This Guest Blog was written by:
Founder and Chair, MemberWise Network
As many of you know I attended the ASAE Technology Conference and Expo in Washington DC in December. My mission was to deepen my association and technology focused insight and understanding (see Not quite the Lincoln I had planned).
I am now back (revitalised following the Christmas break!) and I want to share what I’ve learned – There’s a few suprises here…
On a rather chilly Monday 12th December morning I left Wimbledon for London Heathrow T5 and boarded BA flight BA0217 from London Heathrow T5. I landed in Washington DC late that afternoon and was whisked off to Washington Harbor to prepare for the first day of conference.
It was on arrival that I began to take in the whole scale of my surroundings. My hotel boasted 2,000 bedrooms and the main feature of the Harbor was a huge Ferris Wheel that can only be described as the equivalent of The London Eye but on LED-lit steroids. MGM’s latest casino had also just opened up nearby and the place was truly alive and filled with excitement.
On the first morning of conference I enjoyed breakfast with a group of association professionals and was made to feel welcome. I immediately struck up an animated conversation with a Senior Manager from the Association of International Educators (NAFSA) and it fast become evident that we (UK Associations) are facing exactly the same member focused issues as US Associations, albeit it on a completely different scale. This same conversation was repeated at least 15 further times during my adventure so here’s my first piece of learning –
Observation: US and UK associations share many of the same member focused challenges, albeit on different scales. Based on conversations with at least 16 US senior association managers it is my belief that association strategic and operational thinking in the US is at exactly the same stage of maturity. This was a big surprise to me.
Engagement was unsurprisingly at the top of everyone’s agenda (similar to the UK/EU) and the conference kicked off with a great keynote form Erik Qualman; author of the Socialnomics book and video. Some of you may remember that we shared the original version with delegates at our 2nd national Harnessing the Web conference a few years back in 2009).
Erik endorsed the activity of proactively learning from mistakes, not getting distracted by ‘stuff’ and not being scared to share experiences (good or bad).
These themes struck a real chord with me so ‘not getting distracted’ and ‘learning from our mistakes’ will now feature prominantly in our work over the forthcoming year.
Next up was a Virtual Reality (VR) Futurists Lab that showcased how the American College of Chest Physicians is using the technology in hospitals. It was great to finally see this technology applied in a member focused related setting. It was also fun trialling a Virtual Reality App (being developed by Fonteva) to evaluate internal membership focused data/reports.
Opinion: We have some way to go with VR/Augmented Reality technology. It can be used internally (staff use) and externally (member focused), however at present the ‘bells and whistle’ factor appears to be leading and its practical application needs to be found. Literally being able to dig deeper into segmented member survey results may be an idea.
ASAE CEO, Reggie Henry, was animated on the topic and he suggested that VR could play a key role in making events more accessible to dispersed audiences. He explored the concept of a virtual trade exhibition (something some of you may recall the ASAE championed a few years back) and advocated that associations should set aside 10% of annual budget to fund innovation.
Reality Check: I do not believe for one moment that UK associations are setting aside 10% of their annual budget to fund innovation. I think this is much lower and this is something to consider/review.
Other sessions of interest covered a range of technology focused topics over the two days and I plan to share some of this insight with our members over the coming months. It was pleasing to see that content in the main sessions was 100% educational (just like our conferences and events) and not led by people seeking to sell or solutions trying to fix non-existent problems.
The Expo element of the conference was, as the locals would say, was ‘Truly Awesome’. It made our conferences appear quite small in comparison! Some 130 providers took part and I took the opportunity to showcase the UK association market to over 30 providers considering entry. More to follow on this!
Following the conference I was then whisked into downtown Washington DC. From there I set-up at the Hilton Embassy Suites and over the following days met with a number of new, existing and prospective MemberWise Recognised Suppliers to share insight and update on planned activity in the year ahead.
After a marathon couple of days learning and networking I took 2 days out. I became ‘the English Tourist’ in Washington DC; visiting the White House, the Lincoln Memorial (no Lincoln Imp in sight!), the Smithsonian Institute and of course Macy’s for some last-minute Christmas Shopping!
In conclusion, what I have learnt is that in 2017 we need to more proactively accept and learn from our past mistakes, ignore what I am going to term ‘white noise’ (from a range of internal and external sources), invest appropriately in innovation, and ‘get on with’ delivering great member focused value and activity.
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