Sector and AuSAE News

  • 16 Sep 2021 3:09 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Some people have been eagerly anticipating the return to the office. Except the office doesn't feel the same as it did before.

    Like most people, Scottie Lantgen thought he’d be away from the office for just a couple of weeks when the pandemic began in early 2020.

    A year on, the 36-year-old, a senior copywriter at an advertising agency in Kansas City, Missouri, US, was finding home working tough. “Every day was the same,” he says. “I’d wake up, work five feet from where I slept, and work out at home. I just wouldn’t leave my house. It was so draining, and the ability to have a difference between a work life and a home life was something I desperately wanted again.”

    So, in June, when his firm announced fully vaccinated employees could return to the office, Lantgen “jumped on it”. But after the initial excitement, he says, being back became underwhelming. “There were a lot of people who were really excited to come in, everyone was hugging and talking. But things petered off pretty quickly. Within two to three weeks we definitely learned who actually wanted to be in the office – and a lot of people really didn’t.”

    Of course, going back to the office has its perks. Chief among them is the ability to interact, in person, with colleagues and managers whom we haven’t seen face-to-face for more than a year and a half. Being back in a physical work environment could make some people more productive, and allow for creative conversations and more efficient communication. For these reasons, among others, plenty of workers are actually excited to go back.

    Yet, like it or not, the office won’t feel quite the same as when we left it. The ongoing pandemic means many workers may be uncomfortable being physically close to others, or even reluctant to return. The water-cooler conversations we’ve been missing still aren’t happening, because there are fewer people in the office, and because a shared water cooler suddenly seems unsanitary. Meetings may feel forced or uncomfortable, colleagues may avoid communal spaces and activities, and even beloved lunch spots may not have survived the pandemic.

    In short, it’s possible the office you’re returning to isn’t the place you remember. And for those who have been waiting eagerly to go back – and experience the elements that made work more enjoyable for them – adjusting to this ‘new’ office could be a stressful process.

    Once-familiar environments feel foreign

    After so long away, the office is now an unfamiliar environment. First, says Juliet Hassard, an associate professor of occupational health psychology at the UK’s University of Nottingham, there are likely to be far fewer people there, as plenty may not be ready to come back. 

    “A lot of them want to encourage people to come back, but people are going to have very varied feelings and experiences about that, ranging from ‘Oh, I’m so desperate to get back and see people and go for coffee’, to the other end where you have people who are actually really scared about it,” she says. “Workers will fall on a spectrum from ‘can’t wait’ to deeply anxious.”

    That means that those who are eager to return are likely to find themselves disappointed when the things they miss most – quick chats with colleagues, big brainstorming sessions, team solidarity and socialising – are still not happening. 

    This has been Langten’s experience; key elements of the workplace experience that he enjoyed have disappeared. “The client meetings in the office, the leftover BBQ – the beautiful thing about working at an ad agency is there’s beer fridges and stuff. On Friday afternoons it’d always be, ‘let’s have a few beers, maybe go out’. Now there’s only a handful of people there, and it’s just not the same.”

    On Friday afternoons it’d always be, ‘let’s have a few beers, maybe go out’. Now there’s only a handful of people there, and it’s just not the same – Scottie Langten

    That change may be more difficult for certain personality types – the same people, namely extroverts, who draw their energy from the buzz of being around other people. Research shows extroverts are less affected by dopamine, so they need more stimulation to feel 'on' or be productive. The major benefits those people, like Lantgen, get from being in the office are a big part of what’s driving them back, even if there’s not as much stimulation as there once was. 

    Social connections – and the boost some workers derive from them – are not the only reasons people might be anticipating returning to the office, however. Some people may be looking forward to the comparative quiet of their desk; parents seeking a kind of peace they haven’t been able to get at home, for example. Young workers, meanwhile, may be missing valuable learning time with mentors and older colleagues.

    Unfortunately, some of these people won’t find what they’re looking for either. It could be hard for young workers to access those learning experiences if more senior workers chose to work from home. And people who are in the office to work quietly could find that peaceful spots are few and far between, if companies decide to pivot their space to include different meeting spaces more suited to facilitating social interactions in the hybrid era.

    Anne-Laure Fayarda professor of Innovation, Design and Organizational Studies at New York University, returned to her office and classroom on the NYU campus in September 2020, because she wanted to be there. But she admits that it feels different now. “It’s the same old office, but it’s not the same at all, and it’s hard for people to imagine,” she says.

    Managing expectations and waiting to adapt 

    It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit unmoored if you’re returning to an office that feels like it’s changed for the worse. “For most people, the constant uncertainty and adaptation [of the pandemic] has been exhausting, and we’re not out of that yet,” says Hassard. 

    Fayard says the biggest thing workers can do is temper their expectations. Even if it’s physically the same place, almost every office has undergone a major shift. Expecting it to be exactly the same as it was pre-pandemic, she says, is a recipe for disappointment.

    “It’s more stressful if you’re always comparing and spending time trying to replicate, instead of thinking, ‘OK, it’s going to be something different’,” she says. I think that will help people with managing stress and expectations. It’s really a deeper thing about embracing ambiguity, and I think that’s what’s hardest for everyone.”

    Being able to talk about what’s changed and how workers feel about those changes is important, she adds, and bosses should be facilitating those conversations with their employees. “I think we start talking,” she says, “because that’s a big piece of people being able to maybe become more comfortable. That conversation might be more open, or it might be more anonymous, depending on the culture of the organisation, but I think it cannot be ignored.”

    It’s the same old office, but it’s not the same at all, and it’s hard for people to imagine – Anne-Laure Fayard

    Lantgen says he began to feel less disappointed once he reflected a little on the new reality.   

    “There are these expectations you build up for yourself like, ‘It’s going to be everything I want it to be, everything I missed and it’s going to make everything better’,” he says. “But we’re all coming out of a collective trauma and maybe going back to an office won’t change that. You’re just not going to have the same experience in the office you did in 2019. You just realise, OK, of course it’ll be different. And you just get used to it.” 

    Lantgen says it’s also helpful to remind himself that all the things he’s still missing won’t necessarily be gone forever. “It’s a bummer, but it will all happen again eventually. I’m keeping that hope up. I try to remain optimistic.” And for him, ultimately, even a changed office is better than none at all. “It makes me feel better,” he says, “knowing that I can get up and have a place to go, as opposed to working at my kitchen table.”

    Originally posted by the BBC

  • 16 Sep 2021 9:37 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE), the peak professional body for individuals working in associations, is excited to announce the launch of the AuSAE Learning Hub and new course, “Association Essentials". The Learning Hub ensures association professionals can access continuing education opportunities for career advancement and manage the ability to learn without boundaries.


    Together with our partners, Pointsbuild, the AuSAE Learning platform has been designed to deliver diverse learning opportunities and innovative formats responsive to member needs and industry trends. The AuSAE Learning Hub provides an easy-to-use online learning platform that is an interactive learning experience and enables self-paced learning from anywhere, at any time.

    Toni Brearley, AuSAE CEO, says, “We’ve always given our community ways to learn and grow – both personally and professionally through our webinars, events, research and guidelines. It’s great to introduce our Learning Hub and new course so that we can create engaging learning experiences and professional opportunities for our members and community,” adds Brearley.

    AuSAE have developed the new course, “Association Essentials”, to provide association executives with some background and foundational knowledge as they start their journey in association management. The course provides practical examples of the support and activities associations provide to their members and their collective contribution to society.

    Michael Tomlinson, Pointsbuild CEO, says, “We’re delighted to be working with AuSAE to deliver a unique learning environment for association professionals. The online CPD course “Association Essentials” delivers a mixture of text, video, audio with knowledge checks throughout. The dynamic format ensures that the content suits the learning styles for a wide range of learners.”

    AuSAE will expand the development of a range of new courses through 2022. Attendees will earn Certified Professional Development (CPD) points and a certificate.

    At the heart of the AuSAE mission, the Learning Hub supports and empowers association professionals to strive for excellence and leadership. “I know the professional development of staff is important to association executives in the AuSAE community. Through improving the quality of association management practice and online learning, we can make an impact,” concludes Brearley.

    Learn more about AuSAE on our website, register for our new course “Association Essentials”, and sign up for the AuSAE’s newsletter to stay up to date with AuSAE activities and events. To find out more about Pointsbuild’s online learning platform for Associations, send an enquiry here
  • 14 Sep 2021 1:44 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    The Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) has unveiled a three-year roadmap for the country’s business events sector with a strong focus on supporting international associations.

    The roadmap includes greater lead generation and industry consultation, new development programs for local business event practitioners and stronger promotion of Thailand on the international stage.

    To achieve this TCEB has devised three key strategies: “upgrading” Thailand’s conventions ecosystem through active lead generation and industry consultation; “upskilling” the industry with targeted development programs; and “upstaging” Thailand on the world stage through international partnerships and hosting key meetings of global significance.

    TCEB Senior Vice President, Nichapa Yoswee, said the 2021-23 pathway reflects the shift in TCEB’s role from one of industry support to that of driving growth, and has the full support of the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA).

    It is promising news for the local and international association sector with greater support and encouragement to host conventions in Thailand.

    The roadmap also sees creation of a conventions task force to explore innovative ways to reengineer Thailand’s conventions industry. The task force, structured as a think tank that meets quarterly, comprises representatives from academia as well as TICA’s convention experts including venue operators, destination management companies, and professional congress organisers.

    To complement the conceptual work undertaken by the task force, TCEB and TICA have also established teams of “Convention Connecters” to respond to market trends with greater agility.

    Each team is made up of two people whose expertise in lead generation, bidding, and convention management will help associations build a strong case for organising a convention. The most immediate targets for these “Convention Connecters” are associations related to the so-called “Thailand 4.0” industries – the ones that will power Thailand’s economic transformation such as robotics, medical, agriculture and biotech, food and legal and professional services.

    Internationally, TCEB is looking at enhancing relationships with industry associations through a series of partnership programs, and is working towards hosting meetings of international significance such as the Annual Meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, hosted in Thailand in 1991.

    “With upgrading, upskilling and upstaging at the core of its three-year roadmap for conventions, TCEB is confident that Thailand will soon reap the benefits of a new pool of highly skilled conventions professionals and a highly connected ecosystem of associations and suppliers,” Mrs Nichapa said.

    For further information about hosting meetings in Thailand contact TCEB Australia representative, Nicole Tingey on nicole@clockwiseconsulting.com.au

  • 09 Sep 2021 6:18 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Many business and association leaders get into trouble in media interviews because they assume they are like any other conversation. Often these people are great communicators and competent speakers, but they are unaware that media interviews require an entirely new set of skills.

    How many times have you heard someone complain of being quoted out of context? Most of the time, this happens because they don’t understand the important distinction between media interviews and other conversations.

    Apart from live television and radio, every time you speak to a journalist, you will be quoted out of context. This is just the nature of journalism. It’s because journalists will only use snippets of the interview in their subsequent stories. They don’t have the space for more. You may speak for 30 minutes and only 10 seconds of your conversation may be used.

    This is totally different to giving a speech. There you can build one idea on another, referencing something you said earlier to highlight a point. People in the audience get to hear the whole speech, so you can do this.

     You don’t have that luxury when you are talking to the media. You never know what parts of your interview will be used. That means everything you say must make sense on its own and not be reliant on things you say before or after each point you make.

    For example, in a real life conversation, if someone said to me, “How does it feel to teach people how to lie to the media,” it would be fine for me to say, “I don’t teach people how to lie to. I train them to communicate the great things they are doing through the media.”

    The problem with this response in a media context is that the journalist may take the first part of that answer alone, so the story could focus entirely on, “Media trainer denies teaching people how to lie,” and not use the rest of my answer. This makes for a negative denial story and implies some shadiness on my part.

    Not every journalist will do this, but some will and it’s best not to give them the chance.

    Without the control of context, it would be better to answer with a positive statement like, “I’m proud that I train people to communicate the great things they are doing through the media.”

    You can see how I answered the question, but gave it a positive twist so it could not be taken out of context.

    The most famous example of this was Richard Nixon when giving his speech during Watergate. He explained how he had never profited from the Presidency and he had earned every cent.  This was followed by the words, “I’m not a crook.” I don’t need to tell you which part of that speech was used by the media.

    In a nutshell, if you don’t want it used, not say it in any context.

    By Pete Burdon

    Pete Burdon is Managing Director of Media Training NZ, a company specialising in training leaders how to communicate with the media. Check out his free online masterclass, “Mastering Media Interviews in any Situation” at this link.


  • 09 Sep 2021 6:17 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    In 2020, when COVID-19 created barriers to meeting in person, we knew how our clients did business would have to change.

    With over 40 years of experience operating virtually, I wasn’t overly concerned about the communication between the TI consultants. But I did wonder about how we could continue to deliver high-quality, meaningful experiences for our strategic planning clients.

    How could a virtual solution, using something like Zoom, possibly work as well as sitting in a room together to talk about the tough stuff?

    But after accruing many real-life case studies with testimonials to back it up, we’ve tested and improved upon our methods. We can tell you what works (and what doesn’t) for operating virtually. Our clients report high levels of satisfaction with board, committee meetings, and assembly experience from both virtual and on-site attendees.

    This was no small feat, though anyone can do it. But you have to get your strategy right.

    Structure, Process, and Culture

    Our client groups use their synchronous time together efficiently.

    We make sure Board meetings focus on strategic issues and decision-making.

    The committee and workgroup meetings are for developing and examining ideas and then assessing consensus and/or consent.

    We learned early on that some of the different tech tools available to us were too complicated or cumbersome for all of our clients. While many tools offer visually elegant bells and whistles when under the control of an experienced, tech-savvy user, we needed smart tools that any person could begin using without training or demos.

    That’s why we use an AI-supported online platform specifically designed for group work and decision-making to provide a similar experience for all participants regardless of their location or experience.

    Engagement of groups from 5 to 100 involves robust conversation, shared background information, moderation of the dialogue, and documentation of thinking and determinations. We include that in how we build out our online workspaces for both asynchronous and synchronous group work.

    How do we determine which parts of the engagement are in-person, synchronous virtual, or asynchronous virtual? By the number of virtual participants.

    Continuous Improvement

    In lean startup methodology, you look to improve through an iterative process. Our team continues to learn and share with each other new discoveries for how to improve on these meetings. For example, just today, several consultants discussed over email how nonverbal cues to speak could be handled better, building in a more efficient and less awkward way for participants to engage at key points in virtual meetings. With an eye toward empathy, psychology, and adult learning behavior; we are actively working on ways to help teams function better together. This is exciting work!

    The unexpected rewards of learning how to augment this collaborative decision-making process with technology and asynchronous communication opportunities include things like:

    • Better support for DEI commitments
    • Active engagement in interactive work in both small and large groups
    • Diminishing “Zoom fatigue” and an overall feeling of mission ennui

    Technology makes new methods and tools for productive and enjoyable collaboration possible. If we can get out of our own way of only thinking about the traditional methods for helping people solve problems together and start looking at ways to use the COVID-19 challenges as a way to innovate for even better methods, we’ll all be happier for it.

    Through our consultancy’s experience, we see a way to support our work in structure, process, and culture in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive hybrid environment.

    At Tecker International, we always share our knowledge. You can also learn more about the platform we work with and lessons we’ve learned in “Adventures in Leadership, Learning – There has gotta be a better way”. I am happy to share additional details about our methods for successful hybrid meetings and answer any other questions. Please reach out via info@tecker.com.

    Originally posted here

  • 09 Sep 2021 6:13 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    There are many reasons that communities that were once vibrant and full of activity end up fizzling out. Community programs that change leadership, that fail to replace a community manager, or that set a community on autopilot hoping that community members self-manage are all factors that play into why communities go dark. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, the light just dims with no obvious explanation. The larger problem to solve is how to restore vibrancy to these communities once they’ve gone dormant. Or do you?

    But before we get to solutions, we must lead with a question: what happened? Did any of the scenarios presented above influence the community’s current state, or was it something else? Here are some tips that will help you understand why the community went silent and how to breathe new life into them.

    Dig for data

    If you’re in a situation where your community mysteriously turned into a ghost town and you can’t understand why, look to your community data. If you’re tracking the right metrics that make sense for your community, you should see this coming long before it becomes an issue. However, if you miss it (especially if you host a large community) you’ll want to lean on historical data to help you figure out what happened. Was there feedback that was given multiple times that was never acted on? Were questions in the forums going unanswered? Did you fail to meet the needs of your community members somewhere along the line? Go back and look at your historical data and compare it, not just month over month, but year over year to see if there is a larger indicator of an issue that you could have missed without realizing it. Then, be intentional about admitting fault and correcting the problem to restore trust with your community members.

    Talk to the community

    In many cases your community members have insight that you may not be seeing. Some of that insight may revolve around intrinsic motivations for participating in the community. They may have also found spaces that cater to their needs in a way that the community that you host doesn’t. In the case where a community manager wasn’t initially hired to host the community, it could be that key activities and programming (like onboarding) was ignored so community members didn’t know what to do once they landed in the community. No matter the case, talking to your community members can often unearth issues that require attention. Gather that insight and feedback and figure out how your community strategy can help resolve some of those outlying problems to help get your community back on track.

    Talk to your leadership

    When associations think about deprioritizing work, they often start with what’s not generating direct revenue and/or providing an immediate return on investment in the way of NPS, customer loyalty, or other metrics affecting the success of the association. In many cases, community usually falls into that deprioritization bucket. This means loss of resources, sometimes budget, often support. This leaves community programs with the bare minimum when it comes to keeping communities afloat and, when resources are allocated to other work, it can be difficult to rally others internally to help keep things moving forward. Talking with your leadership to understand where community stands from a larger strategic standpoint will be key to figuring out next steps for the community. I would also recommend being incredibly transparent about the consequences of deprioritizing community, especially if/when your organization is publicly saying it’s important. This isn’t just about content or platforms. Your community helps build trust and relationships with members. Without the resources and power behind community programs, you’re not able to build upon that trust and members see that as you not caring about their needs. Those relationships then begin to break down and they go elsewhere. It takes more than member benefits and products to keep members engaged. Putting community building on the backburner will not help.

    Figure out next steps

    After you have gathered information, it’s then time to decide what to do from here. You may have a clear path. You may have to do a little more digging to understand what happened, but the data you collect through the research you’ve done will give you a solid foundation for a way forward. Revitalizing a dormant community is like starting from scratch. Be intentional about the way forward by creating a solid community strategy that incorporates all that you’ve learned to avoid the same mistakes in the future. Involve the community in building their community back up and closely monitor participation along the way. Additionally, set the expectation with your leadership that, as with a new community, bringing an existing one back to life will still take time. Just because it already exists doesn’t mean it will automatically be vibrant again at the flip of a switch.

    Remember that business value helps support your programs, but it’s the people that are a part of your community that you cannot neglect. Relationships and trust are just as important to delivering value as connecting to org goals. Don’t sacrifice one for the other when bringing your community back.

    by Marjorie Anderson | Sep 5, 2021 

    Originally posted here

  • 09 Sep 2021 6:06 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    In traditional professional associations, rules, protocols, and procedures are determined by a central governing body: the board. But what if associations no longer relied on a central board to run their organizations, and instead, their members made the decisions? With an anticipated rise of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) coming, this could be a potential reality. As such, it’s important for association leaders to pay attention to this type of organization and the implications it may carry for their own. 

    What are DAOs?

    DAOs are fully automated systems whose code allows members of organizations to make decisions for their organization. Central governments and managers are not needed in these organizations as all rules are embedded into code. A DAO’s code is called its smart contract, which houses all rules of the organization and holds the group’s funds. Changes to the rules can only be made if voted on by members. When a rule is passed, the code is updated automatically to reflect the changes. Bitcoin is an example of a DAO. 

    Ethereum describes DAOs as “an internet-native business that’s collectively owned and managed by its members.” 

    Funding for DAOs is also autonomous, as it is based on crowdfunding and tokens for membership. As with other rules within the organization, all funding decisions are made by vote of its members. This eliminates the need to trust a central governing body or individual within the group to make decisions regarding its funds. Additionally, all decisions are recorded and encoded on a blockchain, creating visibility and transparency into all transactions and changes. 

    How might DAOs affect traditional associations?

    In traditional associations, membership policies and opportunities are typically set by the board, who holds the majority of power to make decisions for the group. But with any organization run by humans, there is room for error and disagreement within the group when decisions are made from the top down. 

    Enter DAOs. 

    Because DAOs rely on collective group governance instead of a traditional hierarchical structure, their members have more decision-making power, which could be preferable for many people. 

    Instead of joining a traditional association of like-minded industry colleagues, potential members could elect to organize their own, global interest-based DAO. Because they can regularly establish their own rules, members would have a more vested interest in the DAO and its operations. Members wouldn’t even need to know each other or create a centralized governing body. Further, all aspects of the new association would be fully transparent, including voting processes and funding decisions, so members may feel more secure in investing their time and funds into the organization.

    Aside from voting power, members may feel more in control of their membership in these DAO associations as their fee for entry not only grants them access to a group of like-minded individuals, but also partial ownership of the group. As DAOs are digitally run, membership fees and donations can be collected from anywhere in the world, and members would decide how to spend donations.

    Limitations and disadvantages of DAOs

    As with any new technology, DAOs face a number of limitations that will need to be resolved before widespread use is feasible. These include organizational, legal, and security issues. 

    Organizational issues

    Since DAOs rely on member voting for decisions, operations are slower because decisions take longer to make.

    Additionally, the token-based structure could also become problematic. It is possible for some members to invest more in the DAO and own the majority of tokens, giving them the majority of decision-making power within the organization. In these situations, DAOs would end up running similarly to traditional organizations with centralized governments. 

    Legal issues

    Though DAOs currently exist, they are not recognized legally by any government yet. This creates uncertainty as to how they would be treated by courts if they were to be sued by members or outside individuals. 

    Security issues

    If there are security holes in the initial coding of a DAO’s smart contract, they cannot be corrected until the majority of members vote on it, which could take a significant amount of time. The time it takes to recognize and patch a security gap could provide hackers with ample time to infiltrate the entire group. 

    While DAOs are still in the early stages of large-scale development, the many benefits of DAO membership could drastically impact how consumers and members interact with organizations in the future. It’s not time to completely restructure the traditional association model yet, but it’s important for association leaders to stay on top of trends like DAOs to understand the changing landscape of organizations.

    Emily Herrington

    Emily Herrington is a New Orleans-based digital marketer specializing in SEO, content, and pay-per-click advertising. She can usually be found at her desk obsessing over data and rankings, or in the kitchen covered in flour.

    Why associations should pay attention to DAOs – Sidecar (sidecarglobal.com)Originally posted here

  • 08 Sep 2021 4:32 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    From negotiating contracts with suppliers, to buying the best insurance, and simply understanding terms such as force majeure, there is a lot to wrap your head around when planning events in the post-COVID era. The good news is, you don't have to figure it out on your own! In August 2021 MCI Australia and Melbourne Convention Bureau brought together an expert panel to delve into all of these topics, and help you understand not only the conversations you should be having, but also the questions you should be asking to prepare yourself and your organisation for your next business event.

    Key learnings from this webinar include:

    • What to look out for in contracts
    • An overview of what force majeure is, and what it means for you
    • What conversations to have with your venue to ensure you’re hiring the right amount of space whilst considering COVID-safety requirements
    • How event insurance is changing, and what is available in the post-COVID world 

    To watch the recording, head to https://www.mci-group.com/en-au/work/en-au/risky-business

  • 08 Sep 2021 12:22 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    It’s more than just hosting an online conference and supporting remote work. Through more than a year of pandemic disruption, associations have found that shifting their whole culture to a digital mindset can bring about the changes necessary to operate flexibly and virtually for the long term.

    The COVID-19 crisis prompted a lot of associations to become digital organizations in a hurry—or at least to think they did.

    No question, associations made lots of changes. Remote-work mandates forced staff to get comfortable with video chats. In-person training sessions became webinars. Annual conferences became virtual events blending recorded material and live presentations. But creating a patchwork of online replacements for in-person activities isn’t the same thing as becoming a digital-first association.

    “You can upgrade all of your software but not actually change how you do things,” says Maddie Grant, digital strategist at the consultancy Propel. “And there are so many associations that are sitting on technology that they literally don’t even know how to use.”

    Being “digital first” isn’t necessarily about those tools anyway. “Digital first is our approach, not because digital is the end goal, but because people are the end goal—the goal is creating value for the customer,” says Simona Rollinson, chief technology officer at ISACA, an association of IT governance professionals. “Sometimes a digital solution may actually take value away. It may be more impersonal.”

    Elizabeth Weaver Engel, MA, CAE, chief strategist at Spark Consulting and coauthor of a recent white paper with Grant on digital transformation in associations, says many organizations erred during the pandemic by failing to think holistically about staff and member needs in the rush to deliver digital conferences.

    “It’s about board support, it’s C-suite support, it may involve some hiring or shifting of responsibilities,” she says. “You need to devote additional resources behind cultural change and audience research. It’s not just, ‘Oh, we have to fund this platform.’”

    So rather than thinking about technological replacements for analog processes, products, or programs, think of being “digital first” as part of a cultural shift. What are your organization’s strategic goals, and how can digital tools satisfy them—or not? How will you ensure the shift is part of the whole organization, not just the new widget in the meetings department? Changing your organization’s mindset toward digital doesn’t necessarily mean losing all your in-person meetings or print publications. It means better equipping your association to handle the next disruption.

    Preparation Pays

    ISACA had been moving toward more online training before the pandemic, using a new hosting platform for its webinars. The goal was to better engage with a growing international membership. The one area where it remained old-school was its certification tests, which were held in person with proctors in the room.

    But because ISACA already had the grounding in online training, the shift to online proctoring during COVID-19 was less of a challenge than it might have been.

    “Our strong relationship with the testing vendor helped us to go to the front of the line,” says Nader Qaimari, chief product officer. “Things shut down at the end of March [2020], and by mid-April we were actually up and running with remote proctoring.”

    Similarly, the Infectious Diseases Society of America was equipped to go digital before the pandemic. In 2018 IDSA conducted a comprehensive digital audit of its activities, both for staff and members. That led to a variety of small changes, from new phone systems to online collaboration tools. Taken together, says David Moldavsky, vice president of digital and technology strategy at IDSA, they created a digital-first mindset that allowed the organization to adapt quickly during the pandemic—a crisis that cut to the heart of IDSA’s mission.

    “The digital channels that we set up over the last few years really helped us in communicating and supporting our members, and we ramped all that up around COVID,” he says. “Together with the CDC, we’ve run clinician calls that bring in at least 1,000 people. We also set up a COVID website and online communities for members, and that wouldn’t be possible if we hadn’t put that infrastructure in place.”

    Starting from Scratch

    But associations that didn’t think seriously about digital until the pandemic don’t have to be left behind. Before COVID-19, the International Ombudsman Association derived more than half its revenue from an introductory three-day, in-person course for new and aspiring ombuds. So the pandemic hit IOA hard: It forced the association to cancel all seven of its planned training courses for 2020.

    But IOA speedily invested in a learning management system and instructional design consultant, which allowed it to launch three virtual courses in late 2020, all of which sold out. The additional cash outlay deepened the deficit already created from lost course revenue, says Lindsay Jennings, vice president of business development at SBI Association Management, the AMC that operates IOA. But the investment gave IOA the footing to increase its offerings in 2021. It added eight virtual courses designed to meet a newfound international audience.

    “It’s definitely let the association gain confidence, knowing that they can produce a virtual program for such an intensive course,” Jennings says.

    Similarly, the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering was caught flat-footed by the pandemic. It held no member webinars, and its meetings were entirely in-person.

    “We were analog. There was nothing [digital],” says Christine Locke, director of marketing, membership, and education. As a stopgap, SAMPE made video of sessions from a previous conference available as members-only content. That became the seed that led to a larger retooling of the association’s online presence—a premium site called SAMPE 365 that’s a repository for video content, collaboration tools, research, and other digital assets.

    That move required some org-chart reshuffling, Locke says, as well as a cultural shift that reoriented the staff to focus on online training. “Our team had to quickly understand the value of digital education and delivering that content,” she says. “Creating content that’s now all-digital has been a culture shock because they never had to do that before. But now we’re doing it nearly every day.”

    Any shift to digital must be managed carefully, says Dan Stevens, president of WorkerBee.tv, Inc., an association digital consultancy.

    “People forget that as soon as you go digital, you have a whole new set of competitors—YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,” he says. But he notes that associations have the benefit of unique content, which can be repurposed in a variety of digital forms. Presentations, for example, can be broken up for use in microlearning, podcasts, teaser videos, documentaries, and more.

    “It’s easier to start with a video to make a podcast or turn it into an article than it is to go the other way around,” Stevens says.

    No More Silos

    Making this strategy effective requires buy-in from leadership. “CEOs are used to implementing through departments, but that’s not the way to do digital transformation,” Stevens says. He recommends that associations create “transformation teams” that work across departments to “find the opportunities where friction for member engagement can be taken out and new media models can be implemented.”

    Maddie Grant concurs. “If all your innovative activity is siloed in one department, like the meetings department trying virtual conference software, none of those lessons learned about how people learn virtually gets translated to the other departments,” she says. “They’re all doing their stuff the same way they always did. That’s not digital transformation.”

    That kind of silo-busting was a key element of ISACA’s success with digital, says Qaimari.

    “We had a vertical structure—our direct-to-consumer product team, our enterprise business team, our membership team, all operating as little business units,” he says. “Being more of a functional organization forced us to be more dependent on each other. You had to be more deliberate about communication, but people realized it and did the work.”

    By Mark Athitakis. Article published by Associations Now.

  • 08 Sep 2021 12:18 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    We know that associations have been impacted by COVID-19 in many ways. In our survey about the effects in June 2020, you told us that the event cancellations, transition to online service delivery and increased demand for information and advocacy, had significant impacts on your association and staff. And I think that if we were asked in September last year what we thought the situation would be like in August 2021, I don't think many of us would have envisioned continued wide-spread outbreaks of the virus or the ongoing restrictions and border closures!

    So, to enable us to understand the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, we want to re-examine the effects on the sector one year on, and we need your help to tell us what has happened in your association over the past twelve months. We invite you to take the Associations Matter 2021 State of the Sector COVID Impact Survey using your link below:


    Click here to enter the survey

    The survey will take 10 - 15 minutes, and the results will be held in strictest confidence. Results will be reported in aggregate, and no respondents will be identified. All completed responses will be eligible to enter a Prize Draw for Survey Matters to conduct research with your members, at no cost to your association (some conditions apply). Everyone who completes the survey can also choose to receive a free copy of the report with the full findings.

    If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on 0416 103130 or
    bmainland@surveymatters.com.au

    Thank you for your participation.


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