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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.

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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!

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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. 

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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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Prepare for the Next Technology Wave: DISRUPT

Posted By Sherry Budziak, Founder and CEO of .orgSource, Friday, July 15, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Prepare for the Next Technology Wave: DISRUPT

Technology advancements are changing everything. Consider these current and future realities:

  • Robotics are and will continue taking over some current jobs, allowing us to discover new ones.

  • Many organizations are trading traditional offices and headquarters for virtual environments.

  • Books, libraries, movies, videos, games and education will change as more individuals become “people of the screens”—tethered to their phones, tablets, PCs, TVs, VR goggles.

  • More global freelancers are being hired.

  • Citizen journalism is increasing—ordinary people are composing 80 million blog posts each day.

  • Everything that can be tracked will be. In the next five years, 34 million Internet-enabled devices will be added to the cloud that are built to stream data.

  • By 2025, there will be 500 billion connected devices in the world. In the next five years alone, there will be 3 billion to 5 billion new people connected to the Internet.

How can your organization prepare for and take advantage of these new realities and next waves of technology? By adopting the “D.I.S.R.U.P.T.” mindset:

  • Discipline in Execution. Offering a competitive advantage means having a clear path to delivering upon current and new initiatives. It means having the right people, processes and technology that are integrated and working together for your organization and its customers.

  • Immediacy. You must constantly consider what may be the next disruptor in your industry—and what your organization will do about it from a staff and operations perspective. Your organization must be agile.

  • Service/Product Needs. It’s not enough to know your customers’ current needs—you also must anticipate their future ones.

  • Reinforce Value. There is only one “you.” So what’s your competitive advantage? What are you providing that is unique and valuable that your customers can’t get anywhere else?

  • User Experience. Are you delivering information when and how your customers want it? Are you routinely auditing your technology infrastructure to determine what may be obsolete  in a few years (desktops printers, fax machines, in-house servers) and what you will replace them with (tablets, scanners, cloud)?

  • Personalization. What separates good from great organizations are ones that are extremely customer-focused. What high-quality offerings are you offering to each target audience? And are you authentic in your delivery?

  • Talent & Culture. Develop a strategy to keep your staff’s skill-sets relevant. How is staff staying abreast of technology changes so your organization is equipped to adapt? Is staff able to constantly learn and update their thinking to keep pace? Consider whether your culture is open to innovative conversations among staff.

At .orgSource, we study disruptive technology for a living. I personally helped create one of the first—if not the first—website, assisted organizations in preparing for and transcending Y2K, advised organizations through the “.com” era, moved to the cloud, and now am studying “what’s next.”

Do you need help assessing your IT infrastructure, culture or staff? Could you benefit from guidance in creating and implementing a digital strategy? Call upon .orgSource, association management leaders and innovators for more than 10 years.

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ISAE welcomes new CAE

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Thursday, July 7, 2016

ISAE welcomes new CAE

We would like to congratulate an ISAE member who recently passed the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam!

Pamela N. Rosenberg, CAE
Manager of Education & Certification 
American Society of Plumbing Engineers 
Rosemont, IL 

Interested in taking the CAE? Learn more here


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My Event is Underperforming Part 2

Posted By Dana Saal, CMP, CAE, Friday, July 1, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Simple and Impactful Changes to Abate Shrinking Attendance 

Last month, in my article, Shrinking Attendance? Ask Questions; Don’t Appoint a Task Force, I challenged planners to honestly examine key event areas. Following are a few ways to make changes that will make a difference. 

Create an Experience

  • Announce the event with an “experience-saver “ instead of a datesaver. Convey what attendees will feel. (Emboldened to improve xx using newly acquired skills. Enlightened by the hallway conversations with peers.)
  • Build the experience from registration to arrival. Frequently remind registrants about their upcoming experience and roll out the red carpet upon arrival.
  • Close the event with a personal touch—station leaders at exists to thank attendees and distribute next year’s experience-saver.

Design all aspects of pre, during and post-event to create anticipation and elicit emotion.

Modify your model

  • Abbreviate your trade show and enhance opportunities to connect. Exhibitors don’t want more hours. They want more quality interactions.
  • Modify the pattern—different season, days, order of events, length of breaks, start times, etc.
  • Accommodate young families or elderly participants—or both. Make it easy for your entire target audience to attend.

Design the event so most attendees’ expectations will be fulfilled, not just those of a few decision-makers. 

Switch up your programming

  • Add experiential learning—hands-on, interactive, case studies, etc.
  • Let attendees design their own learning at unconference sessions or customizable tracks.
  • Include programming not related to work, but is personally rewarding. (Like we do at SPINCon.)

Next time…Resources—Where to Get Inspired


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:  meeting planners  meetings 

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Happy Retiring!

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Friday, June 24, 2016
Updated: Thursday, June 16, 2016

Gaye Kick, IOM, Director of Administration at American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois, is retiring on June 30 after 18 years in the association industry and member of ISAE.  

Gaye has served on the ISAE Communications Committee and in 2010 received the ISAE Association Excellence Award.  She is a graduate of the Institute of Organization Management, attending her first year with a scholarship from ISAE.   You can view a video she recorded for IOM on the ISAE Facebook page (left banner under VIDEOS) or below. 

In a past life Gaye was a published writer of non-fiction and humorous personal experience stories.  She has already begun to revive her writing life in preparation for retirement. You can find her work at


Congrats, Gaye on your retirement! We wish you the very best on your next adventure and look forward to reading your stories! 


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Ask the Experts - Membership

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Friday, June 17, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, June 7, 2016

This edition of Ask the Experts is about membership and we asked our very own ISAE members 4 questions regarding meetings and events. At ISAE, we learn so much from our peers that we hope you will find some new tips and tricks from our Ask the Experts blog segment.

Jodie Brooks is the Director of Member Services at the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois. She has worked there for 9 fabulous years! 

Kevin Ordonez is a proven leader in serving member-based organizations across the country. Prior to being an entrepreneur, Kevin worked at a large trade association in the marketing and management information systems division in Washington, D.C. There, he was the lead technologist, providing solutions for membership, marketing, financial and government relations. 

See what they had to say:

What are your top membership benefits? 

JB: Saving them money through networking, education and some popular programs that address energy purchasing, safety and more.

KO: Our vast network, making connections, putting solutions in front of our members.  They have questions, we have solutions, its all about them (you), and we are fun!

How do your retain your members? 

JB: Build loyalty and show them there is an I like to think that our members just like working with us, so that helps!

KO: Remind them of the connections they made, education they attended and what it would cost (in time and money) and all the fun they have had.

Do you offer a member concierge program? If so, tell us a little bit about it. 

KO: Not exactly, but we do have Sherry…our mantra is one borrowed from Nordstorms service – go out of the way for members..fanatical service. 

What are some of your best membership recruitment strategies, practices, tips, etc.?

KO: Never give up and be everywhere (socially) all the time.  Our members and prospects are on various social media channels and they check their channels at all times of the day. Recruitment and marketing is not a 9a-5p timeframe and members/prospects are on multiple social channels everything from Instagram and Snapchat to Pinterest to Facebook and LinkedIn.  Have engaging graphics appropriate for each channel as well as short videos with calls to action.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

JB: It changes as frequently as the Illinois weather!

KO: Mint chocolate chip

What is on your agenda for Summer? 

JB: A lot of summer work events, fairs, gardening, concerts and outdoor time with the family!

KO: Fanatical service to members and customers. As well as enjoying the summer weather through outside concerts, golf, long bike rides, and BBQs.

Thank you to our association professionals for participating in this week's Ask the Experts!

Do you have an expertise? We want to hear from you!
Contact Destiny at 217-753-1190 x124 or to be a featured in our Ask the Experts blog segment!

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