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Dana's Meeting Minutes: Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Saal Meeting Consulting, Friday, February 17, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017


Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners


Meeting success requires writing, not just thinking about, why you’re planning your meeting. These, of course, are your objectives and they serve two purposes to:

1. Tell you what to plan.

2. Tell you what not to plan.

Number 2 might be surprising, but objectives provide you with a great way to keep you (and those over-zealous volunteers!) from straying into the Meeting Planning Vortex. (see my definition; click here)

Tip #1

Write objectives that address stakeholders, the association and the industry.

Consider all the reasons you’re planning your meeting from making $xx (be specific) to creating a place where industry professionals can laugh together. Yes, that can be an objective if that is really your goal. Consider how your meeting benefits the industry and various stakeholders to help focus your thoughts. Also consider how your budget might influence your objectives.

Tip #2

Write objectives for every meeting, even the oldies, but goodies.

Writing objectives for a repeat meeting, the 132nd Annual, for example, might seem unnecessary. You’re having the meeting because the association has had one for the past 131 years for heaven’s sake! That meeting needs written objectives just as much as a new meeting does.

Tip #3

Just say NO to projects, tasks and other distractions that do not fulfill the objectives.

When someone wants you to “just do one more ______ (fill in the blank),” blame those objectives, just say NO and remind them why you must stick with fulfilling objectives.

One Awesome Idea

Do it yourself to get it done quickly.

Instead of asking your planning committee to write the objectives, you write at least three and ask them to fine-tune them. You probably know them better than they do anyway and it will save you lots of time.

Want More?

To learn exactly how to write objectives, check out a blog by Courtney Muehlmeier of TEAMINGS Successful Meetings. (



Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website! (

Tags:  meeting planners  meeting tips  meetings 

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Using Monthly Themes to Connect with Elected Officials

Posted By Jeff Tippett Professional Speaker • Entrepreneur • Activator , Friday, February 10, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017

With any relationship, frequency of engagement is important to continue growing the relationship. The same holds true for groups that need to stay in front of elected officials. But a group needs a reason, something new, or something different to say when booking meetings. And with every month having a unique theme, why not explore using these themes to get back in front of elected officials. We recently did just that during Hispanic Heritage month as we honored the contributions Hispanic restaurateurs have made within the City of Raleigh, NC.

A Targeted Persuasion client that wanted to ensure elected officials were aware of the ways in which restaurants have helped Hispanic people to succeed both culturally and economically. Whether it’s someone’s first job, how they pay their way through school, or a dream come true of owning their own business, restaurants are an industry of opportunity.

To demonstrate the role restaurants play in our culture and economy, we asked the City of Raleigh to issue an official proclamation recognizing September 15 through October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. We also identified a local restaurateur whose family moved to Raleigh decades ago and founded several successful Mexican restaurants.That restaurateur attended the city council meeting where the mayor read the proclamation and accepted a souvenir copy of it from her. In his remarks, the restaurateur thanked the council for making Raleigh such a welcoming place for his family and such a fertile place for his business. To cap it all off, he even gave one of the councilors a birthday gift that symbolizes the blending of his Hispanic heritage with Southern culture; a t-shirt that reads “hola, y’all.”

By taking the opportunity of Hispanic Heritage Month to get the city to issue a proclamation, we were able to highlight how important the Hispanic community is to our city, how good the city is for business and how well the restaurant industry provides economic opportunity to people. It was a great experience for everyone involved and the councilor even tweeted at the restaurateur after the meeting to thank him for the shirt. Sometimes simple gestures go a long way.


About Jeff Tippett

I’m happiest when making things happen, exploring uncharted territory, and connecting people. And I live these out through speaking professionally, leading a communications firm, and engaging with my local community. 

As a professional speaker, I seek to connect with attendees. As important as providing stellar content is, making a connection and inspiring are also top priorities for me. As a result, when attendees leave my seminars, they often reflect that my contagious energy and passion motivates them while my industry knowledge provides the solid information they are seeking. 

In October 2014, after over a decade of award-winning work in advertising, marketing, and public relations, I launched the North Carolina communications firm Targeted Persuasion. The firm found early success through signing clients from the local to international level. Since then, the Targeted Persuasion team has built a solid track record of leading organizations, businesses, and political campaigns to success. 

I have worked on political campaigns ranging from municipal to congressional races, led successful ballot initiatives, and created and implemented grassroots campaigns designed to shape public policy. My industry work includes biotech/pharma, higher education, hospitality, healthcare, and luxury real estate. 

I remain committed to my local community having served on boards and committees like the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, Shop Local Raleigh/Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, and StepUp Ministry. 

As much as I value all these aspects of my life, my greatest love is my three teenage kids. When I’m not with them or helping clients win, you can find me working out in the gym, training for and running half marathons, or playing the piano on stage. 

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Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Saal Meeting Consulting, Friday, February 3, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017

Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Planners

Welcome to Dana’s Meeting Minutes! Every other week I will share Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Association Planners. Wow!

Each blog will stand alone, but will also build on the previous blogs. I will give you actionable ideas that will make your job easier, impress your stakeholders, and/or make your participants say, “I love that!”

Most installments will be short and concise. I will provide links to additional resources, including other planners’ great ideas, just in case you want to learn more about a topic.

I’ll start by introducing you to THE MEETING PLANNING TRIANGLE©, a simple way to plan new and critique existing association meetings.

Its strength is centered on your meeting’s well-written objectives that will guide decision-making in three key areas: 1. Target Audience 2. Meeting Design and 3. Participant Experience.

Click here to download The Meeting Planning Triangle.


Objectives are the foundation for your meeting and provide guidance and instruction for planning it. Planning without objectives is like building without blueprints. You have no directions to follow! I’ll share tips about objectives next time.


This is the basic structure of your meeting: where you’re having it, when you’re having it, and what you’re doing once you’re there. For example, your meeting is in Chicago (location); starting on a Thursday, ending on a Sunday in the spring (timing); and includes breakout sessions, special events, and exhibits (SOE). Of course the schedule of events (SOE) will be very detailed; just go with this for the example.


Planning a participant experience is based on the understanding that how a participant feels about being at your meeting influences how s/he rates his/her return on investment (ROI) and desire to return in the future.

All meeting aspects will fall under one of the three areas. The areas where they merge is where you fine-tune your planning. If you stick with me, you will gather tips about all aspects.

You may notice one major missing aspect—the budget. It is not a focus area because it influences each area in its own way. I will remind you to remember your budget as you consider my tips and awesome ideas in each blog.



Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website! (


Saal Meeting Consulting

Designing and Transforming Meetings


 Attached Files:

Tags:  event design  meeting planners  meetings 

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Falling Into A Rut

Posted By Chuck Suritz, MBA, Founder and CEO of Association Innovate, Friday, December 2, 2016

Posted by: Chuck Suritz, M.B.A. --- more than 35 years of experience working for associations and medical societies. Presently, Founder and CEO of Association Innovate---a company that helps associations get better and stay relevant.

It is so easy for an association to fall into a rut and stay there.  You’ve heard it before:

“We’ve always done it this way.”  “Don’t fix it, if it is not broken.”

It is too easy to be comfortable with the status quo. Everyone feels safer about performing in areas that they have already displayed competency.

But in today’s world, dozens, if not hundreds, of companies and individuals are vying for the attention of your members, 365 days a week, 24 hours a day.  Your relevancy is constantly being challenged. 

And that is why to survive and thrive in today’s Internet world, an association must be in the mode of “Kaizen”-----continuous improvement. Kaizen is a concept introduced by the Japanese.

It has been said that the only people who like change are babies in diapers. Change should be embraced and not feared.

Here are some tips for implementing this mindset:

1.     Question current practices. No activity should be excluded from consideration.

2.     Seek the wisdom of 10 people and not the knowledge of one. The collective wisdom of a large group of people always trumps one.

3.     Don’t seek perfection, but get better.  Perfection causes the death of many potentially useful ideas. 

4.     Focus on the outcome and not why it cannot be done. Naysayers are everywhere, looking to find why something can’t be done. 

5.     Ask “why?”  five times when solving a problem to get deeper into the cause.

This process minimizes what are apparently easy solutions to tough problems.

6.     Make it clear through all of your communications to your staff that your association values new ideas. Everyone on your staff is capable of creative thought, and should not be denied contribution opportunities because of job title.

7.     Don’t fear failure.  Instead, fail quickly, making changes based on your experience, and try again. Then repeat; then repeat.

8.     Don’t create a suggestion box. Instead, require each employee to critically review their job responsibilities at least every quarter, and share their insights and recommendations.  If you wait for people to volunteer ideas, it won’t happen because everyone is caught up in completing their day-to-day responsibilities.

9.     Every job description should contain a requirement for generating new ideas.

The onboarding process is an opportunity to quickly establish the mindset of continuous improvement.

Keep your association and your staff from falling into a rut.  Create a culture of innovation, and make sure all of your communicated goals are measurable. If you can’t measure them, then you cannot manage them.

Chuck Suritz has invested more than 35 years of his life working for associations and medical societies, in the areas of marketing, public relations, membership, strategic planning and education. You can visit his company’s website at  or email him at  .


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One Big Lesson After Two Years on the Job: Do Less

Posted By Ed Wojcicki, Executive Director, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Friday, November 18, 2016
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2016

By Ed Wojcicki

When I was interviewing for my current position two years ago, I made an observation to the search committee about our association’s programming. The website listed 23 programs and activities, and I said I’m sure you don’t have 23 programs. That couldn’t be true, with your staff of four and modest budget.  So I asked which of the 23 really matter.

I no longer remember the answer, but I do believe, after two years on the job, the one discipline it takes to be a successful membership association manager: Do less. Not “Do more with less” or “Do less with less” or “Spend less time working.” Just this: Do less.

For your own sake and for the sake of your association.

The biggest question becomes how to decide what not to do and what to stop doing. Some experts would say “Set goals” and “Prioritize.” Not bad advice, but those words seem too tired to be helpful in the office.

Instead, I think about this: What questions are my members asking about their profession and their own careers, and how can my association uniquely address those questions? To find out what they’re asking, I ask them in person and in member surveys.

At a recent formal planning meeting, some of my board members said they want more members to be more involved in the association. My response was this: I don’t think about getting more members involved. I think about adding value to their lives, careers, and profession, and if we can do a few things that make us worthy of their time, they will be more attracted to the association and what we have to offer.

It turns out my members want two things, programmatically, more than anything else. First is professional development and training, and second is up-to-date information about legislation affecting policing. Believe me, in this climate, there is a lot of legislation trying to dictate to police what they ought to be doing, from learning cultural competency to using less lethal force to not prying on citizens with drones.

With a full-time staff of three instead of four now, as well as the addition of two part-time staff, I’m having the time of my life. I’m focused on providing value to my members with professional development, training, and useful legislative updates. That’s not all I do, because some days there are light bulbs to change (we own our building) and policies to review, and every day there are emails to answer. Not to mention being responsive to inquiries from staff, members, and the media.

I admit that I feel stress from not saying yes to every good idea that comes along, and I feel uncomfortable disappointing people, even members, by not saying yes more often. And I have learned, contrary to experts’ advice, that I don’t have to respond immediately to every email and phone call that comes in. Members are forgiving in that regard because they’re busy people, too. But at the same time, I honestly remind members what our priorities are and I do stay in touch with them.

The reward from the focus on doing less is monumental: my board of directors and many members feel excited because they believe in the association’s top priorities and so they think we’re moving in the right direction. And that’s the point, even though we still might list 23 programs on our website. Or 27. I’d have to check. I haven’t had a chance to update that.

Ed Wojcicki of Springfield is executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and formerly worked in administration and at Illinois Issues at the University of Illinois Springfield.

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Pokémon Go: An Association Game Changer?

Posted By Heather Swink, CAE, MA, Content Strategist, .orgSource, Friday, August 26, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, August 10, 2016

We all know Pokémon Go is a monster hit (pardon the pun). Two days after launch, it was downloaded on more phones than the dating app Tinder. More people were using it than Twitter. Users were on it longer each day than they were on Facebook. It’s the biggest mobile app game ever in the United States. How can your association use the Pokémon mania to its advantage? Or, rather, should it?

A Go or No-Go? Consult Your Strategy

First, you must consider whether Pokémon Go—or any breakthrough technology—fits in with your association’s big-picture priorities, supporting structures and processes. You want to avoid attempting to adopt or embrace the latest technology craze unless it aligns with your organization’s overall strategy. That’s the key to great technology management—choosing which changes to absorb based on strategy.

That’s the key to great technology management—choosing which changes to absorb based on strategy.

If you decide Pokémon Go is a fit for your association, here are some ideas for customer engagement and brand awareness:

  • Consider holding your next event somewhere that features a Pokéstop (a place pre-loaded within the app where users can gather “battle supplies”)
  • Purchase a lure module to add to the Pokéstop of your next location to entice more players. Lures last for 30 minutes and cost about $1 each.
  • Brainstorm how to incorporate the game into your education or networking program, e.g., host meetups of different teams, create a competition to catch the highest-level Pokémon character over the duration of your event, or design a non-digital version of the game that’ll attract attendees to your exhibitors. Offer points and rewards for each activity.
  • Take advantage of your constituents’ increased knowledge of augmented reality apps and embed AR into your various multimedia, social media, and print resources.
  • Request to add your headquarters, chapter site or meeting venue as a Pokéstop or sponsor a location on a cost-per-visit basis (an offering that is in the works by Niantic, Pokémon Go’s developer).

Prepare for What’s Next

Pokémon Go is the hot, new craze—and we’ve discussed some ways to take advantage of it. But how can your organization prepare for the next waves of technology?

Start with a digital readiness assessment. Uncover the digital barriers for your organization’s progress by asking:

  • Are our existing products and services digitized?
  • Can we consider new digital marketing channels?
  • Can we analyze customer data?
  • Are our systems integrated?
  • Do we have policies and business practices to adapt to the changes digital will bring?
  • How much opportunity is there for the organization to gain a competitive advantage?
  • Do our employees have the necessary, relevant skill sets?
  • Do we have the right resources—budget, people, time?
  • What commitments have been made to the board?
  • Do we have a culture that supports innovation and change?

Technology is changing faster than organizations can absorb change. So you must rely on your strategy to choose what digital initiatives to embrace. Your strategy should be a collaborative, cross-team effort and data-driven. It should consist of a single, organized list of agreed-upon priorities and the technical requirement needs to accomplish each. Then you can determine process—the means and methods to effectively and efficiently deliver on the strategy.

Need help assessing your digital readiness or forming a digital strategy? Call upon .orgSource (, leaders in IT and digital strategies for more than 11 years.

- See more at:

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What 600 Associations Say About Their AMS

Posted By Heather Swink, CAE, MA, Content Strategist, .orgSource, Friday, August 19, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Association management software/systems are arguably organizations’ largest technology investment. They provide membership organizations with vital functionality for delivering member services, and serve multiple business purposes—from operating as the core system of record to event and learning management, email marketing campaigns, and much more.

So why, then, are only half of AMS users satisfied with their current solution, according to ReviewMyAMS?

First, Founder Teri Carden says the fact that half of AMS users recommend their AMS is a positive thing—that it debunks the notion “everyone” is unsatisfied with their AMS.

“But there is room for improvement,” Carden told approximately 75 attendees of the “What 600 Associations Say About Their AMS” webinar on July 28, produced by .orgCommunity. The average AMS receives a 12.5 rating out of a possible 20-point rating in terms of customer service, customization, ease of use, and reliability, according to—on which almost 600 reviews of 56 major AMS providers have been posted.

Why such a low average rating? Because, Carden says, frustrated users complain their AMS systems don’t provide adequate reporting or training, and don’t match organizations’ member models.

What can be done?

  • Ask your AMS provider for help
  • Establish training expectations—and flexibility
  • Thoroughly investigate vendors—and your organization’s operations
  • Integrate vs. customize
  • Share AMS successes and failures

Ask your AMS provider for help. In many cases, it’s that simple, Carden says. In other instances, it’s investigating and establishing training and member-model fit up front—and possibly even making overdue operations adjustments.

“Ask your vendor for help before assuming the system can or can’t do something,” Carden says. For instance, many users say they can’t get the reports they want—but the actual issue is they don’t know where to find them.

Establish training expectations—and flexibility. Training also shouldn’t just happen at the time the system or software is adopted. Organizations need to budget time and money each year in order to stay abreast of system changes and updates. Often times AMS staff will send their clients emails about additional training (convenient webinars or offers for in-person education), but frequently these emails are missed—or dismissed. Carden recommends addressing continual training up front with the vendor, and also being flexible to take advantage of training whenever new developments or enhancements are rolled out by the AMS.

Thoroughly investigate vendors—and your organization’s operations. A member-model mismatch may be avoided if key staff establish AMS core functionality “deal breakers” before a system is adopted, Carden advises. During your selection process, ensure the vendor shows you exactly how their system fits with your membership structure.

Also, take time to evaluate whether the issue is with the AMS or your model.

“You may need to take a hard look at your organization. For example, ask whether you really need a dues structure that’s arranged the way it is…and adjust processes as it makes sense,” Carden says.

Integrate vs. customize. Lastly, keep in mind that one vendor can’t—and shouldn’t— do it all. “The pendulum is swinging from systems that do it all to systems of core competency [event management, learning management, email marketing] with successful integrations to AMS,” Carden says. There are many business intelligence tools with functionality that an AMS just can’t replicate, for example. So why settle? Use both—just make sure they integrate well to provide the results you need.  

Newer AMS users are less interested in customization, and more interested in system integrations—and rightly so, according to Carden.

So when evaluating an AMS, consider all the other systems your organization has and whether the AMS fits from an integration standpoint.

Share AMS successes and failures. Have an AMS success or failure you are willing to share? By revealing your AMS experiences, you will help ensure the systems delivering the best products and services rise to the top.

Continue the Conversation: Attend the AMS Fest Sept. 15-16 in Washington, D.C., to engage with AMS consultants and vendors as well as association executives on AMS experiences, solutions, trends, new systems, and more.

Looking to expand your network or access association management resources like project management, content strategy, online learning, and digital transformation? Join .orgCommunity!

- See more at:

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7 Signs You're Due for a Communications Audit

Posted By Heather Swink, CAE, MA, Content Strategist, .orgSource, Friday, August 12, 2016
Updated: Monday, July 25, 2016

7 Signs You're Due for a Communications Audit

Ever wonder whether your organization’s communications are on the mark with customers--and with the times? Do you ever finish writing or reviewing content and question: What’s in it for the members? Why should they care?

Consider the communications audit: an assessment of the effectiveness of current content, formats, and frequency. Through qualitative and quantitative measures, communication audits help drive what content to publish, to whom, when, where, how and why.

Is now the right time to take a critical look at your content? Here are seven signs that point to “yes”:

  • More opt-outs and fewer click-throughs in your electronic communications.
  • Lack of an active following on social media, and social media postings are sporadic.
  • Certain audiences are under-represented, and feel content isn’t applicable to them or written at their level.
  • No design cohesiveness, making it difficult to know whether communications are coming from the same organization.
  • Constituents receive more than 3 emails each week from your organization.
  • Users complain that your website is difficult to access and navigate.
  • The last content audit your organization conducted included a print newsletter.

So, you determine it is indeed time for an audit. What’s next? There are two considerations:

  1. What communications will you evaluate?
  2. What are your methods and filters you will use to evaluate these communications?

Ideally, you will audit all content—from print publications to e-newsletters, websites, social media, community forums, demo videos, case studies, webinars, guides, ebooks, infographics, news releases, and more. And you will do so through qualitative and quantitative measures—from focus groups to member surveys, Google Analytics to industry best practices.

You will probe what information is most relevant, effective, and unique as well as uncover information voids. You will learn about customers’ format and delivery preferences, and what you want their opinions of your content and communications to be. You will solidify how to keep from over-communicating and overloading as well as ensure brand consistency in design and voice. You will understand how your communications compare to benchmarks and best practices.

Did you know that .orgSource performs communications audits for clients? Some outcomes for these organizations include: publication redesigns, consolidation of communications, allocation and development of the proper communications resources, among other enhancements.

For a customized audit of your organization’s communications, contact And learn more about all our content services, tools and tips—from audit to analysis and strategy to implementation. 

- See more at:

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My Event is Underperforming Part 3

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Friday, August 5, 2016
Updated: Thursday, June 2, 2016

Resources for Parallel Development, a.k.a. borrowing the best ideas

Last month’s article, Simple and Impactful Changes to Abate Shrinking Attendance, offered ways to stimulate registration. Previously, Shrinking Attendance? challenged you to honestly examine key event areas.

I conclude with resources to inspire and educate. Yes, some are obvious, but as long-time pros, we occasionally forget the obvious.

Industry Publications

There are more publications (paper, digital) than we can each month. However, they are valuable for staying current with trends and technology.

  • Identify your key areas (e.g. exhibit management, corporate meetings) and subscribe to appropriate publications.
  • Read them. 
  • For future reference, bookmark articles by subtopic. Easy to find, easy to delete when outdated.

Others’ Events

  • Attend meetings to observe the attendee experience as an outsider. Choose meetings of similar size, but in different industries. e.g. you plan medical; attend one for educators. Invite the other planner to do the same and exchange constructive criticisms.
  • Attend meeting industry events to remember how it feels to be an attendee. It makes you empathetic toward participants who wait in lines, discover empty coffee pots and eat food they didn’t choose. 
  • It is very easy to become a planner who knows only his/her meeting. That limits you.

Other Planners

  • Stay connected with other planners in person, via social media, and as buddies who toss ideas back and forth.
  • Increase Google search success by using specific search terms. It works; I got 18,200,000 results for “How to create an event marketing plan that excites.”

Connecting and continuing education will always be fruitful sources. 

Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been a meeting professional since 1986. She is an expert in the design and execution of association meetings, with a record of increased participant satisfaction and registrations. She designs training programs, meetings and conventions for associations, specializing in helping associations rejuvenate underperforming events that target audiences want to attend and are profitable for the stakeholders. 


Tags:  convention  events 

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What Associations Need to Lead & Succeed in ‘Digital’

Posted By Heather Swink, CAE, MA, Content Strategist, .orgSource, Friday, July 29, 2016
Updated: Monday, July 25, 2016

Thanks to digital advancements, business as usual is no longer an option for associations. Not evolving means not surviving. But how exactly can associations transform and thrive in the digital age?

“Association leaders must use digital to change not just ‘how’ but also ‘what’ you do in your jobs,” says Sharon Rice, principal of Art of Planning Consulting and APICS’ former vice president of strategy, at the “Leading Digital: From Strategy to Executive” program July 19 at Rosemont’s OLC Education & Conference Center.

During the interactive program, produced by .orgCommunity and sponsored by Adage Technologies, facilitators addressed what’s driving digital change and proven ways for associations to successfully lead and respond to digital shifts.

Digital Disruptions Impacting Associations

Social media is the force driving change, according to Rice. In the past, associations represented the largest communities of professionals—but not today. In fact, U.S. digital platforms rival the size of entire nations:

  • LinkedIn has 433 million users, which is greater than the population of the entire South American continent
  • Facebook has more than 1.5 billion monthly active users—more than China’s population of 1.35 billion and India’s population of 1.29 billion
  • Twitter has more than 310 million monthly active users, which is approximately the same as the U.S.’s population

LinkedIn is “the” association disruptor, Rice says. Consider that LinkedIn reached a revenue base of $861 million at the end of Q2 2016, 65 percent of which, according to LinkedIn, supports career development. As several participants pointed out during the seminar, professionals feel they have to be a member of LinkedIn whether they benefit directly from services or not. It has become a professional mandate in the way that association membership was a professional mandate in the past.

“Social media is a force that’s driving change, not just a tool we’re trying to leverage,” Rice says. She adds that social platforms engage users to recruit other users to enhance their own benefit, they spread news and information more quickly than traditional media, and are adept at monetizing products, services, and data.

“You can actually get to know your customers better on social platforms than through your AMS or CMS,” Rice adds. “You will learn more about what motivates them, how your customers leverage social media and communities to learn.”

Where do associations land on the trajectory of digital disruption? Although associations are not included in the “digital vortex” graphic analysis as provided by the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, IMD and Cisco in 2015, aspects of association business are reflected in education, media and entertainment, as well as hospitality and travel industries. Also, associations represent all these industries and the professionals that support them.

“Digital vortex” is the inevitable movement of industries toward a “digital center” in which business models, offerings, and value chains are digitized to the maximum extent possible. The industries charted are most likely to experience the most disruption by 2020. As industries are drawn toward the center they are caught up in rapid and constant change as well as increasing competition.

Digital Strategy: 4 Essential Components

The key to a successful strategy at all of these stages is asking the right questions, Rice says. Adapting a Forrester planning framework, associations addressing digital transformation should seek answers to the following questions:

  1. Conceptualize. How can digital transformation ensure the sustainability of the organization? Why is a digital strategy necessary? What is your vision? What are you seeking to accomplish?
  2. Strategize. What is the plan for enabling digital transformation of the organization? How will you leverage digital to transform your organization? What capabilities do you have and what do you need to develop? What is your digital transformation roadmap?
  3. Actualize. What specifically will need to be done to enable digital transformation? How will you align the organization’s culture to the digital transformation plan? What processes must change or be optimized? What technology do you need to support the plan?
  4. Maximize. What should be measured to ensure success and continuously improve outcomes? How will you align staff performance goals to the plan? What metrics or benchmarks will you use to measure the effectiveness of the plan and implementation? How will you ensure that your organization not only improves but innovates?

“The conceptualization, or vision, is the most important step. That’s what determines whether you’re going to go big or go targeted,” Rice says. “Here, you determine what it is you need to do to continue to be in business and meet customers’ needs. It’s about identifying not just how to survive but thrive in the current environment.”

Rice says if you are struggling to create the vision, she recommends the “customer-facing digital strategy foundation.” First, you determine the audiences you want to build, then how you will engage these audiences and, finally, how you will monetize these audiences.

“You need to establish yourself with these audiences before you can take them where you want them to go,” Rice says.

Once you reach your target audiences, you must determine how to engage them. “That’s where content strategy comes into play,” Rice says. “Once you can convince your audiences you have credibility and have something they want, then you can monetize.”

Role of Project Management

Dean Comber, MBA, PMP, director of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists’ project management office (PMO), explains why establishing a PMO helps advance leadership and quality.

By adding a PMO, associations can reduce silos and greatly improve upon communication as projects are centralized and prioritized. Organizations can better align strategic objectives to projects instead of solving problems based on “we’ve always done it that way.”

A PMO also adds consistency in process, templates and systems. A PMO establishes an approach for analyzing lessons learned, implementing best practices, and striving toward improved quality.

Rethinking Traditional IT

.orgCommunity Co-Founder Kevin Ordonez emphasized the importance of information technology staff being key collaborators to an organization’s success. He also addressed trends and new skills needed for today’s association IT professional. These include:

  • Change from coding to managing vendors/cloud
  • Change from production to considering the user experience
  • Change from reports to understanding an association’s business in order to help make data-driven decisions for the organization
  • Change from “operating in a cube doing projects” to collaboration

Ordonez also noted that today’s IT leader must be:

  • Fast and decisive
  • Viewed as an enabler of progress and change
  • Considered a “strategic resource”
  • A collaborator
  • A great communicator

An IT leader also requires autonomy and must focus on customer support, the user experience and business analytics in order to be effective.

Continue the Conversation: How well is your association positioned to meet the challenges and opportunities of the digital age? Please share with the community how you are leveraging digital as a leader and as an organization.

Join .orgCommunity, where forward-thinking association leaders go to get solutions, peer-to-peer networking and inspiration. Engage in this trusted network by participating in online discussion groups, webinars, in-person events and mentoring opportunities! Contact for information.

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