The Benefits of an Integrated Abstract Management System

Software integrations extend the functionality of the systems we rely on every day. If your association uses an AMS to manage your member data, you know the benefits of having the most up-to-date information about your members, all in a single location. That’s why we’ve designed our CATALYST abstract management system to integrate with many of the most popular AMS providers.

Watch Omnipress General Manager Jonny Popp talk about the benefits this integration strategy provides for our customers, as well as those submitting information to CATALYST.

 

Turn Your Training Seminars into an Event

Finding new ideas to improve your training seminars can be a challenge. Developing, promoting and facilitating instructor takes a significant amount of planning, leaving little time for brainstorming the little extras that make the sessions so memorable. This topic came up around the office the other day as I was talking with a co-worker that specializes in conferences. We grabbed the video camera and sat down for a quick chat about some ideas program coordinators can borrow from their event planner colleagues.

We hope our conversation sparks some new ideas that help make your next training seminar an event to remember!

Video Transcript

Dan: So as an association, you know the difficulties in putting together your workshops and seminars. There’s a lot of things that go into planning it; how do you make it more exciting? I had a chance to meet with Matt Harpold here at Omnipress and talk about how meeting planners could turn that workshop into something more of an event, something really exciting!

Dan: You work with a lot of AMCs, a lot of meeting planners. They’re used to putting together big events, organizing hundreds or thousands of people coming together. What are some of the things that the meeting planners think about that could pertain to some of the program coordinator?

Matt: The piece that could be leveraged more is the learning that you can make on the connections side. Learning from your peers.

Dan: Have a social hour?

Matt: Have a social hour, happy hour, or even just go and get dinner.

Dan: Go and get together with some friends and colleagues and learn about some things on an informal basis about the industry and some things that they’re dealing with.

Or even take advantage of, let’s say you’re in Pittsburg, for example, and there’s something in the industry that your group is coming together on, do a field trip or something of that nature.

Matt: You learn more about the area, the culture that’s around those spots and really learn things that are outside of that classroom.

Dan: An example that I was just thinking about now is maybe you association is focused on food or food safety or restaurants, or something of that nature, so you may get together to raise money for food pantries in the local area, or you may get together and clean up a park.

Matt: Kind of making it more of an event rather than just having the “I’m hear just to learn”. Sometimes you can learn things outside of a classroom.

Dan: Thanks Matt, great conversation! Hope you have a few take aways you can implement with your next workshop or seminar. And if you do, please leave us a comment so other people can see what’s going on and really benefit from you ideas, as well. Thanks for your time!

Make the Most of Your Association Events this Summer

The summer wind, came blowin’ in…

The association events I go to in the summer tend to stay true to this easy-breezy summer feeling by taking on a more casual approach. I love the extra focus on networking at these outings because it gives me the chance to connect with colleagues in ways we don’t always get to during the rest of the year. Eventually, the conversation winds its way back to that age old topic: How to find new ways the association can continue to create value.

An interesting take on the topic makes the point that in the summer, this value can come in two forms: creating value for members by providing educational content, and creating value for the association by recruiting new members to take a more active role in events throughout the year.

If your association is looking for ways to make the most of your summer gatherings, here are some creative ways to add value for both your members and your association, while being mindful of a lighter summer schedule:

Education doesn’t need a summer recess

Some associations are able to turn their summer outings into educational sessions without anyone even realizing they are learning during the summer. The trick is to find the right topic for your summer events that can turn them from “can’t make it” to “can’t miss it”. A common recommendation is to choose a broad topic such as professional development to match the casual mood of the event.

It’s a fact, though, that when summer comes, vacations and other commitments make schedules less predictable than any other time of year. If your summer events do tend to have a smaller attendance than other programs, take advantage of the opportunity to let up-and-coming members have center stage as speakers.

Associations also say that to keep members learning during summer programming, they move some educational materials online. This gives members the ability to continue their professional development through the summer months but on their own time.

Reconnect with members

Another common theme is how summer networking events provide an opportunity to reconnect with members. These casual conversations can be the perfect starting point to finding volunteers that are willing to take a more active role in the association.

Think back over the course of the year to conversations you’ve had with members. Which ones have shown an interest in playing a larger part in the association’s activities? Maybe there are some that would be able to address a particular topic or deliver a presentation to the group? A summer networking event is the perfect low-stress way to start those preliminary discussions. Planting the idea in the summer can encourage members to become more active in the association, rather than saying they are too busy later in the year.

Meet new members

Hopefully, you’ve had new members join your organization over the last twelve months. If you are regularly involved in hosting the events throughout the year, other commitments may have kept you from talking with them as much as you would’ve liked. Make a pledge to change that this summer! New members provide new energy for your association, and just as importantly, new ideas. As you speak with them, gauge their interest in being a part of the strategic planning for the year. A good tactic is to ask new members to make small commitments at first. Don’t start by asking them to fill a two-year appointment. Associations report having better luck engaging new members by simply asking them for topic suggestions, or to help out in other limited ways.

 

If your association is like the others I talk with, odds are your summer programming schedule is different than the rest of the year. It’s important to stay front and center in the minds of your members, even if their schedules mean they aren’t able to be physically present as much as other times of the year. Adding in-person or online educational options is a common way for associations to continue delivering value.

We help associations every year assess their educational content and find the best way to make this valuable information available to their members online. Creating a dedicated website that houses all your educational content makes it easy for members to access your professional development resources on their own time.

What ideas has your association used to keep members engaged during the summer months? Have you found any good strategies for recruiting new members to take an active role in the association? Let us know in the comments below. Or, if you are interested in learning more about creating online educational materials, we’d be happy to help review your current resources.

What Value Does Your Association Truly Bring? 5 Ways to Find Out

Working in the non-profit and association industry, there is always that one question that you get asked. The question that, in all reality, is the basis for why our organizations do what they do: What value does your association bring to its members?

We all think we have that perfect elevator pitch we can rattle off to prospective members or even just to answer a random inquiring mind. But does your answer truly represent the value that you bring to your members? This question is something that must be answered with 100% certainty if you want your organization to continue to be successful, especially in a time where members expect clear and concise return on their investment of time and money.

Here are Five Ways to Find Out What Value Your Association Truly Brings:

Surveys

This is probably the most obvious and measurable way to get a true feeling of the value that your association brings. You’re able to send it out to your entire membership database, segment by multiple influencing factors like industry (if applicable), how many years they’ve been a member and even job title. You’ll be able to find some very interesting correlations between various segmentations. One thing to keep in mind about this tactic is that the way you write the questions for the survey typically have huge impacts on how people answer. You want your questions to be very non-influential.For example: Don’t have a question about what is the biggest value they see in being a member of your association and then give a multiple choice answer key. Leave that question as an open blank so they can answer in their own words. If you guide their answers, you’re likely to get the answer you think you already know.

In-person “interview”

One of the most effective ways to get some very personal feedback is to do some informal, in-person interviews of various members. The key here is to choose a diverse selection of members. You want to choose members that have been with you for a long time, as well as new members and everything in between.Be sure you make it very clear to those you’re speaking with that you want to hear the good and the bad. The bad feedback you get from members may be the most valuable information you get during this project. Where can your association improve and fill holes in programs, conferences, etc.? Let your interviewees be very candid. Tell them to not hold back and to tell you like it is. You may not like what you hear immediately, but you’ll love the actions it will provide your leadership moving forward.

Check your referrals

This is one of the more unique ways of checking the value that your association brings, but it can also be one of the most effective. Take some time to meet with people that have become members through a referral of another member, as well as those who were the referrers. When a current member refers a new member to your association, it is absolutely because you showed them some type of value. They felt that their time and money was well-spent with your association because of some type of perceived value.It could potentially be a goldmine for your association if you can get to the bottom of why they referred someone else. It’s also important to talk to the person who was referred, because that will give you an idea of the perceived value the referrer gave them, and if that perceived value was correct.

Annual onboarding check-in

Every time you have a new member join your association, you should make a point to contact them directly one year after they join for two reasons. First, you’re obviously interested in member retainment. You want to keep those members who you worked so hard and spent so much time on converting.The second reason is because it’s a great way to make sure that the value they thought they would get from being a member is being fulfilled. There is really no better source for an honest assessment than a member that is new. If they feel like they’ve wasted their money by becoming a member, they’ll tell you by not renewing. They have no vested interest because they haven’t been a member long, so value is truly what becomes the deciding factor to renew or not (besides the cost of dues, of course).

Talk to members who didn’t renew

This might sound a little odd, or even intimidating, but reaching out to members who didn’t renew can be an incredibly valuable way to figure out where your organization does, and does not, offer value. Again, they have no vested interest because they’re no longer members, so you should be able to see where your association fell short and where it excels at bringing value. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to find weaknesses in your association, because fixing those weaknesses may be the key to stopping membership loss.

How does your association find out what value you are bringing to your members?

 

Create Your Association’s Version of Discovery’s “Shark Week”

Massive size, stunning speed, and a mouth full of razor blades are just a few reasons why millions of viewers tune in each year to the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week each year. It has become somewhat of a religion for shark fanatics to tune in to the week-long programming block that has been on TV since 1988. That’s an incredibly long-lasting programming block that the channel can rely on to drive their numbers and increase sponsorship.

Can you imagine if you were able to create something similar for your association, that you could rely on each year to drive membership or increase non-dues revenue? Most association meeting planners and executives would hope that their annual conferences are their “Shark Weeks”, but frankly, is your event that compelling? Does it push past attendees to keep coming back, and bring their friends and colleagues as well?

Here are 5 Way to Make Your Annual Conference Your Association’s “Shark Week”:

1. Create Original Content & Topics Every Year

Each year, Discovery does a great job of creating new showcases that are very interesting. Whether it’s the story of the ‘Ninja Sharks’ who are the Bruce Lee’s of the ocean, or the ‘Super Predator’ that details how six sharks have developed adaptations that make them effective predators, the topics are unique and interesting, yet still focus on their cash cow, sharks. This is something you need to do regularly as well at your annual conferences.

You need to create the expectancy that your conference will be interesting and fresh, yet still focus on your association’s core values. You don’t always have to talk about boring, 50 year-old standards and policies. Maybe focus on how an association member was able adapt those standards and policies to further their career. Give your content some relevancy and some interest by creating new topics that maybe your attendees and members would have never thought of. Sometimes it’s the thing we least expect that interests us the most, like the thresher shark karate chopping prey with their long tails.

2. Be a Great Storyteller

One of the best things that The Discovery Channel does is telling great stories. They are able to captivate an audience with unique story lines (factual or not) and play on their interests. The great thing is that if someone is a member of your association, you already know that your content is typically going to be of interest to them. Now it’s up to you to create a great story around your content to really show them value.

Something to try: Don’t just tell your attendees about the benefits of being part of your association, give them real-life examples. Have a session full of actual members sharing their successes because of their membership with your association.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Create a Difference of Opinion

Each episode or topic that is aired on Shark Week has shark and sea experts giving their input. A lot of the time, it’s a lot of back patting and shared viewpoints. Once in a while however, it’s great that they use two experts who don’t agree on certain topics and show how they go about proving their viewpoint. That’s truly interesting. Two experts challenging each other and letting the audience make their own conclusions.

One thing I’d love to see is an association bring two though-leaders on a topic together who have different view points. Let them create some thought provoking discussions that the audience can truly see “both sides of the coin” and make their own judgement. Of course, choosing panelists that disagree, but respect the other panelists is key here.

4. Bring in New Speakers

Each year, there seems to be a group of shark experts that make appearances that have appeared before. Obviously, Discovery has good relationships with these experts, because they’re the best in their field, but I love to see when they bring in the younger shark enthusiasts that have their own inventions. During one episode, a local shark wrangler creates a shark decoy named “Parthenope,” and then RIDES it while real sharks take swipes and bites at it. Now that’s enthralling!

We all know most association conferences have familiar faces when it comes to speakers, but never be afraid to give others in the industry a try. Even if they’re younger and maybe newer to the industry. They could have viewpoints that are extremely valuable to your members. Let their fresh look at old topics freshen things up a bit.

5. Make Sharing & Promotion Easy for Attendees

Shark Week has been around since 1988, so the content itself has a compelling reason for people to keep coming back. However, since the introduction of social media and “easy sharing”, it has since become somewhat of a pop culture phenom (for better or worse, depending on who you ask).So why not do the same with your event. Make it as easy as possible for attendees and industry members to share and promote your conference.

  • Create a conference hashtag to help organize and measure all of the social media activity
  • Enable social bookmarking on your conference website
  • Include share buttons on all pre and post show communications