largest attendance, the meeting that produces the most revenue or the most strategically important meeting. To my surprise, 73% of attendees (65 voters) said their organization currently does curate content in some way following its major annual meeting.

With such a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon, you can imagine my delight when so many contributed to discussion in the attendee chat box throughout the program. So, I thought I’d conduct a bit of my own content curation and share with you highlights from the webinar chat transcript as yet another example of how organizations can curate content (and, subsequently, add value).

Organized by topic, following are lightly edited participant insights:


  • We have individuals in each room provide input and then develop a blog post or update in a newsletter of what takes place.
  • We offered the 2-3 guest bloggers a comp registration to the conference and require at least 1 post a day. It seemed to work really well and we got a ton of interest for just 2-3 positions. The content that was provided was incredibly meaningful.


  • Reframe the PowerPoint in other ways and post them in our knowledge center.
  • Sharing PowerPoints as PDFs after the conference and executive briefs from concurrent sessions.
  • We also offer speaker handouts for download to attendees (before and after the conference).
  • We send out an e-survey after the conference and offer materials on our website from the conference.

Online community

  • We ask presenters to upload their own session materials to our Connected Community.
  • Offering content from our conference in our e-prof development portal.
  • We are working on goals and measures for our online community.


  • We offer for sale audio and video of conference sessions.
  • Podcasts, videos, meeting materials online.
  • We’re just starting plans to video.
  • We capture synched voice and PowerPoint presentations from sessions, but want to expand to the informal aspects of the conference.
  • We capture audio, video and presentations, and sell them to those who are unable to attend the conference.
  • We also share the videos from our plenary sessions with attendees and our members (when presenter contracts don’t prohibit it).
  • We have materials printed beforehand, and sell videos/materials after, but that is just the packaged product.


  • We’ve been asked by members to begin archiving all tweets related to the convention.
  • We have experience using Twitter Fountain.
  • One conference displayed the Twitter feed during the plenary session.
  • We do live Twitter feeds on large LCD screens spread throughout the conference venue (screens also include housekeeping items like room changes and a general schedule for the day).
  • We add Twitter handles to badges.
  • Have a tweet up with special prizes.
  • We do have a good population that uses Twitter and our conference planning team specifically appoints members before the event to be active on Twitter.


  • We currently offer sessions as webinars after our major events.
  • Have offered concurrent sessions as live webinars;  have the sessions archived for sale afterward.
  • We select key presenters from the conference and have them re-present as webinars post-conference. Our chapters will also ask presenters to come in and re-present.
  • Online learning, recordings of sessions, continuing education opportunities.
  • We’ve actually started working on the marketing campaign for our new on-demand product.

Other insights

  • Because many organizations are steering away from snail mail [see slide 18 in the PowerPoint presentation], your mailing piece is more likely to stand out a little more. It’s easier to delete an electronic piece.
  • Idea swaps would be a terrific idea for our association’s conference… and would lend well to post-conference learning.
  • We’ve been capturing content for some time. We have flyers ready and launch them the day of the seminar.
  • After one chapter event that featured speakers from the conference, we heard from several people they would make attending a conference a priority.
  • I am interested in capturing content that happened live at the event, whether it is during live presentations or conversations/interactions that happen during the live event.


  • It’s always a challenge at my organization to capture takeaways and continue programming after the program ends.
  • We actually started capturing content last year. We did well with repackaging, but the number of sales was lower than we expected.  We’re trying it again this year.
  • We have recorded a session and then used it as a webinar for those who did not attend the conference. It didn’t work well, but it was our first attempt.
  • We plan to have some extra staff members at our conferences to capture content. We need extra people since the organizing staff member is often so busy administering the logistics of the conference!

Among the numerous ideas shared during this webinar, there were also a handful of questions that went unanswered during the Q&A portion of the program. Following are those questions and my responses:

  • How do you measure increase in engagement for events? What are you measuring? [The answer will be different for every organization, and is based upon the goals that you and your leadership team set. It may be higher attendance at the conference overall, it may be a higher percentage of attendees participating in a particular session/event onsite, it may be increased attendee satisfaction or it may be something altogether different – and less measurable or concrete.]
  • What type of feedback is received from non-participants when they get feed from the event? Are they more willing to participate the following year? [Whether they’re willing to participate the following year in-person or not is really of little consequence. If they’re participating at all – live or via the conference feed – they are engaging with your organization. This is a win-win all around. Remember, quality experiences yield loyalty and loyalty yields engagement. Once you've secured engagement, you can expect continued membership, as well as other subsequent purchasing decisions.]
  • How do you encourage attendees to participate in tweeting, posting to Facebook and writing a blog? [I think these are three separate questions – and should be handled differently based upon the characteristics of your target audience. If your audience isn’t active on Twitter, your conference incentives likely won’t be enough to get them engaged. Facebook, on the other hand, is a different story. Die-hard Facebook posters only need a bit of encouragement to share their favorite conference moments. With regard to blogging, see the ideas provided earlier in this post.]
  • Does he suggest having a dedicated person to execute some of these strategies? [If by “he” you are referring to me, then the answer is an emphatic “Yes!” No conference organizer has the time to dedicate to conference curation – at least not onsite. The right number will be different for each organization, though, depending on the breadth and depth of the curation you’d like to facilitate both onsite and post-conference. In addition to curation, you should also consider communication and marketing. It’s not just an “education” responsibility.]
  • We currently have paper evaluations – all electronic evaluations would be disastrous, but can you give me a few concrete actions to take to drive engagement and feedback? [Both the webinar and this blog post speak to concrete engagement examples, so I’ll tackle feedback here. Get testimonials from attendees while you’re at the conference. Record and share these testimonials following the event and when marketing the following year’s conference. Pictures and videos are especially effective. Following the event, hold a focus group to glean additional insights about the attendee experience. Above all else, be sure to actually do something with the information you gather.]

So, my question to you is this: Which of these ideas resonates most with you and your organization? How will you curate conference content during or after your next major annual meeting to promote member engagement? What challenges still exist in effectively sharing (e.g., communicating, marketing, leveraging) curated content with your members?


Curating conference content to promote member engagement

On Thursday, July 26, at 2 p.m. ET, it will be my pleasure to present a webinar of the same name for Higher Logic. You may know that Higher Logic is the leader in social media and collaboration solutions for associations, not-for-profits and member-based organizations worldwide – and, of course, Lauren Wolfe and I go way back as long-time members of ASAE’s Young Association Executive Committee.

Let me set the scene: Your toes are numb from standing for 72 straight hours. You’ve not slept in days. The most food you’ve eaten is a carrot stick from last night’s cocktail hour and half an egg roll. The annual conference finally draws to a close and the last thing on your mind is the resource and content treasures unearthed throughout the event.

Nevertheless, these are the tangible deliverables that can and should be used to optimize existing engagement activities. In addition to driving the development of timely follow-on educational programs, and aiding learners in linking theory (presented at the conference) with practice (challenges encountered on the job), curated content can also support organizational recruitment and retention efforts (by delivering quality products and services that members value).

Undoubtedly, there is a benefit to enriching the onsite conference experience with the addition of exclusive interviews, video, photos, news about the speakers, vendors and entertainment, and live Twitter feeds and Facebook posts. However, what I’m specifically talking about here is curating conference content that already exists.

Whether during breakout sessions, informal hallway conversations, networking breaks, meals, receptions, keynote presentations, special events or on The Back of the Napkin (à la Dan Roam), we can all agree that learning takes place both inside and outside of the traditional classroom. The trick is to capture those nuggets of wisdom, then curate, repackage, repurpose and leverage them.

Following is a high-level overview of the five simple, but effective strategies for curating conference content I’ll share during my July 26 webinar. Examples and case studies presented during this program will help illuminate real life examples that can be immediately implemented within your own organization.

  1. Schedule follow-on education. Popular education sessions could be repeated in person or online, or content previously presented in a breakout session could be teased out into a half-day or full-day program.
  2. Link theory with practice. A curriculum eliciting a call to action requires appropriate follow through and support. Association resources should be deployed to ensure all barriers to implementation are removed and successes celebrated.
  3. Keep the conversation flowing. Online communities could be formed and moderated to continue conference discussions long after the closing keynote session has ended, encouraging opportunities for further engagement and collaboration.
  4. Develop a library of resources. Speakers, vendors, attendees and staff could be invited to transform important topics presented at the conference into valuable resources such as blog posts, newsletter articles, white papers or videos.
  5. Aggregate social media content. Pictures from the event, as well as Facebook updates and Twitter posts from both the official conference feeds and the attendees at-large could be compiled into a meaningful story and shared.

Wow! Even I’m impressed. So, mark your calendar for July 26, 2-3 p.m. ET, and don’t forget to register (at no cost) by clicking here. By the way, if you’re still not convinced this will be worth your time, you may be interested to know that those attending live will be entered for a chance to win a complimentary 30-minute consultation with Event Garde LLC. Additionally, all participants will receive one CAE credit hour for their full participation in this live webinar.

In the meantime, my question to you is this: What would you add to my list of top five strategies for effectively curating conference content? What have you found to be most useful/beneficial in your own organization? As members of other industry organizations, what have you seen or experienced that’s uniquely piqued your interest?


What my 60 year old father reminds us about Facebook

This is my dad with his granddaughter (my niece), Bella, during a visit to North Carolina.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my dad doesn’t actually turn 60 until this October. Nevertheless, he’s nearly hit this extraordinary milestone, so I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.

The story, itself, is pretty simple. I was traveling from Grand Rapids to Lansing yesterday in my mobile office. As is generally the case, I took this opportunity to call my mom for one of our weekly gab sessions. You know how those calls go: “Here’s everything important that’s happened in my life since last week,” and vice versa.

By the way, my sister and I both have a proclivity for doing this – and yes, mom, we know it makes you crazy, but it doesn’t mean we love you any less. I’ll take a moment here to publicly blame it on generational differences. Right or wrong, outside of client engagements, I generally text or Facebook or Tweet or LinkedIn way more than I actually pick up the phone to “catch up” with someone.

Anyway, I mentioned to my mother how surprised I was that:

  1. Dad set up a Facebook account.
  2. Dad and I were now friends on Facebook.
  3. Dad responded to a Facebook status update.
  4. Dad “liked” a Facebook status update.
  5. Dad “liked” my Facebook business page.

I’m surprised not because of my dad’s support. Rather, I’m surprised because prevailing assumptions in the association community is that Baby Boomers either aren’t on social media platforms or aren’t actively engaged with us in those spaces.

Certainly, my dad could be an outlier, but I don’t believe that to be the case. In fact, I think there are a number of people out there – just like my dad – who are beginning to take the leap. The only problem is that we’re not providing these individuals with the support they need to be successful in our online communities – and, more importantly, we’re not giving them unique, valuable content.

Here’s what I mean:

  • My dad needed help. So do your members. My dad just this year got an iPhone. I don’t even have an iPhone (I’m a loyal Droid fan). He’s certainly interested in experimenting with all of the features of his new phone, but the sales reps at his store only have so much patience and it’s not likely he’ll Google or YouTube directions. That’s where you can step in. A simple social media kit identifying which social media platforms your organization is on, as well as very basic tips, tricks and best practices for actively engaging with others in these communities.
  • My dad is watching. So are your members. Whether they’re still actively engaged in the workforce, have long since retired, have received life membership with your organization or volunteer for your cause a couple of hours a month, most associations have a subset of Baby Boomers they’ve written off when it comes to social media. I hear it time and time again: “They’re just not interested,” or “We’re not reaching them.” I think these are myths – and I think it comes down to sharing appropriate and informative content with this demographic.

Following are a few additional thoughts that have bubbled up for me since chatting with my mom:

  1. Know what social media platforms your members, volunteers, speakers, advocates and supporters are using – and don’t be surprised to find them there. With a steady stream of updates and valuable content, as well as an approachable identity, Facebook can be an important mechanism for membership development, sponsorship procurement, attendance building, reminiscing, recommending and more. (The sky really is the limit.)
  2. My dad has nothing but time on his hands. Yes, he is retired. And, yes, he still works full-time to stay busy (the man could not sit still for any extended period of time if his life depended on it). Nevertheless, he still has time to check Facebook and engage with his peers. Won’t you please set him up for success?
  3. Believe it or not, my Dad is using his iPhone to check Facebook posts, updates, news and information. I was sure he was using the computer, but that’s just not the case. My mom claims he hasn’t even turned the thing on in two weeks or more. This has strong implications for your website, as well. If it’s not yet mobile-friendly, it’s time to start moving in that direction.
  4. With a little help and the right content, I think there’s an entire group of individuals out there who are, first and foremost, loyal to a fault. In many cases, they’re either new to the idea of online communities or they just haven’t been actively engaged with their professional associations in this space. A little resources could go a long way to developing your fan base. Ultimately, I think you’ll find a pretty significant return on your investment.

So, my question to you is this: Has your organization found this Baby Boomer presence online? What have you found most successful in actively engaging this important demographic? What outcomes have you experienced as a result of this renewed commitment to more seasoned veterans like my dad?

meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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