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Innovation Summit 2019: Imagining the Future of Associations

By Charlie Sapienza, Business Development Manager    

At .orgCommunity's Innovation Summit 2019, it was encouraged to think differently.
At .orgCommunity’s Innovation Summit 2019, it was encouraged to think differently.

What’s working for your association today might not work tomorrow. That was my overarching takeaway from .orgCommunity’s Innovation Summit 2019, where association executives came together to share their member engagement success stories.

It was quite the whirlwind. In just about 10 hours, those of us in attendance found out what associations can learn from Netflix, why it’s important to focus on strong organizational culture and how to deploy an agile governance model. But there were four lessons my colleague Brian Smith and I learned that we felt needed to be shared again to the rest of the association world.

4 Key Takeaways from Innovation Summit 2019

1 – It’s time to expand the reach of your annual meeting

Protech's Brian Smith attends .orgCommunity's Innovation Summit 2019.
Protech’s Brian Smith attends .orgCommunity’s Innovation Summit 2019.

You can’t plan for a natural disaster. But you certainly can learn lessons amid the chaos.

Pauli Undesser, of the Water Quality Association (WQA), one of our clients, stole the spotlight in Chicago when describing how WQA turned a face-to-face meeting into an equally successful digital event in just 72 hours following Hurricane Florence.

Hopefully, it’s a situation your professional or trade association will never encounter, but the WQA example serves as a strong reminder that more annual meetings can and will feature virtual sessions.

But just because they can, doesn’t mean they do. One survey found that only 33 percent of marketers said their company has hosted a virtual event. Among those who have, however, 70 percent of marketers surveyed plan to host another.

While it might seem on the surface that virtual event attendance could negatively alter the vibe you’re trying so hard to cultivate at your annual meeting, making an event accessible to members who can’t attend in-person only works to elevate your association’s exposure and engagement.

2 – Podcasts are the modern member engagement tool

During your daily commute, household chores or air travel, most people simply listened to music or talk radio. Then came podcasts.

People couldn’t stop talking about podcasts at Innovation Summit 2019, and I don’t blame them. In 2008, only 9 percent of people listened to at least one podcast per month. Fast forward a decade, and more than one-quarter of people got their monthly podcast fix, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital.

For associations with something to sell (i.e. event registrations or professional development courses), podcasts can have a huge impact.

According to a Midroll survey of 300,000 podcast listeners, 63 percent bought a product advertised by a host on their show. So even if your association’s podcast isn’t behind the paywall, there’s a good chance it’ll drum up some revenue.

3 – Have famous members? Use it to the association’s advantage

Like the podcasting trend, this idea got tossed around quite often: if you have famous members, use them to promote the association. It’s pretty similar to most influencer marketing strategies.

Now, influencer marketing has earned a bad rap in recent months, thanks to dueling documentaries about the fiasco known as the Fyre Festival. But, that doesn’t mean this approach to marketing can’t be great for associations.

Need more convincing? Forty-nine percent of consumers depend on influencer recommendations to make buying decisions. If they see your famous member share a social media post featuring your association, folks in your industry will be more apt to join.

4 – Attend .orgCommunity events if you’re looking for great peer-to-peer knowledge transfer.

The Innovation Summit isn’t the ASAE Annual Meeting. You’re not going to get lost in the crowd or swept up in the mayhem (but ASAE’s Annual Meeting is the best kind of mayhem, right?).

Innovation Summit 2019 was an intimate affair, hosted in a cozy setting just outside of Chicago. There were plenty of association executives in attendance, but not too many to make starting a conversation intimidating.

So if you’re looking for a place to share ideas and talk shop, .orgCommunity events are for you.

Want more great events to attend? Innovation Summit 2019 was one of our 5 can’t-miss events of the year. Watch our free webinar to find out which other events made the cut.