2018 AMCI Annual Meeting Event Recap

 

Several members of the Omnipress team made the trek up to Vancouver recently to participate in this year’s AMCI Annual Meeting. The event was packed with interesting sessions on a number of topics, but if you had to condense it all into one word, it would be “sustainability.”

The association world has seen dramatic growth over the past 20 years, and taking steps to sustain that growth into the future was an underlying theme of each presentation. The speakers at the event offered many ideas, but in general, there were three approaches to help associations build on the success of the past two decades:

Approach #1: Creating Excellence Within Your Organization

Several presenters at the conference suggested that organizational success begins by looking within. These speakers focused on making internal improvements to your culture, mission or processes.

Virtual workforces: This organizational structure is becoming increasingly common for both corporations and associations. For associations, there are some clear advantages in creating this type of environment:

  • Allowing employees to work off-site is an effective incentive in the hiring process. Millennials, in particular, are interested in non-traditional work environments, and the ability to work remotely is an enticing benefit.
  • Having a de-centralized staff creates greater flexibility for growth. In a traditional scenario, growing your staff often results in outgrowing your office space. When you have staff that works from home, you can quickly scale up without needing to find larger offices.

“The Givens”: This presentation focused on the culture within an association. “The Givens” refer to those aspects of your mission statement that are so common, they really are a given. Boilerplate values like integrity and honesty don’t need to be part of your mission statement because these qualities are assumed. Instead, your mission statement should include the values that only your organization can provide.

Approach #2: Promoting Your Association to New Members

Marketing continues to be another area that generates interest from association professionals. Using content marketing for promoting the value of membership is still something that many struggle to put into practice. As older members retire and leave the association, online content marketing is an effective way to reach the next generation of young professionals.

AMCs that can provide guidance and best practices for associations to reuse their content can add tremendous value to the organizations they work with.

Approach #3: Improving Member Engagement

For most associations, increasing member growth and engagement are top priorities. Educational sessions that delve into these topics are always crowd favorites, and one presentation combined both of these elements into one interesting hour.

Associations that have a large number of Baby-Boomer members are facing an interesting scenario: As members retire from the workforce, they may not be ready to retire from the association. In fact, retirement may allow these senior members an opportunity to participate in ways that were not possible while they were employed. One solution for these members is for them to serve as mentors to younger members. Mentorships offer a new kind of engagement for members and provides a tangible benefit for younger members that are looking to advance their careers.

In addition to these sessions, the 2018 AMCI Annual Meeting provided many opportunities to talk with peers about how they are working to keep the momentum going. Listening to the ideas presented at the event, it’s clear that the association industry is poised to continue the success of the past 20 years.

How One Association Is Recruiting Younger Members

In our 2018 State of the Conference Industry report, we asked association professionals if their organizations have developed strategies to meet the needs of Millennials and Generation Z. Only 14% of the respondents indicated that they have a plan in place to attract, engage and retain Millennials. Even fewer (9%) indicated they have a plan for Gen Z. As Millennials take the workforce by storm, associations are seeing their member demographics shift. This means that successfully connecting with these younger members is crucial to an association’s success.

Not sure where to start recruiting younger members? We spoke with Nicole Lourette, Event Coordinator for The Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) to learn more about the steps they’re currently taking to attract younger talent to their industry and the lessons they’re learning along the way.

About SSPC

SSPC is a non-profit association that provides information such as coating selection, environmental regulations and health and safety concerns that affect the protective coatings industry. The association also provides training and certification for both individuals and corporate entities.

Historically, SSPC’s membership consisted of an older demographic, with most members being men between 40 and 60 years old. But in recent years, that appears to be changing. According to Nicole, “[There has been a] noticeable change in conference this year; we have seen an uptick in Millennial attendees in the past 2-3 years, but this past year, 20-30% of the conference were young professionals under the age of 40.”

The Start of a New Strategy

Nicole told us that their plan to more strategically target a younger member group began when they started seeing changes in their own staff—recently, SSPC has hired more young individuals. They then realized that the industry professionals they serve have hiring needs, too: “SSPC is there to help build an interest in careers in the industry.” With more and more Millennials—and Gen Z coming up soon after—SSPC realized that catering to the needs of younger members will help generate more interest for the industry. They also acknowledged that things hadn’t changed much in the past few years. As Nicole noted, “[We were hosting] the same event, offering the same content and giving members the same resources and opportunities.” They decided it was time to change it up.

About a year ago, SSPC began an initiative to formalize a plan for younger members. They created task forces for different projects with a mixture of older and younger staff members. Nicole explained that they started by listening. They polled veteran industry members, university and trade school partners and students to learn what they needed as it compares to what SSPC currently offers. They also asked their young staff members what motivated them to attend an event or become a member of an organization or service, from AAA to Amazon Prime.

Plan in Action

Since beginning the initiative, SSPC has activated its first programs for recruiting younger members. They’ve begun an outreach program with high schools, trade schools and universities to educate students about the industry and its opportunities and have started scholarship programs for students. A new mentorship program with industry veterans is underway; the list of mentors and the curriculum for the program was recently finalized.

Training isn’t the only thing SSPC is changing, though. Nicole told us that they’re also making changes to their annual conference to keep it fresh and new, including more interactivity and technology. They recently experimented with a young professionals happy hour event, which yielded positive feedback. More events like this will make their way into the annual conference and outside of it to keep Millennials and Generation Z engaged and interested.

Nicole explained that veteran members of the association have responded positively to the changes, as well: “[They’ve said the] changes have been refreshing, but we do have to find a balance. They have a need for consistency, a mix of doing the tried-and-true with the new.”

Words of Wisdom for Recruiting Younger Members

We asked Nicole for any words of wisdom she could share with fellow association professionals who are looking to expand their reach to Millennials and Generation Z. Nicole expressed the importance of listening to the younger generation. “Let them tell you what they want and work with it to retain them.” She also suggested looking at what other mainstream (non-association) organizations are doing to get ideas.

“Keep an open mind and try things, even if you’re not sure what the success rate will be.” However, not everything can be done right away. Her advice was to take one thing at a time and try to keep a balance between staff and member needs.

Ultimately, associations should be thinking about their plans to address the needs of Millennial and Gen Z members as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but make sure you’re listening to your new and existing members. Veteran members will likely appreciate some fresh ideas, too! Don’t get stuck delivering the same content or value year over year. Planning for younger members can help you bring beneficial change to your association and keep your new (and old) members happy.

Why Associations Should Go Online: Attract & Engage Members

Pop quiz: Can you name five essential elements of Omnipress’ Digital Publishing Platforms?

Need a cheat sheet? We’ve got you covered. To review, the DPP offers:

  • Full-Text, Faceted Search
  • My Library
  • Access Management
  • Administrative Panel
  • AMS Integration
  • Search Engine Accessibility
  • Responsive Design
  • Analytics
  • Sharing Widgets
  • Mobile App Integration

Clearly, a digital publishing platform helps your members get more value out of the content you provide. But don’t forget that your association itself will benefit, too! Put your content to work for your members, and it will work in your favor as well.

Attract New Members—When your association content can be found online, potential new members can find you. The more mentions your association has, the higher that search engines will rate it. Social sharing can also attract new recruits, as your current memberships may expose their friends and colleagues to your associations. Most importantly of all, offering content online, where most people are accessing all kinds of information, adds more value to an association membership.

Engage Members—Now that you have more members, it’s important to keep them active and engaged in your association. Publish your content online and suddenly it seems more relevant. It’s the strangest thing! If you offer content where and how your members prefer it, they’ll feel more engaged when they consume it. They’ll be inspired to share the content, telling colleagues just how cool and easy it is to access policy books, standards, eNewsletters, and more, easily accessible online.

Over the next few days, we will go over other ways the Omnipress DPP can benefit your association. Tomorrow we’ll discuss how it can extend your brand. Giving your members what they crave while building your brand? Yeah, we can do that.

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